But what should we direct?

The frozen tundra of 21st-century artistic possibilities stretches before us. Madness lies in every direction. We know directing is the only option for an intrepid, citizen-philosopher, bon vivant like ourselves (or so we like to think)… but directing what?

To whom must we communicate? What message? Over what production elements are we compelled to bear influence? Can we ever start a family? Hopefully this handy chart will help.

Click to enlarge. Download the PDF here.

What Should We Direct?

Six Ways to Pass as Privately Educated

private-school-kidsDirecting is a trust fund baby’s game. Are you a trust fund baby? If so, good for you. Couldn’t happen to a better person. Seriously. Furthermore, go fuck yourself. While you yourself may be talented and friendly, your kind, with its consequence-free paradigm, dilutes the talent pool in the entertainment industry and has an undue influence on the American narrative — which is why, in the 1970′s, movies were about urban, interesting looking, colorful people, and today, they’re about suburban, dead-souled superheroes. And thanks to “unpaid internships,” your ilk will maintain its stranglehold on the industry for generations to come.

I am not so fortunate. I had three strikes against me as I embarked on this profession. Number one, I am publicly educated. Number two, I am Irish Catholic by heritage, meaning one look at me and every person thinks, “I’m going to colonize and oppress the living shamrock out of that people-pleasing leprechaun, just for the hell of it.” Number three, I am interested in the happiness of others. Numbers two and three are related, baked into my motherboard, and problems I’ll contend with for life.

Number one, on the other hand, could have gone another way.

My high school was extremely traditional. How traditional? It was founded in 1635. Six years of Latin. A strict adherence to 17th century educational principals of discipline, rigor and gratuitous suffering. If you raised your hand, you had better have the right answer or you get the hose again. In the hall? Where’s your lavatory pass (that’s right, lavatory)? Hard work was king. Colorful complexity, as a desirable trait, was, in the eyes of my instructors, a notch below rabies. Lunch break was 19 minutes long. Lollygag time did not exist.

And here’s the lesson one takes away from this. If you speak, spit out the right answer fast and get out of the line of fire. Go along. Do not be noticeable for fear of a misdemeanor mark. This is, obviously, fantastic training for the bottom of any number of executive food chains.

My wife, on the other hand, went to a private boarding high school only 25 miles, yet several centuries, north of my own. At her school, probing complexity was the name of the game. An interesting and deep answer was prized higher than a correct one. Students probably rode around in golf carts or were carried on sedan chairs by lower classmen. All enjoying the overwhelming message: I am a complex person and my complexity has value.

At dinner parties, when you find yourself bored to tears by a person’s long-winded answer to “how are you?” chances are they went to private school. That other guest, who got everyone else talking but left without divulging so much as their last name? Public. And it bears mentioning, the one who snuck off to go to the bathroom but really was doing all the dishes? Parochial. God bless those poor bastards.

To be a director, in this industry that is now overrun by Thad Claddingtons the Thirds, who only feel comfortable hiring their own, we must learn to pass. All the blonde, white-slacked, yacht-treading villains from 1980′s John Cusack sex comedies grew up to become agents and development executives and we, the John Cusacks of the world, only too excited to be granted the right to work, have been tossed outside the gates.

Luckily there is a way back in. A secret body language taught to and understood by only the privileged. And here I am to blow the whistle on it. I humbly present: Six Ways to Pass as Privately Educated, or… Six Secrets to High Status Body Language, or… Six Methods to Put Peasants in Their Heads…

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Dispatch from Napa

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4K projection of one’s humble short (shot on 5D) kicks the ass in the face with extreme prejudice.

Announcing the World Premiere!

Chronicles Simpkins PosterChronicles Simpkins Will Cut Your Ass is a short film I directed last fall, produced by Adam O’Byrne, written by Rolin Jones and starring Justin Kirk and several very talented children. Nine months of grueling editing and post-production has led, finally, to its cinematic debut as part of the Woods Hole Film Festival. Woods Hole being smack on the tricep of the most artistically savvy peninsula in the world, Cape Cod (also the setting of One Crazy Summer, starring John Cusack).

The film will compete as part of the shorts program, Friday, August 2, 2013 at 5pm at the Redfield Auditorium in Woods Hole.

Tickets and info here.

And if, on Festival Genius, you “+ add to cal” (even if you have no plans to be in Woods Hole that day) it helps us build buzz for the film!

Thank you so much to all of our investors, donors, collaborators, well-wishers and friends!

Just got retweeted by Pulitzer. NBD.

 

Behind the scenes of Chronicles Simpkins Will Cut Your Ass [slideshow].

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Veterans Day weekend 2012 marked the shoot of my first official short film Chronicles Simpkins Will Cut Your Ass, based on the play of the same name by Rolin Jones. Adam O'Byrne produced. My wife Emily Topper served as Cinematographer. Several dear friends showed up to help out. It was a heavenly weekend. Here are three of our stars: Alexa, Maleah and Gianna. Each brilliant, professional and focused like a laser beam.

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Maleah Renee Galian as Chronicles Simpkins.

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Alexa Hodzic as Rachel Melendez

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Gianna Gomez as Jessica

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Brice Fisher as Billy Conn

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Special guest star Justin Kirk, who shot on the day we didn't have a photographer, burns with the brightness of a thousand suns. Just standing up and turning around during a take made the crew have to stifle laughter. Who IS this man?

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Alexa was a ninja of the greenscreen. Or rather, I guess the greenscreen will be the real ninja. But Alexa crushed her monologue repeatedly.

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Cinematographer Emily Topper chose to use one light, and specified that it be 93 million miles away.

