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The Greatest Christmas Story Ever Told

This is a short film made by my dear friends Curtis and Valerie. It's quite brilliant. Enjoy.
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Xmas On The Installment Plan

You probably don't have to think too hard to guess that I'm pretty curmudgeonly about Christmas. I wish it could just be about Christianity celebrating their messiah, that the holiday could have stayed non-secular. A day where true followers of Christ show respect for the Prince of Peace. Now there is no peace in this holiday. It's become an ugly beast of stress and debt. A holiday of over-consumption delivered to us not on a sleigh, but on the backs of thousands of underpaid and abused workers from around the world. Call me a Debbie Downer all you want but that's the reality. I'm not saying everyone should just give up celebrating. I just wish somehow that people could understand and acknowledge the true impact of all the bullshit they buy for Christmas.

Anyway, all this is a lead in to say congratulation to the The Theater Fire for their brilliant song "Xmas on the Installment Plan." The ode is a category winner in the Sufjan Stevens Christmas song contest. You can stream the song (along with some other winners) here: http://asthmatickitty.com/sidebar.php?sidebarID=308
or download it here:

Oh and MERRY CHRISTMAS everyone!
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Wearing fur means you're a jerk, wearing fake fur can still mean you're a jerk

Holiday Shoppers Beware: Six Major Retailers Selling Real Fur as Faux

So basically fuck fur in all it's forms, faux or not. Is it really that important to LOOK like you're wearing fur.

Not that any fur wearing assholes read my blog but how ignorant do you have to be to wear your fur into Spiral? Use your fucking brain for one second and show some respect so we don't have to "respectfully" ask you to not wear it the next time you come to eat.
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Impromptu Public Dancing

This is great:

Davey Dance Blog -34- TIMES SQUARE - Muse - "Time Is Running Out" from Pheasant Plucker on Vimeo.

What an amazing project!
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In Your Face

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Merrily, Merrily - First Acceptance

"(We) watched it this weekend and loved it. We were both really impressed by the scope of the story and beautiful and well-achieved cinematography. We would be thrilled to show the film in Sarasota, and so we'd like to invite it to be in our shorts program for the 2008 fest."
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The Uphill Search

Sundance is really just a symbol. By getting in you know that someone with knowledge and insight is paying attention. It seems that things will be easier because you've joined a club and people will take you more seriously. Yet again this year, the club will not have my friends and I.

Lately, I've been looking for a sign. Something positive that goes beyond my own self-satisfaction. I travel infinitely uphill. Somewhere is a path to a peak that has the respite of a larger audience.
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Vimeo - A great new service for Filmmakers

There is an amazing video hosting site called Vimeo. One great thing is that it exist to solely promote creative self-made content, not just a dumping ground for anything like YouTube. Technically, that's nothing new though, sites like Blip.tv and Brightcove do that. But there is just something about the vibe at this site that feels good as a filmmaker. What really sets Vimeo head and shoulders above the rest is that you can upload and stream full HD clips for free. That's right, beautiful 1280x720 HD. Of course you do have to use H.264 compression. Even with that it looks phenomonal compared to what YouTube and other video content sites offer. Plus, they will host the original file (QT or otherwise) for people to download too. The site is very intuitive and easy to use and it has great options for presenting your videos. Another plus is while a video plays all branding goes away leaving just the screen with the footage playing.

The one major drawback is that you can't embed your video on other sites as HD, instead it bumps it down to normal streaming SD. So for people to see that beautiful streaming HD they have to follow a link back to your Vimeo page. Also, there are no promises that the HD settings will always be free. Right now you can upload 500 mb per week. However, they've hinted that in the future to keep it free that limit might go down to somewhere around 200 mb per week. Other than that it's a damn near perfect site and one of the best tools I've seen for indie filmmakers to get their online content to the public looking the best possible.

Here's a link to the Merrily, Merrily trailer in HD: http://www.vimeo.com/396051 if you want to check it out.
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Some Call It Mumblecore: A New American Independence

Some Call it Mumblecore: A New American Independence

"The true spirit of independent American film is back...If these films share only one thing, it's that they're beautifully, painfully real." --The Guardian Unlimited

The Mumblecore movement is coming to Fort Worth. Join us in supporting these defiantly un-Hollywood films.

Thursday November 8
Orphans at 3:30pm
Texas DIY Shorts at 5:30pm
Quiet City at 8pm

Sunday November 11
Quietly On By at 1:30pm
Low and Behold at 5:30pm
LOL at 7:30

All films play at The Four Day Weekend Theater 312 Houston Street Fort Worth, TX 76102.

“Mumblecore, for all its categorical faults and flash-in-the-pan publicity, is representative of a definite stirring the in the American independent film scene. What’s frustrating about the grouping, however, is that its inclusiveness is always in flux. What constitutes a Mumblecore film? The lack of regulation both defines and invalidates the category; indeed, there are films presented in this very program that haven’t previously been associated with Mumblecore, and yet some aspect of them lets them fit into the previously established body of work. We could run down the general checklist of traits - DV cinematography, relationship issues, white male twentysomethings improvising on both sides of the camera - and find exceptions to every rule. Lots of them, in fact. These films are not interchangeable.

Their solidarity, then, comes not from aesthetic but from conviction. The one trait shared by all the filmmakers in this program is a persistence of vision, and an undying will towards that vision. They finance their own work. They make their films because they want to, and perhaps because they have to. They do it over and over again.

