The Spaceship Teaser at Tribeca Cinemas

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Originally posted on THE SPACESHIP - Production Diary:

On Friday the 16th, the teaser for The Spaceship screened at Tribeca Cinemas in New York, before every block of the Philip K. Dick Science Fiction Film Festival. It was well received by all of the packed houses and will screen again before the closing feature, which starts at 4:00 this evening.

We’re stepping up our campaign to complete the film through volunteerism so if you’re interested in working on the project, please check out our Creative District listing at: http://creativedistrict.com/project/3438/

PKD at Tribeca Friday 01162015

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What It Means

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Happy New Year everyone.

 

So it’s like this, I got this temporary gig working over at the Walt Disney Company, which will be coming to an end later this week. It’s been quite a remarkable experience all around and I am particularly pleased to have learned that more than half of the staffers, at least in the New York division where I have been employed, have their own projects going on in the arts – some are acting in independent films and webisodes, others are writing their own short stories, novels, plays and music, and another individual has directed plays and is trying to get into the voice-over business (specifically for video games). Last week I got myself into a discussion with the latter, and a young woman who writes short stories. He had asked her why she writes, where she’s submitting her stories and she replied that she wrote only for herself with no intention of allowing anyone else to read her work. He was taken aback and didn’t quite understand this.

“Why would you write if you’re not interested in a career in writing?” he asked, “in anyone reading what you’ve written?” To which, I replied in her defense that “creation should never be done strictly because there’s potential for financial gain, because then the artist and the work becomes disingenuous.” But no matter how I put it, this concept didn’t seem to stick with him. He had been brainwashed, so to speak, by his teachers, by his parents and by the world around him, to the point where he could not see past taking any action without the forethought of what he might stand to receive from that action. I’ve met many like him before, especially in the film festival circuit – where so few do it because they burn to do it. The young writer held her ground and seemed passive of his strong reaction. It’s remarkable to me that this woman, who I suspect to be a bit younger than he, seemed to get it straight out and disagreed through and through with his opinion that “nothing should be created without reward.” But rewards for all artists and storytellers are too few and far between to be a required outcome – and if this were the reality of all of us in the arts, then no art would exist, the written word would not exist and we’d be living in an incredibly boring, insincere society.

 

When you create, do you ask yourself first, “what will it mean” and when you’ve finished your work, will you have asked yourself, “what did it mean?” Do you have the answer? Do you want the answer? Is the answer only relevant to you, or will other people find usefulness in the answer or at the very least, the pursuit of the answer? If you’re like me and find yourself in discussions with people like the individual above, then this is a wonderful way to get them thinking on a more human level, about the work they do and the time they spend creating. In writing this first article of the new year, I wonder whether we’ve managed to get through to him.

 “I love to write, but I write just for my own pleasure. There is a marvelous peace in not publishing.” -JD Salinger

“Those who are best at poetry are those who have to write it and will continue to write it no matter the result. For, if they don’t, something else will happen: murder, suicide, madness, (god) knows what. The act of writing the Word down is the act of miracle, the saving grace, the luck, the music, the going-on. It clears the space, it defines the crap, it saves your ass and some other people’s asses along with it. If fame somehow comes through all this, you must ignore it, you must continue to write as if the next line were your first line.”  – Charles Bukowski / Playing & Being the Poet from his compilation book:  Absence of the Hero ISBN 978-0-87286-531-0

Something on Fear

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Imagine a world where not a single person has access to indie film, independently published books, music or any other indie-created art. Imagine a world dominated entirely by the majors and only the majors. Imagine going to see a Maya Deren film or the latest in South Korean Cinema at the Anthology Film Archives, only to find that the organization is now run by one of the top five studios and they’re running a Spielberg marathon for the next two weeks. All this because of fear – fear instilled into artists and storytellers who have made the decision to pull their work from accessible platforms in an effort to prevent it from being “stolen” or because they fear they’ll never get paid for their efforts. Imagine a world that has no independently created art and stories because no one wants to create out of fear. People who would have otherwise changed the world with their work have stopped cold because they’ve been hammered with the sense that if you can’t make income off of it, don’t bother.

