Benjamin & Shoops


Last weekend I shot my short film BENJAMIN & SHOOPS. It’s a spinoff of the READY, SET, BAD! feature script I’ve been putting together this year. It’s set in the world of RSB and follows the exploits of the homeschooled Benjamin and his crush on his fellow homeschooled neighbor, Shoops.

The shoot went extremely well, and was beautifully shot. I was very happy to get my AFI classmate Matthew Nauser to shoot it for me. I worked with him a number of times while at AFI, and he was always one of my favorite cinematographers. We shot on his Sony FS-100 with a crew of 2-3 (depending on the time of day), and easily made our $500 budget look like $5,000 with his talents.

I haven’t been on my own set since Into The Cold and I missed it so much. That was last August. Nine months is too long. I need to make something at least every three months, how about that? At least until this RSB feature gets going, then I’ll gladly spend the year of my life making that thang.

Post-production began today – this morning, actually. I got up early and Assistant Editor’ed, organizing the footage in the Avid for my editor, Juliette, aka, my WIFE. I can’t wait to get a rough assembly going soon. We should have something proper for my award-winning master of music, Mike, aka my BRO, to have a look and get started in early June. Music is a big part of this piece and will really nail the tone and make this a festival-audience pleaser!

Meanwhile, Juliette and I are headed to Cannes Film Festival next week and I couldn’t be more excited!

Up With The Dates

Well that was a nice little break from this ol’ soapbox. Glady I can say that it was because I was swamped with my own work, my own development, my own betterment. Seems every free moment I’ve had the past month has been pushing Ready, Set, Bad! to that seemingly unreachable next step: financing.

I spent a few weeks polishing the script, and by polish I mean more rewriting every single scene from head to toe. Some scenes and characters were lost, some new scenes and characters added, and by and large I feel it’s as good as it is going to get at this stage before actors would come on board and make it their own.

After I wrapped that up, I sent it out to a bunch of competitions and a few festivals in a flurry (they all seem to be due in April), and then wrote a spin-off/episode/origin story on a couple of the homeschooled runners. And THAT, my friends, will bring us up to date.

The spin-off is called The Benjamin & Shoops Saga and gives the backstory on his super-weirdo crush on his homeschooled neighbor and how they ended up joining the cross country team, or, rather, how Benjamin stalked his way onto the team because she was running and it turned out they needed more boy runners so he stuck around.

No Paul Runyan in that one, but I am glad to have already cast these two: Matthew Boehm and Kate Dauphin, both of whom I’ve had the pleasure of directing already in Paranormal World: Episode 2.

We are set to shoot on May the 4th, so we should have just enough time to pull together crew, locations, costumes, and props, what little of it there is. It was by design written with a zero budget in mind, shooting with natural light during the day in just a couple locations. Keep it simple when you have no money! I should come out of this one with just buying lunch and tossing a few bones to the cast and crew for their one day’s work.

What else? Juliette and I are going to France next month for Cannes Film Festival, that’s what! We got passes as “professional filmmakers” and will be taking in the glorious coast of the French Riviera with all the other millionaires premiering their latest works of art. Spectacular!

See you around.

Up-Dates and Fast-Tracks

Kept busy the past couple weeks getting together an impressive application for Film Independent’s Fast Track. Also, been frustrated with Ye Olde Blogg here after an update scrapped my stylesheet and set my design work here back to zero.

Anyway, I feel great about my Fast Track app, but I also have tempered expectations with anything involving people’s subjective taste in reading screenplays/pitches.

I’m using an updated version of Ready, Set, Bad!, the feature project I have that is most ready to go for the cheapest production price tag. My go-for-it, hiring professionals, legit union, cheapie budget?

$1 million.

And somehow in the movies, that’s nothing. That’s with cast and crew working for minimums, and a bare-bones 18-day shooting schedule with 8 weeks before to get ready, and 8 weeks after to edit and deliver.

I’ve gone all in now with RSB. I’m obsessed with finding a million dollars this year to go make it. I haven’t the faintest clue how that could happen. To quote my application letter, “We are fresh out of Rich Uncles or Well-Connected Second Cousins Twice Removed.”

I’ve signed up good ol’ standby Leslie Andrew Ridings and his Black Noise Industries to produce it with me. I think after dozens of collaborations the past couple of years, it’s time we took that big step and made a feature.

Of course, we need to find a million dollars first. Stay tuned!

