Chronicles Simpkins, my short film, will finally screen in Los Angeles on June 19!

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At the Grauman’s Chinese no less. Click here for tickets.

The World Premiere of Emily’s Movie

My wife Emily Topper, along with co-director Mary Posatko, has been making a documentary about the murder of her grandfather since a year before our first date. Now, after six years, it is finished and having its world premiere at the Maryland Film Festival on May 9.

I had the honor of designing the poster, which features a picture of her grandparents and their thirteen children, including my mother-in-law Helen, who is second from right in the top row.

Baltimore in Black and White

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.

 

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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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