October 23rd, 2017

What a week it's been; two film festivals in two different cities. The New Orleans Film Festival and the Tallgrass Film Festival in Wichita, Kansas - both were tremendous, hospitable experiences filled with meeting heaps of quality human beings. I even experienced a new "first" the other day when my new short film 'Goodbye, Old Glory' screened simultaneously at two both festivals that happened overlapped at the same time. While many other filmmakers make circuit-wide tours touting their new feature, I'm happy to enjoy a small piece of the festival pie with this little short-that-could.

I now turn my sights to the Austin Film Festival this week, which I haven't attended since working it as a volunteer in 2010. Airborne tablets have now become routine in my diet.

September 2017 Media Consumption

MOVIES

  • 'Ingrid Goes West' - Matt Spicer
  • 'A Very Long Engagement' - Jean-Pierre Jeunet
  • 'The Long Goodbye' - Robert Altman
  • 'Baby Driver' - Edgar Wright
  • 'Casting Jonbenet' - Kitty Green

TV

  • 'Rick & Morty' - Season 3, 7x

BOOKS

  • 'Astrophysics For People In A Hurry' - Neil deGrasse Tyson

August 2017 Media Consumption

 

Film:

  • 'Don't Look Back' - D.A. Pennebaker

  • 'Reservoir Dogs' - Quentin Tarantino

  • 'Dina' - Antonio Santini & Dan Sickles

  • 'Good Time' - Josh & Ben Safdie

  • 'Silence of the Lambs' - Jonathan Demme

  • 'Gimme Shelter' - Albert & David Maysles, Charlotte Zwerin

  • 'Don't Look Back' - D.A. Pennebaker

  • 'Pioneer' - David Lowery

  • 'My Daily Routine' - David Lowery

TV:

  • 'Game of Thrones' (Season 7) 3x

  • 'Room 104' (Season 1) 2x

  • 'Hard Knocks' 3x

Books:

  • 'Life' - Keith Richards

RESERVOIR DOGS

One day - when I was in 8th grade - my mother took me to Blockbuster so I could rent a movie. My process in picking a DVD typically hinged on a combination of A) appealing lead actors B) catchy titles C) a cool cover (it had to be REALLY good, though - I wasn't dumb) or D) something I had overheard family members or classmates discuss. On this particular Friday, my eyes met a coverless DVD sleeve - as if someone had stolen it - with the Blockbuster-stock font reading "RESERVOIR DOGS (1992) ". It was the combination of a cool, mysterious sounding title met with some distant memory overhearing that this was a significant cinematic achievement that did me in. Despite this DVD copy lacking the film's original cover art, two of my criteria were checked. Even my mother - who paid for the rental - said, "Oh, yes. Quentin Tarantino is quite interesting." So I rented it. And my mind was BLOWN to bits. I grew up watching Star Wars, E.T., and The Princess Bride. Even more mature-themed films like Terminator 2 paled in comparison to this. I felt like I had ripped a hole in the universe, revealing a hole that only I could peer into and roll around in a land of something new and different. I watched it twice more plus all of the limited bonus features before I had to return the DVD to Blockbuster. I would never be the same.

Tonight marked a personal milestone. I was lucky enough to see Reservoir Dogs on the big screen, in gorgeous 35mm, presented by Quentin Tarantino himself (even cast members Tim Roth and Michael Madsen were there!), the film's producer Lawrence Bender, and Sundance founding director, Michelle Satter. SIDENOTE: one of his producers produced The Cider House Rules, which QT pronounced The Cider House RULES (screaming with a fist in the air). Michael Madsen and I were sent into a fit of laughter from that one. Once the movie began, I'm sitting there, in the top balcony of a packed theater in Downtown LA, geeking out; doing my best to study the nuanced universe he began building from Day 1 of his cinematic domination. I've seen this thing at least twenty times but still making new discoveries beneath the layers of unconventional narrative structure: i.e. How the hell did he write in all of that stuff about Pam Grier and then wind up casting her in Jackie Brown six years later? I can't wait for a QT-directed play.