And, slowly but surely, their work is being recognized. These filmmakers make films that mean something to them. That the term Mumblecore has caught on suggests that they might mean something to everyone else as well.”
--David Lowery, Filmmaker and Film Blogger


LOL (81 min) Directed by Joe Swanberg Written by: Kevin Bewersdorf, Joe Swanberg, C. Mason Wells
Starring: Kevin Bewersdorf, Joe Swanberg, C. Mason Wells, Tipper Newton, and Brigid Reagan
Alex, Tim, and Chris view the women in their lives through the dimensions of a computer screen or the lens of a camera-phone, as they struggle to balance their online fantasies and addictions with the demands of real life. This raw, witty and painfully intimate feature explores masculinity in the new millennium, a time when young men are trying to decipher the mixed messages of modern relationships and technology. "LOL is a somewhat stunning mirror on the ways we say things without using words. [Swanberg] reveals himself to be one of the most emotionally astute young filmmakers working today."- Cinematical.com

Low and Behold (89 min) Directed by Zack Godshall Written by Barlow Jacobs and Zack Godshall
Starring: Barlow Jacobs, Robert Longstreet, and Eddie Rouse
Low and Behold is about an uninspired young man who takes a job doing insurance claims on hurricane damaged houses in post-Katrina New Orleans- his life is dramatically altered when he's forced to deal with the mass destruction and loss that surrounds him. "...what makes Low and Behold so satisfying [is] it shows all sides of humanity. There’s not one emotion, but many... I never thought a movie about tragedy could be so funny. This film covers all aspects of humanity in a truly thoughtful way." -CinemATL

Orphans (80 min) Written and Directed by Ry Russo-Young
Starring: James Katherine Flynn and Lily Wheelwright
Orphans tells the story of two estranged sisters who come together for a birthday celebration and are unexpectedly trapped in the world of loneliness. This wonderfully evocative and mercurial film depicts a compelling relationship that exists in an unusual and visceral world. "...A strong drama of heartache with two lead performances that are honest, blemishes and all…"Orphans" is the start of a promising directing career for Russo-Young, a true discovery…”

Quiet City (78 min) Written and Directed by Aaron Katz
Starring: Erin Fisher, Cris Lankenau, Sarah Hellman, Joe Swanberg, and Tucker Stone
Jamie's lost. She's in New York to see a friend, but the friend is nowhere to be found. Charlie just quit his job and isn’t sure what's next. Their paths cross late at night on an empty subway platform, and an unlikely connection is formed. Together they share 24 hours drifting from diners, to city parks, to a party deep in the heart of Brooklyn. “Quiet City is as close to authentic human interaction as I have ever seen on film.”- Arts Editor

Quietly On By (87 min) Written and Directed by Frank V. Ross
Starring: Anthony Baker, Denise Blank, Debi Hulka, Jennifer Knox, Danielle Ostrowsky, and Lonnie Phillips
Two months ago, his girlfriend left him. One month ago, he lost both of his jobs after a nervous breakdown. Single, lonely, and jobless, Aaron expends his time and energy nurturing a long standing crush on his best friend Sara. If he manages to get out of bed, Aaron may mow the lawn, or he may reconstruct Stonehenge with a set of encyclopedias. Aaron sees something approaching on the horizon. Whether it's his future or his doom, apparently it drives a white SUV. "Ross beautifully captures the longing and aimlessness of a certain emotional moment all of us have experienced in our lives. It's a really wonderful film." --Ray Carney author of Cassavetes on Cassavetes and other books.

Texas DIY Shorts:
Do-it-yourself filmmaking like the Mumblecore Movement relies heavily on the helping hands of friends. From acting, helping out on the crew, getting the word out on the Internet or just giving feedback, it’s the interconnectivity of fellow filmmakers that’s at the heart of DIY Film. This collection of shorts is a prime example. Hometown filmmaker James M. Johnston presents this group of defiantly un-Hollywood short films from Texas filmmaking friends (mostly from DFW) including the Fort Worth premier of his film GDMF.
Booty Recall by Yen Tan (13 min)
A last-minute cancellation prompts a desperately horny man to find a companion for the evening.
Coda by Yen Tan (7 min)
A man takes his dog out for a last stroll through the neighborhood.
GDMF by James M. Johnston (29 min)
An exotic dancer's personal and professional lives are catastrophically blurred after a dramatic coincidence at a private party.
Grammy’s by Bryan Poyser (17 min)
Two brothers have a really bad time on a fishing trip until a stranger makes them a bizarre but lucrative offer.
Lion’s Den by Frank Mosley (15 min)
A group of old friends are hanging out when one of them is accused of having masturbated in his friend's bathroom. This indictment escalates into a night of judgment that tests the truth of their words and the strength of all their friendships.
The Outlaw Son by David Lowery (11 min)
An experimental autobiography about those long moments spent sitting on the precipice of adulthood. Two old friends spend a long, cold night driving around, listening to music and remembering how things might have been.
The Stranger by Clayton Charles Liford, esq. (10 min)
Albert Camus' compelling and troubling tale of a disaffected, apparently amoral young man's murder trial, retold through a post modernistic lens of consumerism, and with a neo-fascist's eye on issues such as global warming and Myspace. (Category--Serious Drama-Allegorical Parable.)
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Killer Cow Emissions

"A University of Chicago study examined the average American diet and found that all the various energy inputs and livestock emissions involved in its production pump an extra 1.5 tons of CO2 into the air over the course of a year, which would be avoided by a vegetarian diet. Thus, the researchers found, cutting out meat would do more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions than trading in a gas guzzler for a hybrid car."