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Question being: will the intended special effect work, and can BI figure out how to key it out without having to spend extra money in post?

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Not one to leave the hauling to her team, Emily will leap onto the grip truck without a second thought.

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Leah Cameron worked wonders holding it all together as script supervisor, while I pretended I knew what I was doing.

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Between takes, I blocked the sun for Brice, who took the opportunity to explain a few things to his director.

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Adam O'Byrne was born to produce movies. In part because of his healthy skepticism of both what comes out of my mouth...

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..and what comes out of the monitor.

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Leah and I discuss bedeviling eye-line issues created by my somewhat aspirational shot list.

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Brice, alone in the right side of the background, was perfectly comfortable under the scrutiny of lots of adults and equipment.

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One thing they never tell you about directing on location, is how chapped one's lips get. Like bleeding level chapped. Very different than theatre.

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Our camera department was not afraid to go 19th century as the situation demanded.

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AD Danny Giles (L) runs one hell of a set.

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Gianna's character is particularly fond of one lunch item that she finds out is within reach. She was profoundly easy and fun to direct.

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Maleah and Gianna had to spend a very long time just standing around and did so with big smiles on their faces.

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Emily is an old pro and knows how to dress for two days on a blacktop. She and the actors had a wonderful bond over the two days.

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Andrea Meller came to help out the camera department and be media manager, which is basically as important as the anesthesiologist.

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Must. Buy. Location. Hat.

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Kate Hamilton is my sister's niece and just moved to LA. She was indispensable to us, clapping the slate, filling in on make up, doing runs, AND she just got cast on Criminal Minds!

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Everyone is facing in a different direction in this photo. Which happened. Now and then.

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Emily has eyes like a hawk. Kelly (our boom operator) has ears like the same hawk.

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Adam and I went into fourth and goal mode at the end of day two and started working with three camera units at the same time. And somehow, we were able to shoot probably 30% of the movie in the last 5% of the shoot.

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Canon 5Ds are not easy to shoot motion on. Luckily this woman travelled for six weeks in India shooting a documentary on this otherwise impossible (but deliciously cheap) piece of equipment.

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Our high tech way of simulating the ultimate aspect ratio of 2.35:1. Let me say this: 1.66, 1.85, these are pedestrian aspects that look like uninspiring, undramatic zone-out television... 2.35 on the other hand, you are in a cinema. You have left your house. Things on screen matter. Lives are being changed. All because it's a little more rectangular. It's so weird.

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Danny was a pied piper all day. The background kids were total pros.

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Samantha doesn't realize it, but I'm studying her hair color to see if she could stand in for Gianna for a shot downstairs.

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It wouldn't be a short film without a Mickey Rooney. I mean am i wrong?

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This is a bonafide non-staged pointing shot. I always thought those were completely fake. But this happened. I pointed at something. Actually I did a lot more pointing than I realized I would.

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Our extras. From left, Xavier, Lila, Lauren and Justin. Perfect in every take. All day.

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Playwright Jen Haley came and visited us on set!

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Monica prepared Samantha for the all important insert of Sydney Burrows.

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We chased the sun all day. Shooting outside in November involves some serious hustle.

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Lens flares are all the rage these days. Although I don't know if there's be any in this. Emily is an assassin and we shot on pretty wide lenses.

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In two days, I was so busy I never figured out where the snack table was. And I missed out on all those free snacks.

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Brice had several costume changes throughout the day, but none that would meet the eye. To say anymore would be a spoiler.

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Emily and I met one November, started dating the next, got married in a month near November, and then shot a short film together in November.

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Those shadows started to grow long.

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Justin is Maleah's brother. He is a featured extra as "Billy Eugene" and also as a crucial body double. This kid bravely saved the movie in a way I am not at liberty to reveal.

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Andrea brought several metric tons of pep just when we needed it.

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The kids stayed up and happy from 6am to 4pm straight.

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Brice, hangin' with Emily. Soaking up the experience.

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Bending back at the waist is good for comedy.

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Then, we wrapped the kids!

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Leah continued to hold down the fort in the last crazy minutes.

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And there were several high fives given.

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Gianna was rock solid. Took fast sophisticated direction and adjusted instantly every time.

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Here, in the background, Adam congratulates Danny for bringing us home with milliseconds on the clock.

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It's odd because it gets profoundly intense and fast, and then suddenly stops.

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Danny Giles is a prince among men.

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We loved the vines on the fence, and chose the location partly for them.

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After the kids wrapped, we got some last b-roll of the tetherball.

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The tetherball was terrible at taking direction, no matter how in its face we got.

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I think we were all so zorched, the simplest acts of tetherball manipulation confounded us.

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Or, Brendan anyway.

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Luckily Emily knows how to translate.

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That sun. We had such a complicated relationship with it.

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The last moment before we wrapped. Andrea took this.

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Operation Shoot First Short Film: successful.

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I’m directing two short films by Rolin Jones.

Chronicles Simpkins Fundraising Video from Brendan Hughes on Vimeo.

Starting in November, I’ll be directing two short films by Rolin Jones. Adam O’Byrne is producing. After only six years in Los Angeles I’m finally getting this bird off the ground. The video above depicts the intertwining biographies of Adam, Rolin and myself. We’ve started an Indiegogo campaign and I would be over the moon if you’d consider a little contribution.

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  • The Pizzicato Effect

    In classical music, Pizzicato is the plucking of a muted string on a violin. The effect (in my opinion) is the indication of the note for your heart to play.

    This can also be achieved in directing. We do not go to the theater to admire an actor have an emotion. We go to have the emotion for ourselves.

    The Pizzicato Effect is theatre and film in their highest forms. This is what I'm after.

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