JH

July 2017 Media Consumption

Films:

  • 'The Verdict' - Sidney Lumet
  • 'Glengarry Glenn Ross' - James Foley
  • 'The Big Sick' - Michael Showalter
  • 'Wonder Woman' - Patty Jenkins
  • 'The Host' - Bong Joon Ho
  • 'Into the Inferno' - Werner Herzog
  • 'Apocalypto' - Mel Gibson
  • 'Okja' Bong Joon Ho
  • 'There Will Be Blood' - Paul Thomas Anderson
  • 'Jesus Camp' - Heidi Ewing, Rachel Grady
  • 'T-Rex' - Zackary Canepari, Drea Cooper
  • 'Spiderman: Homecoming' - Jon Watts
  • 'Javier' - Dorny Sunday
  • 'Heaven Knows What' - Josh & Ben Safdie
  • 'American Anarchist' - Charlie Siskel
  • 'Fantastic Planet' - Rene Laloux
  • 'Dunkirk' - Christopher Nolan
  • 'War For the Planet of the Apes' - Matt Reeves
  • 'The House of Small Cubes' - Kunio Kato
  • 'Post Tenebras Lux' - Carlos Reygadas Barguin
  • 'Buffalo 66' - Vincent Gallo

TV:

  • 'Chef's Table' (Season 3) 2x
  • 'Glow' (Season 1) 1x
  • 'Abstract: The Art of Design' (Season 1) 2x
  • 'The Defiant Ones' 4x 
  • 'Mad Men' (Season 5) 2x
  • 'Game of Thrones' (Season 7) 3x
  • 'Ozark' (Season 1) 10x
  • 'Last Chance U' (Season 1) 1x

Books:

  • 'As I Lay Dying' - William Faulkner
  • 'The Postmortal' - Drew Magary
  • 'Wonder' - RJ Palacio

Mood Vs. Story

I was chatting with a filmmaker friend of mine who is repped by one of the biggest and most prestigious director representation companies in the world. I asked him about his experience working with them and he was indeed happy to have their help in landing him new gigs and greatly expanding his exposure. However he was confounded with the work of his peers also on their roster. More specifically he was confounded with the lack of 'visual storytellers', but rather a clear preference for artists who construct an enticing vibe steeped in moodiness yet almost entirely lacking the presence of a narrative. You don't have to look too deeply into film festival lineups to see what I'm talking about.

I recently watched 'Glengarry Glenn Ross' for the first time and in the opening five minutes, I was immediately sucked into its universe. Not only was the visual tone utterly striking and ahead of its time - notably via complex cinematography and mesmerizing tracking shots conducted by Juan Ruiz Anchía - and yes you're sitting pretty when your cast is Al Pacino, Alec Baldwin, Kevin Spacey, Jack Lemmon, Ed Harris, Alan Arkin, and Jonathan Price - but ultimately it's David Mamet's Pulitzer Prize-winning prose that hits you like a hammer of every emotion all at once. Who ever thought a pack of deadbeat telemarketers would be interesting?

When I watch this commercial for New Bell's - a South African whisky company - I am nearly brought to tears by its impeccable writing and convincing performances. At two minutes, it's undeniably emotional and extremely effective at making someone who has never heard of their company (i.e. me) quickly become very aware of their product.

Look at music - the poppiest of pop songs all have structure and compelling moments to suck the listener in. Songwriters subscribe to a science that has been tried and true for many, many years. Wouldn't it be a little confusing if the most talked about 'Album of the Year' was a Thievery Corporation record? Nothing against Thievery Corporation, but their music fits a vibe - not a structure.

I don't mean to sound cynical about the current state of cinema however I am confused as to why the preference seems to sway to creating a "vibe" rather than a compelling "story."

JH

Defining "Good" / Being In The Arena

How do you define "good"? For years, I've dabbled with the idea that this 'good' quality was maybe something that maybe I could never achieve. I think most people feel similarly but allow their egos to trick themselves out of it. Haven't you ever set out to do something that you are deathly afraid of failing?

The antidote to this insecurity brings me to one of my favorite quotes of all time:

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat." - Teddy Roosevelt, 1910.

This is quote was, of course, two years before Teddy Roosevelt was famously shot while giving a speech and, after the assailant was apprehended, continued on orating without receiving medical attention. In short, Teddy was tougher than 99% of anybody alive today. And its echoed in this sentiment which I believe is one of the most profound things ever stated. It enabled me to rewire the way I look at anybody else's criticisms and go forth unaffected.