Full article in the LA Times here: http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-ed-methane15oct15,0,1365993.story?coll=la-tot-opinion&track=ntothtml

I find it kind of interesting that an article chock full of factual information is stuck in the Opinion section. I guess technically the conclusions drawn from facts are still considered an opinion.
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Everything's going great!
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Dance, Monkeys, Dance

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Merrily, Merrily - Trailer

Click here to download the Quicktime Version
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Some Call It Mumblecore

On February 16, 2005 I sent Joe Swanberg an email. That year my film "Deadroom" was to premier at SXSW. While perusing the other titles to be played I came across "Kissing On The Mouth." After looking into it further I was enthralled with the concept and emailed him to say "I think your film looks great and I'm very much looking forward to checking it out." In his reply he said "I really hope people give it a shot."

Now, two and a half years later there is Mumblecore. More aptly titled in their new screening series "The New Talkies: Generation DIY" by the IFC Center. Since I'm not in New York to watch the series on the Big Screen I've been having my own little festival on the small screen. Having already seen several of the films playing out on the fest circuit ("Hannah..." "Kissing On The Mouth," "LOL," "The Puffy Chair," "Hohokam," "Quiet City.") I wanted to catch up with those I haven't. So these past few weeks I've had a chance to watch "Mutual Appreciation," "Dance Party, USA," "Quietly On By," and "Frownland" (hopefully I'll catch "Team Picture" and "Funny Ha Ha" this next week.)

I don't really have any long critique or dissertation on this. I will say that aside from the stupid name I do think it's a good thing to be grouping these films as a movement. Although I think it's less of a "making" movement and more of a "watching" movement. Films like this have been made for quite awhile and of course there was a big resurgence when the first DV camera was released. Audiences are just finally catching up with the style and these great works have let them see that it's okay to let go of their expectations of Indiewood and enjoy something truly independent.

That's all I really have to say. I mainly just wanted to report that I'm watching these films and they are good. So when someone in 50 years is poking around the Wayback Machine over at the Internet Archives they will know that I was there when it all happened.
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Merrily, Merrily - Locked

I'm 99.9% sure that the cut is locked. Now we're moving on to finishing up the score, sound mix, and color correction. Right now we're clocking in at a little over 16 minutes. It's my shortest short ever! I've gotten lots of feedback from my trusted peeps and the word is "Masterpiece." Okay, I made them say that to me but everyone likes it so far and most people have said it's my best work yet. There are a few challenging parts that according to Lowery are "gonna be the contentious (and divisive) point amongst audiences and festival programmers alike.". I can't wait to see what audiences think (if anyone ever programs it.)

The trailer is coming soon. Until then please enjoy these fine stills taken by J. Britt Robisheaux.

Merrily, Merrily

Merrily, Merrily

Merrily, Merrily

Merrily, Merrily

Merrily, Merrily
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Wrapped - Merrily, Merrily

Merrily, Merrily is in the proverbial can. Actually it's more than in the can. The first cut is already almost done. After I have some voice over recorded tomorrow at Tim's ND Outpost I'll have all the components for a complete cut. God bless P2 technology.

Emily was beyond amazing. I was never more ecstatic than watching her mind interpret scenes and take them into territory I never could have. It was an amazing process from audition to rehearsal to screen. She's a complete natural. It's almost scary how good she is. I wonder where that comes from - what part of natural selection makes people so good at being in front a camera?

The same goes for Andy. He knocked it out of the ballpark. Especially the "big" scene of the film. His maturity and wisdom as an actor really brought an emotional resonance to the film that I couldn't grasp before. I never realized how incredibly sad the story was until I saw how crushed he became during "the talk." You'll know what I mean when you see it.

I think Jessica was the most method actor of the three. She stayed quiet and reserved while on set. During rehearsals I couldn't quite make out her interpretation of the character. I didn't know where she was going with it but wasn't concerned because I knew she was holding back. She totally pulled out all the stops in front of the camera. Her nuanced performance is so rich with layers I was blown away by her portrayal.

Everybody loves war stories but this wasn't a war. The most stressful part of the film happened before I even stepped on to the set. There were some equipment worries and an important part of the crew couldn't make the first night (they were there for the rest of the shoot thankfully!) All that was before the sticks ever touched the floor. We definitely had to warm up the first day but after that it was smooth sailing.

It makes for an interesting clash of cultures while working with a 13 year old girl on the set. By day three everyone was bursting at the seams with curse words and dirty jokes. We all just needed to run outside and have a tourette style barrage of verbal release. Childish I know.

While loyalty is important to me I feel no sense of duty to lie about my crew. That is to say they were amazing and I really mean it. The skill level on display felt like a birthday gift from an old friend. They were giving me something my budget didn't deserve. On top of that, this was the most fun, laid back shoot I've had. The stress level was way down. We just got in there and did it. No drama or unneeded pressure. Making a movie is just making a movie. There's no reason to freak out about anything. The crew abides.

That's all I can muster for now. I'm tired and need to rest before the wrap party.
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Merrily, Merrily - Ante

Today is the first day of shooting. I'm calm and ready. Many hours have been spent in pre-production for this. I'm finally gaining a comfortable work flow. Producing isn't all that bad when you have a really good A.D.