 

A buddy of mine from the left coast has been active in promoting the piracy issue these days. He’s a filmmaker and has traveled the country to promote stricter policies concerning “content” piracy. I’ve not had much of a chance to talk to him about it but I think he gauges that I see it as an over-reaction and we don’t exactly see eye to eye on the matter. He says strict laws are a necessary evil where I am of the mind that there are not any real “necessary” evils. Necessary evil is the belief that evil is necessary, but it’s never necessary. Necessary evil is an excuse for people who refuse to accept less dramatic measures or are reading too much into a situation. NE is irrational thinking in a world where rational thinking is trumped by greed. To boot, we’re living in an age where movie, music and book fans cannot lend their copies of their “media” if they’ve purchased the products digitally – unlike physical copies which can be lent and or donated to libraries – digital copy licenses are only good for the life of the “buyer” and once he or she passes, the file has to be “deleted”. With these strict laws concerning digital distribution of media, the chances of someone discovering new films and music are less likely. Perhaps my buddy and Taylor Swift should hook up, they’d get along quite well.

 

For as long as I’ve been doing this I’ve run into artists that act like the public owes them a living and it’s completely absurd. No one should go into the arts with such an attitude because then they’re doing it for all the wrong reasons. As filmmakers, we have the opportunity to speak to audiences, in a darkened room for two hours at a time, yet so many filmmakers are only willing to wield that power provided the price is right. It’s not sensible and completely irresponsible.

“I’m just looking out for the working man” says one supporter of these absurd policies, standing hero-like as if he’s unique for standing up for working artists. Any person with a severe need for attention and place in society can become a hero. Just advocate for the working man and you’re on your way. But this is completely misguided and not thought out. America has become a listless place that functions on desperation and culture riddled with pointless entertainment that degenerates the mind into mush and inspiration into exhaustion. We need the independents and the independents need us but at what cost? I’ve certainly had my history with bootlegged content, some of which I’ve gone on to purchase legitimately and continue to support those artists to this day. Strict policies concerning the creation and distribution of art will eventually defeat people, both fans and artists. As artists move to protect their work and identity, I urge all of you to use caution in which laws and policies you support. Blindly supporting all measures is a recipe for disaster.

In Response: Mike Rowe (from Renegade Cinema)

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OPED Originally published on Renegade Cinema

A buddy I grew up with posted a link to an article about some comments Mike Rowe made, in regards to pursuing your passion. My buddy has a lot of talent and I’ve always told him he was wasting his gifts by not getting out of dodge and pursuing a creative life. While I managed to get him to New York for a brief time some years ago, all he really wanted to do was go back to that quaint town and work his retail job. His decision was mainly out of fear, irrational fear that had been induced by his mother over the course of his life. “Big cities are dangerous places” I remember her saying to him, generalizing all metropolises as places to avoid. I have always been saddened by this but haven’t thought much about it until he posted the article: “Mike Rowe’s Must-Read Response To An Alabamian Who Asked Why He Shouldn’t Follow His Passion.” The article by Cliff Sims is published on YellowHammerNews.com.

For those of you like me, who don’t own a television, Mike Rowe is the star of the show “Dirty Jobs” and has gained a reputation for publicly answering fan questions. At one point someone asked “why shouldn’t I follow my passion?” His answer has startled quite a few people, some raving and supporting his answer but then there’s me, well, I think Rowe needs to rethink his words. In his response to the question Rowe said, “Like all bad advice, ‘follow your passion’ is routinely dispensed as though it’s wisdom were both incontrovertible and equally applicable to all. It’s not. Just because you’re passionate about something doesn’t mean you won’t suck at it. And just because you’re determined to improve doesn’t mean that you will.” He went on about how he gave up on his passion and explained that it was the best decision he had ever made, “When I was 16, I wanted to follow in my grandfathers footsteps. I wanted to be a tradesman. I wanted to build things, and fix things, and make things with my own two hands. This was my passion, and I followed it for years. I took all the shop classes at school, and did all I could to absorb the knowledge and skill that came so easily to my granddad. Unfortunately, the handy gene skipped over me, and I became frustrated. But I remained determined to do whatever it took to become a tradesman.

One day, I brought home a sconce from woodshop that looked like a paramecium, and after a heavy sigh, my grandfather told me the truth. He explained that my life would be a lot more satisfying and productive if I got myself a different kind of toolbox. This was almost certainly the best advice I’ve ever received…”  This is irresponsible advice.

If I had realized how horrible of a writer I was back in high school and accepted that as the end all reality, I wouldn’t have improved and I’d never have turned out the amount of work I have. I’m 33 now and just starting to find my voice as a writer and storyteller. It took me two novellas and countless short stories and poetry before I finally wrote a novel that meant something to me. When I finally did get around to writing that ‘story of substance’, I was in my late twenties and from there all aspects of my craft improved. I have been making films since high school. It took twenty one experimental and short narrative films and two attempts at a feature before I finally made a film that a festival would take. Caroline of Virgina was that film, and it won an award the first time out. Only now is that huge back catalog of short and experimental films getting its due attention from the festival circuit.