If you're a creative soul, you're gonna be brought down at some point by somebody. Whether its from a toxic relationship with a member of your family, some thick-brained coworker, or even your significant other. Being sensitive to nuance comes with a price of being exposed to critique. Next time you're feeling victimized, do yourself a favor and think about the person who is actually in the arena. More credit will always, ten times out of ten, go to that person for doing something the critic couldn't: trying.

JH

July 11th, 2017

I've made a new documentary that I'm SO excited to share with you!!! Like so many beautiful, happy accidents, this project is made possible purely because of being at the right place and the right time - while on vacation and without a camera - and with the help of a small group of very trustworthy friends; both new and old. I wouldn't have even been able to make the film had it not been for my roommate (thanks again, Dan!!!) who was cool with overnighting me a Pelican case filled with my camera gear across the country. Life has a sense of humor sometimes.

I may be too naive to say this, but making a film is a lot like falling in love. It's wondrous, joyous, terrifying, inspiring, dizzying, frustrating, astounding, surprising, and ultimately - the more it happens - educating. [Yes, I'm one of those people who doesn't believe you only fall in love once in your life.] There are many analogies much wiser filmmakers than I have used to describe making a movie, but that's the way it currently feels like to me.

Moreover, this film is political in nature but in a way that shines a mirror on ourselves while remaining entirely objective. I hope it resonates with an audience upon its eventual release. I can't wait.

JH

July 8th, 2017

I've been thinking a lot lately about dogma. In addition to being the title of a terrific Kevin Smith film, dogma is essentially subscribing to an ideology or philosophy hinged on an incontrovertible truth.

Its blinding nature renders the brightest of minds ignorant and dulled. Whether it's politics, religion, or even something as specific to what kind of haircut you should rock or what kind of person you should be involved with romantically - dogma is there to corrupt your individuality with unchecked, misguided noise. It's essentially living within the constraints of someone else's thinking; a shortcut to bypass insecurities. The Anglican priest, poet, and Oxford scholar, John Henry Newman, once said "Men will die upon dogma but will not fall victim to a conclusion." My interpretation of this - outside of this man's clear disdain for the famously dogmatic Catholic church - is that some folks believe that they are owed something because they subscribed to a collective notion or idea, but may forever deny themselves an inevitable truth that might otherwise fulfill the holes in their soul. Isn't this dangerous for people to presume they are so correct that they are blinded by their own inner turmoil they're too insecure, afraid, and/or immature to address? Isn't this the utter death of truth?

Of all of the arts, filmmaking is possibly the most wrought with dogmatic thinking. Making a movie requires many skillsets and, above all, an open attitude towards the unknown. Box office success determines what is a hit versus a loss; therefore it's certainly easier to attempt to understand what people have done in the past in an effort to try to avoid mistakes in the future. Some might even look to what specific tools or methodologies others used as point of reference to emulate a style or set a mood. Some might say, "That isn't me; I'm no sell out. I'm REAL." Whatever the case may be, inevitably the bitter irony about filmmaking is that in order to reflect some sort of truth that resonates with an audience, you need to engage in a bit of dogmatic thinking yourself. If a filmmaker's job is to observe and report, then it's only natural to expect some piece of dogmatic thinking to come into play while figuring out a way to communicate a relatable story to someone - right? Right????

JH

july 6, 2017

I have officially started a blog . How 'Millennial' indeed.

For my first ever blog post, I would like to begin by ranking my favorite new movies I've seen this year at the midpoint of 2017.

  1. Baby Driver - Edgar Wright
  2. A Ghost Story - David Lowery
  3. Okja - Bong Joon Ho
  4. Logan - James Mangold
  5. The Big Sick - Michael Showalter
  6. Wonder Woman - Patty Jenkins
  7. Get Me Roger Stone - Morgan Pehme, Dylan Bank, Daniel DiMauro
  8. Dealt - Luke Korem
  9. Lion - Garth Davis
  10. Get Out - Jordan Peele

There we have it. Short and sweet. I look forward to updating this list as the year progresses.

JH