It's weird how uneventful this week has been. The majority of my time has just been waiting. No mad rush. Everything is ready. There is a difference between spontaneity and surprise. In order to achieve creative freedom you must limit your surprises. Well, at least me. I'm finally figuring out what I'm comfortable with. Having everything completely arranged and ready. I'm not fool enough to think nothing will go wrong but I've planned for things to go awry too.

So here we go.
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Tim Fite

“As much as I need to pay my bills, and it'd be great to sell some records, this is not a record for sale. These ideas are not for sale. These ideas should be for free."

At SXSW in 2006 there was an Anti Records Showcase at Central Presbyterian Church featuring Billy Braggs, Rambling Jack Elliott, Marty Stuart, Jolie Holland, and a few other bands I hadn’t heard of. There were some whispering rumors that Tom Waits might even show up. Needless to say Amy and I made sure we were there along with our friends. I'll save you the suspense now; Tom Waits did not show up. However, this didn't leave any feeling of disappointment because a fine show it was indeed. One of the great finds of the evening was Tim Fite. Using the setting of the church to his advantage and dressed in a full white suit, he blazed into an opening spoken word number with a great Southern Preacher impression. He was saying stuff a preacher would never say though. My interest was peaked. He continued on doing several songs blending folk and hip-hop. When Amy and I got back to Fort Worth we picked up his album Gone Ain’t Gone right away. It completely lived up to everything promised in the live show.

Earlier this year, Fite released a new album called Over The Counterculture. Equal parts indictment of consumerism and the highjacking of hip-hop by bogus hustler/gangsta posturing. Again, he blends his music into a hodge-podge of folk and hip-hop influences with a little more rhyming this time around. It’s a wonderful album full of great production and lyrics. In keeping with the theme of the album he decided to release the record entirely free online. That is an amazing and honorable action to take. Especially since Anti very much wanted to release the album as his follow up to Gone Ain’t Gone.

I encourage everyone to download the album and give it a listen. You won’t be disappointed plus it’s free!

Download all of Over The Counterculture (49 mb zip file.)
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Merrily, Merrily - Cast and Crew

I'm fully cast for Merrily, Merrily. I found a great actress named Emily Burgardt to play the lead. She's actually not at all what I had in mind for the character when I started the auditioning process. As a matter of fact I wasn't even going to call her back. I was re-watching the auditions tapes from the first round and while fast forwarding to a particular actress I wanted to look at I just happened to stop on her. For whatever reason I saw her performance with new eyes so I went immediately and called her mother for a callback. My instinct just totally kicked in. I still wasn't completely sure though. During the second audition I got to spend a little more time talking to her. I had sent her the script and she spent a good five minutes telling me all her thoughts on the character and script. Then I had her read two scenes and she completely nailed it. I mean absolutely perfect. I thought she was funny and most importantly, real. I knew she had to be it. She hasn't ever done any film which I kind of see as a plus. The other great thing about Emily is that her mom is really cool. She's very down to earth and jokes around a lot. At our first meeting she said "Hey, I really like your modeling pictures." Nothing breaks the ice like pictures of me in my underwear! I was really worried about having to deal with a crazy "stage mom", thankfully this isn't the case.

For the father I've cast Andy Sensenig. I met him when he was an extra on GDMF and worked with him on a currently on-hold web series. He's just an all around pleasant fellow. A great attitude with great talent to back it up. He'll play any scene any way you tell him. You can throw anything his way and he'll just roll with it.

For the mom I've cast an actress named Jessica Craft. She hasn't done any film either. Mostly just print and commercial. In the small world category she is actually the field rep for the company that Spiral Diner buys tea from. When I received her headshot I didn't put the two together until she mentioned it in a later discussion. I cast her based purely on instinct. I can't say she did a great job in her audition from a technical standpoint but she was really honest admitting her nervousness about working in independent film and also about some personal aspects that she felt applied to the part. She had a realness to her, a sort of raw energy, that I couldn't ignore.

I've got a great crew lined up as well. Lots of great friends which in my book is the only way to make a film. Nick Prendergast is on board as DP. You'll recognize him as the DP from The Outlaw Son and as a co-Director/Writer/Producer on Deadroom. Curtis Heath is doing the score (he's in The Theater Fire and is an amazing solo artist as well.) Although I'm attempting to edit this myself David Lowery will still be around to be my editing sensai as well as on-set editor for the P2 workflow. Valerie Mangum will be taking her first foray into film as Art Assistant. If you've ever seen any of her handmade clothes or been to her and Curtis' house then you'll know why I was keen on getting her for the Art Department. Britt Robisheaux (brother-from-another-mother) is doing the still photography. He did the same on Ciao and did all the "prom" pictures at the Spiral Diner Zombie Pirate Prom Party. My neighborhood homeboy Justin Wallis will be representing with some behind-the-scenes video. Most importantly of all Sara Hicks, who is opening the Spiral Dallas location, will be doing all the catering.

There are some friends I've made along the way working on other projects that are joining me too. Mark Aaron Sharon, that crazy SOB, is Camera Operator. Alexis Patterson as Art Director, Steve Mayeda as Key Grip, Loretta Yeargin as Script Supervisor, Tim Nagles on Sound with Frederick Trevino as Sound Assist. James Lenszch is helping out with Grip and hopefully a very important location. Mark Hoffman will be Gaffer. He helped Nick with lighting on Outlaw Son and they also work together professionally as still photographers.