Paris In The The Summer

Not much new to report lately – been working on my Loney character drawings and in the midst of rewrites on my Old Souls script, if anyone cared. I got some good feedback on my first draft of Old Souls and definitely feel I got a better grip on the characters this time around. I’ll go out to actors with the next draft and hope to collaborate with them on finding their voices in it.

Meanwhile, I’ve been steadily applying to a dozen or so jobs per week. I am very grateful for my job and that I can afford to live in LA and pay my bills, but I still would love to find something with some creativity involved.

In light of this search, there is another option to me that I am exploring in earnest: spending the summer in France and taking an immersion course in French for 2-3 months.

Crazy? Crazy awesome!

Hilariously enough, there are programs that allow FAFSA student loan use. As far deep in student loan debt I already am, what’s another $4,000 to spend a summer in Paris and get a much better grasp on my wife’s language? That would be a fraction of a percent, a drop in a bucket, a pebble from a mountain of what I’m already facing. AFI takes a lifetime to payoff.

If I don’t find a better gig here by this spring, I’d be glad to shoot over there. Plus, I might even be able to hang on to my current job (if I still have it then), as they are big pseudojustin fans and could just find a temp for me while I’m gone.

I guess that’s pretty cool. But first, let’s just find a real job, and make my movies.

Old Souls: My Other Next Short Film

Yesterday was a “slow” day at work, which meant I had a couple hours of downtime to work on my own things, which is a life dream: someone paying me (though for something else in this case) to do my own creative work.

I was able to make great strides on a new hatchling short film script, an idea I’ve been exploring for only a couple weeks. I outlined it last week, and started banging out the script in earnest yesterday. Thanks, job!

I got home at 7 PM and kept pushing it through. I took a pit stop dinner and brainstorm session with Juliette, and we ended up finding the key to a certain character, which helped me find how to pull off the ending, which is everything when getting a first draft out the door. Never underestimate the power of talking through your screenplay issues with another movie-maker mind! Lucky for me, I married one!

In all I wrote for about six hours yesterday, and ended up with 17 pages. Very good. I haven’t had that much of a writing binge in about eight months, and it felt great.

I tend to edit a lot while I’m writing. Some people believe you should just crap out a first draft, even with story issues, spelling/grammar problems, character choices that don’t make sense, etc., but I can’t stand it. A scene cries out in pain to me on the page until it tells me it’s ready to share with someone else. I try to take care of a lot of those “first draft” issues on my first go ’round, so hopefully my first drafts might feel more like a 3rd or 4th with its level of polish. That’s just how I roll.

So what’s next? Well I try to ask people to read it and let me know their thoughts – not “if it was good” or “if they liked it” but how things hit them, how they felt about characters, and if there was any problems with clarity – did they understand what was going on? Those are the main concerns of early drafts in my opinion.

Then, for this piece anyway, I’ll take that into account, shiny up another draft, and go out to actors with that. In this case, I wrote it with my lead actors in mind, and they are (probably) on board already, so that’s a relief. I hope to get their feedback next, and they can help work with their characters, bring their perspective, and find a voice and access point for themselves.

And then we pick a weekend and go make it! I’ll scramble together production design, props, costumes, and ask my friend Leslie if he wants to shoot it.

The short film is called OLD SOULS, and it’s about a husband and wife who have taken a big risk to ensure they can be together for a long time. It’s a drama, built on a sci-fi concept.

Hopefully it’s something I’ll be talking about for a while this year, and you can follow it here, from prepro to production to editing to the festival games! Between this and LONEY, the first bit of 2013 is looking good! Stay tuned…

Loney, An Animated Pseudoshort

LONEY is a short story about a bridge troll who might not be cut out for bridge trolling. I’ve had it sitting around for a few years now, always really liked it, and want to make it. It’s a prequel of sorts to a feature script I wrote, a kid’s fantasy adventure.

I thought it’d be fun to do live-action, but then Where The Wild Things Are came out and killed any charm or originality that “real-life monsters with kids in the woods” might have. If I made this now with practical costumes and effects, it would just be, “Oh, you saw WTWTA and copied it?” when in reality I wrote this before Spike Jonze’ great looking, sad movie came out.

Anyway, that’s beside the point now. Because I’m going to make this Pseudobook’s first animated movie. Call me crazy.

I’ve been sketching Loney all week, trying to get a good look. The above clip is one of my attempts. Obviously this is not some master illustrator at work here. The extent of my drawing experience is:

  1. Really into it as a kid with lots of book studying
  2. Doodled off and on a lot since then
  3. A couple of weeks crash coursing in cartooning last year
  4. Illustrated half of The Pseudobook, a self-published ebook available now! last winter.