“When it comes to earning a living and being a productive member of society – I don’t think people should limit their options to those vocations they feel passionate towards” -Mike Rowe

I’m disheartened that the measure of value is whether or not someone can generate income from their passion. I think the word ‘passion’ has been bastardized by our desperation for money and a higher standard of living. If you’re truly passionate about something then money, awards and the like shouldn’t matter. Mike Rowe isn’t a voice of reason ‘nor is he wise enough to be giving advice to young people. He is a man I’d typically avoid because he gave up, stopped honing his craft and settled for financial security. I have been wondering all day about how many potentially great artists and storytellers are going to read his advice and throw in the towel without trying. He’s basically saying it’s okay to be lazy, go for the money and fuck happiness. How many great writers will humanity be denied thanks to his irresponsible remarks? How many painters won’t turn out ground breaking work? How many fantastic filmmakers will cease to exist because they’ve listened to this turd-investigator and decided, ‘well hey, if Mike Rowe says to settle for less, then I guess I should.’ In drafting this OPEd I am reminded of all the fatalistic naysayers back home when I first announced that I was moving to New York to pursue my passion of writing and film. So many of them sounded like Mike Rowe and had I listened to their advice, I never would have left my hometown. I wouldn’t have had the gamut of experiences that lead me to write that novel that demonstrated that I can improve or made the films that are now doing incredibly well in the festival circuit. I knew what I wanted and I accepted that I was going to have to work for it. The hardest part of it all is ignoring the advice of others.

Listen to your heart, not to others. That includes me.

OPED Originally published on Renegade Cinema

Film Festival Programming

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For Renegade Cinema

Film Festivals, on a rolling basis, will often disseminate media through members of the press that they’re in some way or another affiliated with, to give filmmakers some indication that their programming processes are fair and balanced. Sundance, Toronto, and a handful of others come out of the woodwork from time to time to remind filmmakers of what they’re looking for in submissions, but the information is often too broad and the few details they give are too subjective to be remotely useful. It’s clear to any educated reader that these articles, which often appear in the form of programmer interviews, are complete BS.

In the fall of 2001, while America was reeling from the 9/11 terrorist attacks, I got wind that “some film magazine was looking for interns” and that I should apply. Fresh out of film school, I ended up applying and being accepted for an internship at MovieMaker magazine, which at that time had been operating out of a dinky apartment in the old port district of Portland, Maine. My tasks were relegated to data entry and updating information on their website. I commuted two or three times a week from an island just off the coast, forty-five minutes each way.

I had made a handful of experimental films up to that point, a couple that I thought were worth screening at a film festival but none ever got accepted into the handful of festivals I had submitted them to. There were also a number of projects I had been involved in at film school the year before, but I never really saw them as “real” films that had an ounce of value and it never occurred to me to submit any of that material. During this time the magazine was in the process of planning a film festival they were going to hold in town. The woman, whose name slips my memory, was pretty much the only person working in the office and second to her magazine duties, she had to watch film entries for the film festival. She didn’t seem qualified and often only gave good marks for films when she recognized one of the actors. I remember her commenting to a pal of hers that she had recognized William Baldwin and suddenly, “well, I guess we’re taking this one”. It was a pretty straight forward process, she’d put the tape into the VCR and go back to her computer. The film would mostly play to no audience, no programming official – no one. Sometimes without sound as this was a working office and the sound of a movie playing in the background was deemed distracting. Occasionally she’d glance over at the tube to see if anything peaked her interest. Most of the time, at least from what I witnessed, few films ever did. This was my first indication that the festival programming process was something to be questioned and researched and that filmmakers should avoid blindly paying festival submission fees without an education as to who is going to watch your film, how many times and what the decision-making process entails.