I've got some new found friends helping me too. Sharon Palkowetz is the AD. The film gods truly helped me out on this one. She's a real AD, the kind that directors need to make an independent film professional. Ricky Herrington helped me out during the auditions and will be onset as a PA. He's the type you love to meet - a great attitude and willing to help out with anything. He loves the craft and therefore loves the work.

I think we've got a few more positions to fill but for the most part that's it. I'm ecstatic about the cast and crew.

I'm starting to feel really good about this project. Like it might really be something. Sometimes optimism is dangerous. Especially when you get the first rejection letter from a festival and it starts ramping toward bitterness. But for now the future is untold and I've got high hopes.
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Merrily, Merrily

I start the first round of auditions for my next short film titled Merrily, Merrily. It is the first part in a trilogy of shorts tentatively titled The Beautiful Confusion Trilogy. GDMF is the second part. I still need to write a script for the third part but I'd like to shoot it by the end of the year.

I'm always nervous about audtions. I feel like I'm on trial just as much as the actors. I've never worked with young actors before. It's gonna be a challenge to channel my inner 13 year old girl.

Here's all the info about the film plus some crew needs in case anyone is interested.


Merrily, Merrily is a simple story about a 13-year-old girl who might not exist. Her name is Merrilee. She is an only child. Introspective and out of place, her social nexus is nearly non-existent. Home is her solace, but her parents make a shaky bedrock: her mother is overbearing and weak and her father is distant and stressful. Nonetheless, her relationship to them is the strongest and most prevalent in her life.

We follow Merrilee over a two day period when the question of her existence suddenly becomes valid. As this “realization” plays out, we hear her thoughts on her parents and what her interconnection to them means.


Merrily, Merrily is the first part of a thematic trilogy called The Beautiful Confusion Trilogy. Tentative shooting dates are Friday July 27 through Tuesday July 31. The majority of filming will take place in Grapevine, TX. Format is HD. Running time is 15 minutes. This will be Writer/Director James M. Johnston's third short film. He was also co-Writer/Director/Producer of the award winning omnibus feature "Deadroom."

Although this will be a very professional film it is still a very low budget affair. Therefore there is no pay other than the fun and excitement of creativity. I do promise that all involved will receive a copy of the film, be well fed and treated like family.


I like to shoot with a small tight-knit crew and keep the set fun with as little stress as possible. So I'm looking for a few great people to work with. Experience isn't nearly as important as heart and a good attitude. I DO NOT EVER shoot more than 8 to twelve hours per day. This production is planned for eight hours or less per shooting day.

Positions: 1 Assistant Director, 1 Script Supervisor, 1 Costume/Makeup Manager, 2 Art Department Assistants, 2 Grips, 3 Production Assistants. Email merrily@beautifulconfusion.com if interested.
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Indie Film Ethos

I think this has got to be one of the greatest allegories for Independent vs. Hollywood Filmmaking I've ever seen:

When NASA began the launch of astronauts into space, they found out that the pens wouldn't work at zero gravity (Ink won't flow down to the writing surface).

In order to solve this problem, they hired Andersen Consulting. It took them one decade and $12 million. They developed a pen that worked at zero gravity, upside down, underwater, in practically any surface including crystal and in a temperature range from below freezing to over 300 degrees C.

The Russians used a pencil.

Speaking of Indie vs. Hollywood what's the deal with everyone freaking out over the Grindhouse opening weekend numbers? It's all abuzz in the indie film blog world. Aren't we always complaining about how Hollywood has turned film into nothing more than number crunching; How story isn't as important as opening weekend numbers. Why is everyone giving into that Hollywood bullshit. It's Grindhouse not goddamn Lord of the Rings. It's a three hour long rated R film. Think logically everyone.

Regardless of whether you like the film or not, the concept of releasing a double feature is quite fantastic and it's something I'd like to see happen more in the future. BTW - I totally loved Grindhouse.
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Another Reason To Eat Vegan

Hey, look, here's a long article to read...

Vegetarian Is the New Prius

By Kathy Freston, HuffingtonPost.com. Posted February 7, 2007.

Livestock destroy the environment, so fill your bowl with veggies instead of veal.

President Herbert Hoover promised "a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage." With warnings about global warming reaching feverish levels, many are having second thoughts about all those cars. It seems they should instead be worrying about the chickens.

Last month, the United Nations published a report on livestock and the environment with a stunning conclusion: "The livestock sector emerges as one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global." It turns out that raising animals for food is a primary cause of land degradation, air pollution, water shortage, water pollution, loss of biodiversity, and not least of all, global warming.

That's right, global warming. You've probably heard the story: Emissions of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide are changing our climate, and scientists warn of more extreme weather, coastal flooding, spreading disease, and mass extinctions. It seems that when you step outside and wonder what happened to winter, you might want to think about what you had for dinner last night. The U.N. report says almost a fifth of global warming emissions come from livestock (i.e., those chickens Hoover was talking about, plus pigs, cattle, and others) -- that's more emissions than from all of the world's transportation combined.