The above was thrown together in Photoshop. I don’t plan on getting crazy with 3D programs like Maya or Blender or anything. I see it as a 2D world with faux-3D depth. More like a stage play with film camera placement.

Obviously animating an 8-minute short film is a daunting task, and I probably need a lot of help. I have no idea what I’m doing.

For now, I’m going to keep working on my three main characters, and then go from there. If anyone out there has any guidance with how to proceed, feel free to let me know. I should probably get a real artist involved…

Should I Go To Film School?

Recently a friend of a friend reached out to me looking for advice regarding the age-old question facing humanity today:

“Should I go to film school?”

She’s a recent Peace Corps volunteer who just quit her grad film program out of frustration.


Once upon a time I asked Wes Craven the same question. He said, “No. Study something else, or use that money to make your own movie.” He didn’t go to film school, but got degrees in psychology and philosophy, getting his start as a sound editor and director of pornography, actually. Ahem.

So today, years older, wiser, film-school experienced, my sage advice to her was the following:

(edited for a broader delivery)

      You may have come to the right person with these questions. I studied film at 3 schools – Bowling Green State, UT-Austin, and The American Film Institute. The AFI is the only program I actually finished because BG was really “studies” with a handful of “production” courses. UTX was good but limited (access to equipment was a competition, for instance) and very expensive as an out-of-stater. So I quit/switched majors, frustrated and determined to make them on my own instead. That was between ’99-’02.

      I went to AFI from ’09-’11, and was very tempted to quit that too, but not because of the program’s shortcomings. In fact, I can stand beside 2011’s Hollywood Reporter story on AFI being the #1 film school in the world. It’s fantastic. But my issue was my discipline, Producing, wasn’t what I enjoyed, and it was very expensive to keep going to school to study something I really ended up hating.

      I went to AFI thinking I’d have a blast collaborating with 100 other passionate, creative filmmakers. And it was that, but as Producer, my job ended up being more of glorified babysitter/mediator/logistical commander/paperwork fiend who fed people, got locations, hired crew, and taped receipts to blank pages. It was creatively disappointing – everyone else got to “make” the movie, and I only got things ready and possible for them to do so.

      The reason I stayed at AFI after year one was because my thesis script got the green light to go into production. Finally! A creative role in one of my movies! And now after the fact, it turned out…how it turned out. Quirky (we hear), fun (we sometimes hear), great music, odd, confused…I can’t even put words to how strangely I feel about it in hindsight. We did win a cool music award, though!

      Suffice to say, I always wish I would have gone to AFI for Screenwriting, Directing, or Editing; basically anything instead of Producing.

      That’s my film school experience. Now my advice:

You can learn everything you need to learn from books and lots of practice, and then volunteering on real, professional film sets.

      If film school is what gets that for you, then great. If you can get it without film school, DO THAT and SAVE THAT $!

      So I guess you’d say I agree with Wes Craven (minus the making porn). If going to college is a life requirement/expectation, get a degree in history or sociology or psychology — something you can use to write better characters for your movies, and then find some film sets in LA or NY to work on.

      I devoured books on writing, directing, cinematography, editing for years, and practiced with my own cameras and Final Cut Pro. I got progressively comfortable with the technical skills — camera technologies, making storytelling images with fstops/lenses/shutterspeeds/lights, the SOUND factor, the set design/space/depth/composition aspect, storyboards, script covering, and more — all these fry the brain already, and I haven’t even mentioned #1: WORKING WITH ACTORS to get good performances so your story makes sense and is well told.

      What I lacked growing up in Ohio was the second half of that advice – the professional side of things. I couldn’t get on a film set and learn how it was done for the “real Hollywood” movies. I never properly learned that roll call, the block-light-rehearse-shoot approach, the etiquette, nor what it’s like to actually be wowed by an actor’s performance on set that you actually believe because you can see the truth in their eyes. My own no-budget movie sets paled in comparison to the real deal. And there are no actors like that in Bowling Green, OH — they’ve already moved to LA or NY.

      So for me, AFI was a means to that end. AFI film sets are one step away (and in some cases one step better) than a professional Hollywood set. I’ve heard countless horror stories from actors and crew who work on other school sets. They always say AFI takes the cake with professionalism. I think that’s because it’s not made up of typical “straight out of undergrad” master’s students. I’d say 75% are over the age of 25. I myself was 29. They are (mostly) mature creatives who have had a bit of life & career experiences after college already, and who are ready to commit to film.