I didn’t last long – paying for the commuter ticket back and forth to my home on the rock got too expensive for me to continue providing free labor to the rag. I ended up getting a paid job at a coffee shop, which also didn’t last long. All of the coffee shops in downtown Portland tend to avoid hiring islanders (unless you were from Peaks Island) because they don’t want your shifts restricted to the incredibly limiting ferry schedule. With that, I stuck to the island, saving up my money to move to New York. A year before I moved, My friend Branden and I ended up hosting our own film screening, showing a number of locally made shorts to the community. This was in the summer of 2002 and it’s that screening I’ll always remember because it was one of the best times I’ve had while living in Maine. Whenever I volunteered at or screened with a film festival in New York or elsewhere, I always look to have that same experience. It’s much more difficult than it should be, with the current culture of the film industry and the high level of snooty personalities that this field attracts, but I think if we can all look for that amazing, community togetherness, it’s a good step to a much more honest event and a positive change in an industry that desperately needs a dose of good energy.

-Eric

Note: MovieMaker Magazine is in fact a great magazine and this article is not meant to degrade its current editorial practices or people. I am a big fan of their top festivals lists and often use those lists as a means of figuring out where to reach out first whenever I complete a new project. -E

Originally published on Renegade Cinema

Something About Writing

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Creatively, I haven’t had a lot going on this past year. Not since my feature film production went on hiatus in early May of 2013. With a stalled film production and some burned bridges, debt I hadn’t anticipated and lost friendships that it turns out were probably not real to begin with, I had taken to writing articles for various web publications that revolve around film, mainly as a means of distraction, to avoid dwelling on some of these things – my favorite articles are about classic films and the future of film as an art, business and creative outlet. As a result of these contributions, I’ve found that more and more I’m getting back into writing, in that, it excites me again. Not screenplay writing (which I do all the time and don’t really consider it “writing”), but narrative, poetry and experimental work. The kind of writing that requires the writer to command the language, at least at some elevated level above basic grammar and formatting. I have noticed that my approach has changed and I refuse to write about anything that doesn’t interest me. I had started out with news, boring factual regurgitations that offer no original thought to the cesspool of media we’re all swimming in. I might’ve thrown about an opinion here or there in a half-ass attempt to make it mine but none of that news was truly mine because I didn’t really care about any of it. A journalist absolutely, whole-heartily needs to care about the stories they’re covering, otherwise they have no right to. As the months of the past year carried on, I found myself refusing assignments that didn’t offer a creative outlet or at the very least, some mechanism to express my own ideas or concerns. Instead, I took up offers to write OP-ED’s and articles about films that I think have some level of value in our society. This has lead to some of my favorite pieces and those works have lead me to write works for me and only me. Works that aren’t assigned or requested, but created because I felt I needed to express myself or tell a story or experience, to vent and not let certain things rest. Let sleeping dogs lie? Hell no! Through this I feel I am finding my voice, little by little, not just how I write is improving, but what I write about is much more relevant to me than it ever had been before. This is exciting!

I had a completed YA novel a couple years ago that I shelved because I wasn’t satisfied with the prose and the lack of detail in some of the chapters. Some of the characters felt empty and I feared I’d be accused of undermining the intelligence of the young reader the book is geared towards. This has changed and I’m now in the process of editing the book, adding in all the elements it was missing and improving upon the prose with the secure knowledge that my reader is pretty fucking smart. The editing process is nowhere near completed, but the work has improved a great deal and I can finally sleep now that it’s moving forward. Additionally, I have the bones worked up for another novel – a little more personal and grown up themed. I took the script for Objects, a film I tried to fund over the summer, and have been re-working it as an “experimental narrative” – but really it’s a novel with a touch of “I don’t give a shit if you like it, I need to write it!” Looking at it in its current form, I think it works better as a literary narrative. It would have been fine as a film, but the novel form gives it some sort of incalculable value and allows me to be free with my settings and scenarios without the restriction of a crowd funded budget. Lastly, I have taken to requiring that I write at least one poem and one short narrative per week. The narrative is usually a short story or a memoir of some kind. Whether fiction or not, it’s got a beginning, middle and end. I usually turn these out on Tuesdays, and this morning I blew through both projects in under an hour, in addition to adding a chapter to the new novel. As I work through this unnatural debt and fight off the banshees and negativity of those who consider me their slave, writing keeps me alive, keeps me free and allows for the possibility of a future where I’m not dependent on film as a creative outlet. I love film, but I despise the industrialization of it. The culture of it. It’s all incredibly off-putting. Writing, is of course, mine and mine alone. What comes of it is my responsibility, my doing and it’s either good or bad because of me, not others. Most importantly, I do it for the right reasons. The execution of the work isn’t commensurate to the capacity of a paycheck ‘nor dependent on those whos dedications are. All I require when I’m doing it, like any other creative outlet, is that it makes me happy.

-Eric