For a decade now, the image of Leonardo DiCaprio cruising in his hybrid Toyota Prius has defined the gold standard for environmentalism. These gas-sipping vehicles became a veritable symbol of the consumers' power to strike a blow against global warming. Just think: a car that could cut your vehicle emissions in half -- in a country responsible for 25% of the world's total greenhouse gas emissions. Federal fuel economy standards languished in Congress, and average vehicle mileage dropped to its lowest level in decades, but the Prius showed people that another way is possible. Toyota could not import the cars fast enough to meet demand.

Last year researchers at the University of Chicago took the Prius down a peg when they turned their attention to another gas guzzling consumer purchase. They noted that feeding animals for meat, dairy, and egg production requires growing some ten times as much crops as we'd need if we just ate pasta primavera, faux chicken nuggets, and other plant foods. On top of that, we have to transport the animals to slaughterhouses, slaughter them, refrigerate their carcasses, and distribute their flesh all across the country. Producing a calorie of meat protein means burning more than ten times as much fossil fuels -- and spewing more than ten times as much heat-trapping carbon dioxide -- as does a calorie of plant protein. The researchers found that, when it's all added up, the average American does more to reduce global warming emissions by going vegetarian than by switching to a Prius.

According to the UN report, it gets even worse when we include the vast quantities of land needed to give us our steak and pork chops. Animal agriculture takes up an incredible 70% of all agricultural land, and 30% of the total land surface of the planet. As a result, farmed animals are probably the biggest cause of slashing and burning the world's forests. Today, 70% of former Amazon rainforest is used for pastureland, and feed crops cover much of the remainder. These forests serve as "sinks," absorbing carbon dioxide from the air, and burning these forests releases all the stored carbon dioxide, quantities that exceed by far the fossil fuel emission of animal agriculture.

As if that wasn't bad enough, the real kicker comes when looking at gases besides carbon dioxide -- gases like methane and nitrous oxide, enormously effective greenhouse gases with 23 and 296 times the warming power of carbon dioxide, respectively. If carbon dioxide is responsible for about one-half of human-related greenhouse gas warming since the industrial revolution, methane and nitrous oxide are responsible for another one-third. These super-strong gases come primarily from farmed animals' digestive processes, and from their manure. In fact, while animal agriculture accounts for 9% of our carbon dioxide emissions, it emits 37% of our methane, and a whopping 65% of our nitrous oxide.

It's a little hard to take in when thinking of a small chick hatching from her fragile egg. How can an animal, so seemingly insignificant against the vastness of the earth, give off so much greenhouse gas as to change the global climate? The answer is in their sheer numbers. The United States alone slaughters more than 10 billion land animals every year, all to sustain a meat-ravenous culture that can barely conceive of a time not long ago when "a chicken in every pot" was considered a luxury. Land animals raised for food make up a staggering 20% of the entire land animal biomass of the earth. We are eating our planet to death. What we're seeing is just the beginning, too. Meat consumption has increased five-fold in the past fifty years, and is expected to double again in the next fifty.

It sounds like a lot of bad news, but in fact it's quite the opposite. It means we have a powerful new weapon to use in addressing the most serious environmental crisis ever to face humanity. The Prius was an important step forward, but how often are people in the market for a new car? Now that we know a greener diet is even more effective than a greener car, we can make a difference at every single meal, simply by leaving the animals off of our plates. Who would have thought: what's good for our health is also good for the health of the planet!

Going veg provides more bang for your buck than driving a Prius. Plus, that bang comes a lot faster. The Prius cuts emissions of carbon dioxide, which spreads its warming effect slowly over a century. A big chunk of the problem with farmed animals, on the other hand, is methane, a gas which cycles out of the atmosphere in just a decade. That means less meat consumption quickly translates into a cooler planet.

Not just a cooler planet, also a cleaner one. Animal agriculture accounts for most of the water consumed in this country, emits two-thirds of the world's acid-rain-causing ammonia, and it the world's largest source of water pollution -- killing entire river and marine ecosystems, destroying coral reefs, and of course, making people sick. Try to imagine the prodigious volumes of manure churned out by modern American farms: 5 million tons a day, more than a hundred times that of the human population, and far more than our land can possibly absorb. The acres and acres of cesspools stretching over much of our countryside, polluting the air and contaminating our water, make the Exxon Valdez oil spill look minor in comparison. All of which we can fix surprisingly easily, just by putting down our chicken wings and reaching for a veggie burger.

Doing so has never been easier. Recent years have seen an explosion of environmentally-friendly vegetarian foods. Even chains like Ruby Tuesday, Johnny Rockets, and Burger King offer delicious veggie burgers and supermarket refrigerators are lined with heart-healthy creamy soymilk and tasty veggie deli slices. Vegetarian foods have become staples at environmental gatherings, and garnered celebrity advocates like Bill Maher, Alec Baldwin, Paul McCartney, and of course Leonardo DiCaprio. Just as the Prius showed us that we each have in our hands the power to make a difference against a problem that endangers the future of humanity, going vegetarian gives us a new way to dramatically reduce our dangerous emissions that is even more effective, easier to do, more accessible to everyone and certainly goes better with french fries.

Ever-rising temperatures, melting ice caps, spreading tropical diseases, stronger hurricanes ... So, what are you do doing for dinner tonight? Check out www.VegCooking.com for great ideas, free recipes, meal plans, and more! Check out the environmental section of www.GoVeg.com for a lot more information about the harmful effect of meat-eating on the environment.
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Harlequin Seeking Real Men. Oh are they?