      So I suppose it is up to the individual. Do you have to tell stories? Is it in your soul? Is the visual storytelling marriage of image and sound (film) the right outlet for that bug?

      Then keep making movies. Possibly involve film school if professional set experience is lacking. And then from there, never quit.

      The only thing people making movies for a living all have in common: they didn’t get there by quitting.

Paranormal World Episode 2 w/ Production Notes

Hey friends, it is my pleasure to share this fun collaboration with some local silly peeps and their latest episode for a web series parody, PARANORMAL WORLD.

Some production notes from your humble director:

Jeremy Cordy wrote it. He was a gracious screenwriter and even let me do a pass on the script to tweak dialogue and throw in a couple of pseudojokes.

The cast was already on board, so I got to just walk in and direct the script. It was a fun day working with some actual actors who mean to act.

We shot it the Saturday before Thanksgiving at the Glendale Library and a friend’s house down the road from there. Our day started at 3 PM and went until 1 AM and was very rushed, with only a couple takes per shot. We had to push a couple of pick up shots (Alexa running to the car/driving off) to another day because it was actually raining all night. In California, I know, we couldn’t believe it either.

Our production crew was two people, Leslie Andrew Ridings (Producer and Cinematographer on Into The Cold), on camera, and myself doing sound. No joke. The cast pitched in at times and did slates for us, but it was a ridiculous 2-man show that I don’t recommend.

We shot it using our contest-winning 5D.

Our production designer, Cassandra, made some cool props and is responsible for the general “serial killer” house we were in with newspapers, stuffed deer head, etc. The EPK was rigged up from a battery hand fan and a mini tripod (?). Fun stuff! She also did the scanners from Episode 1 that we destroyed (and make a subsequent return here when Becky eats it).

The most takes we needed for a shot was the prophecy scene: 7 takes. I wanted to do it all in one shot (the equipment joke, the fight, the prophecy, leading to the gunshot). Again, with a crew of 2, our issue was not having a dedicated focus puller. Moving camera positions in, out, in, out for the scene meant 6 or 7 different focus spots to hit, and we needed a lot of practice. Don’t make movies without a focus puller. Seriously. Leslie nailed it on the last one, though!

My wife Juliette cut it in Avid (MC 5.0.4), and let me get hands on for my first real Avid use since my lessons. I loved it, and feel confident I could do any project in there now. We ran into some export issues that set us back a day, though, and I would recommened we invest the $ to get the latest MC (6.5) which I can get a big discount on…

I did the sound edit and mix in the Avid. Very limited, but did the job for a simple show like this. I also did color in the Avid, not too shabby.

I did some “VFX” (if you can call them that), in Final Cut, since I wasn’t quite ready to tackle how that would work in Avid. Namely – painting out an annoying cable that distracted the world in one shot, and the prophecy strobe light sequence.

Jeremy’s wife’s bro had composed a couple of great scary drones for us, so we used those for some music, and the rest was pulled from the free Apple Loops package that comes with FCP. Sound effects were also Apple Loops, with a big assist from our account with

In all, post-production to delivery took about 6 days, split up over the month of December.

Thanks for watching!

Quickie YIR; My Top Music & Movies of 2012

Quickie year in review:

2012 was the best ever personally – marriage and fun and travels and joy! And 2012 was a big pain in the behind professionally – lots of unemployment, unsatisfying, soul-sucking work just to pay the bills. I did manage to get a few creative personal projects finished, but here’s to getting to that task more in 2013.


1. Django Unchained
2. Prometheus
3. The Hobbit
4. End of Watch
5. Seven Psychopaths
6. Moonrise Kingdom
7. Dark Knight Rises
8. Bernie
9. A Separation
10. Footnote

Honorable Mentions: Looper, The Master, Silver Linings Playbook, Bullhead, De Rouille Et D’os, Cloud Atlas, Argo, The Sapphires, Amour


1. Dinosaur Jr. – I Bet On Sky
2. Hospitality – Hospitality
3. Tennis – Young & Old
4. Now, Now – Threads
5. Mumford & Sons – Babel
6. Why? – Sod In The Seed EP
7. Andrew Bird – Hands of Glory
8. The Killers – Battle Born
9. Beach Boys – That’s Why God Made The Radio
10. Bruce Springsteen – Wrecking Ball

Didn’t listen to much music this year, actually. These are just albums that ended up in my Spotify playlists the most. I haven’t had time to get into music for about 3 years now. I don’t know much, don’t seek out much, and don’t get as excited as much as I used to.