From this Reuters article we can see that some people are still confused about what a real man is: http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20070324/od_nm/harlequin_models_dc_2

"We're looking for some guys that are not your usual models, but have that iconic look that women go for -- sexy, sensitive, beautiful and fit," said Harlequin spokeswoman Marleah Stout, who attended the open casting.

"We want real men ... exactly what you think in your mind when you're fantasizing or imagining that ideal man."

Until now, the publisher relied on modeling agencies to supply bodies for its concupiscent covers. But the readership -- predominantly female and averaging 42 years of age -- was upset when slight, young cover models clashed with the brawny, mature heroes described within.

"Some of the heroes are captains of industry, billionaires," said Deborah Peterson, a Harlequin creative designer and a judge at the audition. "A lot of the models were too young, men in their twenties ... and our audience likes men a little bit older, a bit bigger, than the runway models."

They seem pretty confused about what they want. Sexy, sensitive beautiful and fit men; that's realistic. It all goes down hill from there.

How can a man be real and "ideal"? As far as I can tell billionaires do not represent the idea of real men. They are about 1% of the Earth's population (if not less.) From the picture and description in the article their concept of "fit" means chiseled statue type. That isn't real. That is spending the majority of the day working out and obsessing over how you look. Real men don't do that. Real men work out on spare time to get fit for their well-being and to look healthy.

I know this article is about romance novels. And the woman reading these want a fantasy. That's cool. I'm all for it, but let's call it what it is. Ignis fatuus.

In reality most men who are astronomically rich and uber-fit don't have much time for the romance and passion that Harlequin novel readers fantasize about. They spend most of the day handling business and working on their looks in the gym.

A real woman would get bored pretty darn fast with a man like that.
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Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs

From my good friend James who lives across the pond:
If you are perhaps a little like me, you may be interested in the Censored Eleven." One of, if not the most famous cartoon in this group is the Bob Clampett creation "Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs."

Though buried since the 1950s due to its racial and sexual caricatures, some argue "Coal Black" is Bob Clampett's greatest work. While that claim is certainly debatable, the cartoon holds a historical/socio-cultural significance and is worthy of viewing. Hopefully this is one instance where education will be favored over ignorance.

Like Disney's self-suppressed "Song of the South", "Coal Black" provides some insight into an important period in American history. The continued domestic suppression of black rights was paradoxically juxtaposed with America's reliance on the war-time service of blacks, and the profound popular music influence of black Jazz and Swing. Equally ironic was the appalling internment of Nisei/Issei/Sansei Japanese Americans and depiction of Japanese as sub-human which ran in stark contrast to the dependency on the Nisei 100th Battalion, 442nd Infantry ("...the most decorated unit in U.S. military history for its size and length of service...") and the approximate 6000 Nisei who served the U.S. Military Intelligence Service during WW2.

Though "Coal Black" was designed to be a parody of Disney's "Snow White", Bob Clampett also intended to make the cartoon a celebration of the all black jazz films of that age. "Coal Black" was in part inspired by a request from Duke Ellington for a black musical cartoon. Unfortunately the producer Leon Schlesinger refused to allow the use of an all black band to record the musical score.

"Coal Black" has remained very difficult to come by (as United Artists forbid it from being aired), and seemingly it first appeared on the Internet briefly late last year on YouTube. Warner Bros./ UA quickly issued a take down notice and had it removed. By some ghostly chance it is currently up on Google Video and can be seen here:

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The thumbnails below link to three new ads for my blog that photographer Nick Prendergast put together for me. With a little help from my friends I hope to paste about 100 of these up all around SXSW this coming week.

The ad campaign is about way more than just promoting myself and the website though. When Nick and I first talked about this it was in terms of making a statement. Nick shoots a lot of fashion and works with a lot of models. Hearing his stories and looking at fashions shots in magazines made me wonder why I couldn't be a model.

I think we're all aware of the oceanic differences between the anorexic promoting fashion industry and the real women of America. I think the same problem exist for men as well. I've always found there to be a distinct quality about the American Male. A quality never found in the androgynous waifs and Greek god statuesque bodies of modern fashion. The manliness I'm speaking of can not be found in the lazy football watching low-brow dads that television likes to portray either. What I'm referring to can be more appropriately defined by the rugged individual working hard for his keep. More specifically I'm thinking of the masses of forgotten men that Hollywood and the Runways get wrong. The ones who work hard, take care of their ladies and like to look good doing it. They don't spend hours a day sculpting their bodies. They're not metrosexual. They are real men.

I'm not a shy person and I've got a healthy self image so I figured why not be a REAL MAN MODEL. Therefore these photos represent not just a promotion for my website but me staking my claim as a model in the fashion industry.

Nick and I will be doing more REAL MAN MODEL ads in the future. My goal is to give a few popular ad campaigns a slight "attitude adjustment." This series will redefine the way you look at underwear!

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Cool Vegan Muthafucka

David, Amy and I totally had dinner with Mike White and Jason Schwartzman at Real Food Daily last time we were in L.A. I have to admit that I seriously have a man crush on Mike White. But not in a Chuck and Buck kind of way.

Anyway check out this trailer for his new film and you'll see what I mean:

Speaking of trailers...I'm a pretty luck guy and I've got lots of great reasons to live. This is definitely in my top ten reasons to keep breathing.
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Sitting by the River

Last night I got the outline done for my first full sleeve. It is a giant river running down my arm. From the top of my shoulder all the way to my hand. Unfortunately it's just the outline for now. The human body can only take so much at a time. The outline is the most painful, akin to having someone etch a drawing on your top layer of skin with a knife. Except it doesn't feel like cutting it feels more like a scraping. Anyway, I'm sure it sounds worse than it really is. Everyone should try getting a tattoo. It's fun and you won't have boring skin. Shading is much less painful but is a much bigger bitch in the healing stage (it's like having a really bad sunburn.) Now I just have to wait for the outline to heal and save up some more money and I can go back and have it finished. I'll refrain from putting up any pictures until it's done.

Speaking of pictures. I had another photo shoot on Tuesday. It went really well. I can't wait to REVEAL my new life as a model to everyone!

BTW- You no longer have the excuse of not getting a tattoo because you can't afford it or don't know what to get. Liberty Electric Tattoo, the parlor my tattoo artist Carl owns, has a new special: Every Tuesday night you can go in and for $40 pick a tattoo out of the "Grab Bag." For those who don't know $40 is extremely cheap, especially for a custom designed tattoo which is what the grab bag is full of. If you don't like what you draw the first time you can pay $5 for a redraw.
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Squeeze! squeeze! squeeze! all the morning long; I squeezed that sperm till I myself almost melted into it; I squeezed that sperm till a strange sort of insanity came over me; and I found myself unwittingly squeezing my co-laborers' hands in it, mistaking their hands for the gentle globules. Such an abounding, affectionate, friendly, loving feeling did this avocation beget; that at last I was continually squeezing their hands and looking up into their eyes sentimentally; as much as to say, --Oh! my dear fellow beings, why should we longer cherish any social acerbities, or know the slightest ill-humor or envy! Come; let us squeeze hand all round; nay, let us all squeeze ourselves into each other; let us squeez ourselves univerally into the very milk and sperm of kindness.

Would that I could keep squeezing that sperm for ever!

These are the Top 25 Censored stories of 2007:
Future of Internet Debate Ignored by Media,
Halliburton Charged with Selling Nuclear Technologies to Iran,
Oceans of the World in Extreme Danger,
Hunger and Homelessness Increasing in the US,
High-Tech Genocide in Congo,
Federal Whistleblower Protection in Jeopardy,
US Operatives Torture Detainees to Death in Afghanistan and Iraq,
Pentagon Exempt from Freedom of Information Act,
The World Bank Funds Israel-Palestine Wall,
Expanded Air War in Iraq Kills More Civilians,
Dangers of Genetically Modified Food Confirmed,
Pentagon Plans to Build New Landmines,
New Evidence Establishes Dangers of Roundup,
Homeland Security Contracts KBR to Build Detention Centers in the US,
Chemical Industry is EPA’s Primary Research Partner,
Ecuador and Mexico Defy US on International Criminal Court,
Iraq Invasion Promotes OPEC Agenda,
Physicist Challenges Official 9-11 Story,
Destruction of Rainforests Worst Ever,
Bottled Water: A Global Environmental Problem,
Gold Mining Threatens Ancient Andean Glaciers,
$Billions in Homeland Security Spending Undisclosed,
US Oil Targets Kyoto in Europe,
Cheney’s Halliburton Stock Rose Over 3000 Percent Last Year,
US Military in Paraguay Threatens Region
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Rev. JMJ

On Christmas Eve Amy's father got married. I officiated the ceremony. It was my first as an ordained minister. I'm a Reverend through the ULC. I can do weddings, funerals, and baptisms, perform last rights, and absolve sins. Lemme know if you need help with any of the aforementioned. I'll do what I can.

GDMF color correction is done thanks to Clay Liford. Computers can do the darndest things these days. All the filters enhance the look in a way that I couldn't have conceived while shooting on the MiniDV DVX-100. I mean, I know film elitist will groan at this but these Safire Filters make it look really close to 16mm. Honestly, I wasn't even going for that. I love video. I have yet to shoot anything on film purposefully. Apparently the style and lighting we accomplished while shooting really lends itself to the so called "film look" effect. I'm kind of torn about it because I have no interest in faking a film look but it looks really damn good and it works. Now on to sound.

In case you haven't clicked the GDMF banner above there is a new and improved website available. Check it out at gdmf.beautifulconfusion.com.

Quite a few festivals have rejected me. As a matter of fact I haven't gotten into any since DVF. I'm very happy with GDMF and confident that it is a good film worthy of festival play. This movie came out exactly the way I wanted it to. The minor amount of negative feedback I've had regard things I very specifically aimed to do so they're not changing, for better or worse. I'm fairly certain that the most outstanding reason I'm getting rejected is because of length. It is 1 second shy of 30 minutes. But it is what it is. That's how long the film needed to be to tell the story. I'm not changing that for anyone. It does seem to be that the entire film festival world is partaking in a scam against filmmakers by saying they accept films 40 minutes and under. Most programmers have made it quite clear that they will only program films under 20 minutes, the closer to ten the better. So why don't they just say that instead of taking our money through false advertising. Personally, I think it's quite a disservice to the culture of filmmaking to dismiss longer shorts. Sometimes the characters and narrative just need a little more time to breath. Essentially we're asking our short filmmakers to make cutesy plot driven films that can be wrapped up in the length of two commercial breaks.

BTW, here's my video for "Razor's Gone" by The Theater Fire: