Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Indonesian Job - Brave New World

"How beauteous Mankind is. O Brave New World that has such people in't"
-Miranda. Shakespeare's The Tempest

So, now we were back in prep. It's Monday, and we're going to start filming on Friday for seven days. Because I didn't know for sure we would be able to start up until Monday morning, only Leigh, Arneece, Aliki and Brian were in with me.

Before that, of course, was one more twist in the shooting plan.

On the day we went on hiatus, we were to have a shot list discussion with Rako, the director. It was even mentioned in the producer's email to me discussing the shut down.

That phone meeting never happened, but we still had much to discuss, and Brian and Leigh went to the conference room to get that conversation going while Aliki, Arneece and I dealt with many of the other logistics of getting us back up and running.

That is, until Brian appeared at the door to the office. "JB, you need to come in here." He was referring to the meeting in the conference room.

Over the many years I had worked with Brian, the process had been the same. We would talk before the shoot day, and then just touch base as needed. I would get basic info on how things were running from the 2nd AD or 2nd 2nd AD. Only if it was urgent would I reach out to Brian.

Similarly, Brian handled what needed to be handled, and only when it was a producing issue did Brian call for me. That means in the course of a shoot day, if Brian's number came up on my cell, I dropped everything and picked it up. If I was on set and either Brian came for me or sent someone to holding to get me to set, it was important.

As we are walking toward the conference room, he shares that Rini, the Indonesian-American producer, had informed them that the cast and crew would now be arriving on Friday, and Day 1 would be Saturday.

"Rini, they are arriving Friday?"

"Yes, they are."

"But, with the hard out on October 14th, that means they can only shoot 6 days?"

"You are correct, sir."

Rini and I had come to appreciate the absurdity of much of what was happening very early on. We were in the odd and frustrating position of often reiterating to each other what we already knew, sometimes just to make sure we were getting it right.

Often, in these moments, Rini would resort to being Ed McMahon to my Johnny Carson, and she would go to McMahon's go-to line on the old Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, "You are correct, sir;" something McMahon had originally bellowed when he was foil to Carson's "Carnac the Magnificent (or sometimes Great)," a "mystic from the East" who would come up with (humorous) answers to unseen questions. MacMahon, however, would often use this just to agree with Carson.

The Indonesians had learned that since Raisa was the 0-2, they could not travel ahead of her, and with her missed appointment at the embassy, they would all arrive close together. For the most part, now, the Indonesian cast and creative team would arrive in NYC approximately 13 hours before call time on Day 1.

Furthermore, we had a seven day schedule that now had to become a six day schedule, while still trying to retain as much of what they wanted to shoot as possible. After all, it was an expense to come to NY and not only film here, but do so with all the appropriate permits and a mostly American crew. Both they and our team wanted to make sure they got as much as they possibly could get in.

I had done many odd things in my career, but never had I met the director, key creatives and cast for the first time - in-person - on set at call time. We Skyped and used other communication. This meant we would officially do all, not just most,  prep remotely.

I've commented on it before, but it continues to amaze me how much technology has affected not just the camera and lighting side of movies, but the production side. The last two features I've done had offices without one hard line. We have a fax machine - a marvel only a decade or so ago, but in the era of scanning, we never used it. For that matter, most of my young crews prefer texting to even using the cell phones for what they were originally intended - talking on the phone. (This tends to lead to frustration both for me - and for them!)

I remember a photo shop in the West Village where location managers and scouts would stop at the end of the day, have their film developed while they waited, and then taped up location folders, including "panoramas" - which were actually a series of 35mm stills taped together. Now, all of those folders are captured digitally and shared in Dropbox or Google Drive.

We took all of this to the next level. When I wanted to get something across to the Indonesian creative team in a way that was more personal, I would use Google Translate to help find an appropriate phrase. Leigh would spend hours discussing the director's preferences on Facetime.

We did meetings through Skype and one rather ill-fated meeting through Go To Meeting. The latter reminded us that we have become so accustomed to the conveniences of technology that when it fails ( a poor Go To Meeting set-up one day and a Skype glitch another) we find ourselves outraged that we have to "fall back" on "dated technology" such as email and, horrors, the telephone!

What a Brave New World. Not Even Carnac the Magnificent could have seen this coming.

Next time: Rini arrives in New York, prep compressed into four days, and what makes a location iconic anyway?

Friday, November 27, 2015

The Indonesian job - The Emotional Roller Coaster

"Doing nothing is better than being busy doing nothing." Lao Tzu

After the short hiatus caused by the immigration issues, Rini informed me that the entertainment lawyer assured her that they would have an answer by the following Wednesday, September 30th.

The time between that Friday and the following Wednesday - and then, until the following Monday - became what various people described as "an emotional roller coaster," and "an abusive relationship".

The latter came as a result of numerous conversations with my key people, where I was simultaneously telling them I wanted and needed them, and that they should consider other work if offered, because I had no guarantee it would happen. It was Adam, my gaffer and G&E vendor, who used the term above, albeit jokingly.

"JB," he said, "this is like an abusive relationship. 'I love you please stay. Go Away! No, please come back.' " Years of working with my key crew has lead to some rather gallows and definitely politically-incorrect humor, and this was certainly right up there.

There was little funny about what Rini and I were doing. We spent a lot of time asking each other questions neither of us had the answer to. What were the chances we would actually get turned down? Did we put anything wrong in the material? Could we give them anything new? Should the director, and not the star, have been the 0-1? With the push back, how many days could we actually get in?

The most frustrating thing was, well, doing nothing. Because there was little that we could do. Pre-production is all about planning. Neither I nor my team could do any. Nothing we could tell potential locations, which there was a very good chance we could lose if we did not act. Nothing to tell vendors who were holding equipment. No way of knowing which crew people we would lose and no way to reach out to replacements for a project we did not know was happening.

We were in Lao Tzu's dilemma. We were busy doing nothing.

Wednesday almost came and went, and no word. It was late in our afternoon when Rino got word from the entertainment attorney that the first step was approved, but they had to do the interview at the embassy the next morning.

This was great news - we had passed the harder test - and while they could get turned down at the interview, it was unlikely.

At that point, it was the middle of the night for the Indonesian cast and crew. Rini woke all of them up and they rallied for an 8AM (their time) interview at the embassy Thursday morning. If that all worked out. they would be on a plane and arriving the following Thursday, able to shoot seven days. We would worry how to shoot seven days straight - we were on again!

I alerted my key people. It was not certain, but it looked good. I had my key production people ready to come in on Friday, with full prep to start the following Monday.

On their end, all of the Indonesian cast and crew were at the embassy, the cast with their agents, an hour early.

All except Raisa (who was the 0-1) and her manager. They were ten minutes late.

How this could have happened after so long was beyond any of us. "But, Rini, how could they not be...." The answer? "I don't know JB. We are frustrated, too."

This wasn't a death blow for the project, however. The rest of the cast and crew would arrive the following Thursday late afternoon, and Raisa would be there even later, in the middle of the night, ready to start shooting Friday. It was far from perfect, but we had left perfect at the altar a long time ago.

My team - Arneece, Aliki, Leigh and Brian - were coming in on Friday. We could start. I just needed them to do the funds transfer for production.

Early on, I had discussed that I could not commit money we did not have. At one point, all the funds were to be transferred September 7th. After that, we had draw downs of the funds. Enough funds had been transferred to keep us afloat, but the majority of the funds needed to be sent, and now.

Accept the investors were not able (or willing) to send immediately. It would have to be the following week.

This was impossible for me. I could not ask people to come in without knowing if the funds would be there. There was scurrying. There was negotiating.

Finally, I insisted that 2/3 of the funds needed to be transferred Monday AM my time, and the rest the day before we started shooting.

They agreed, but I could not be sure that this would happen. I had to put my foot down. If the funds were not in my account Monday AM, I would have to call the entire thing off.

It was the worst of positions for me. I had many people on both sides of the ocean depending on me. My people here had been loyal. My choices were asking them to stay over the weekend, or releasing them when a few more days would make it happen.

It was among the most difficult decisions I had to make, and I appreciated the input from all of my people.

I was up most of the night on Sunday. My key people were on stand-by - four days before we were to start shooting, with no locations secured and nothing definite. No tech scouts. No shooting schedule.

Then, Monday AM, it was in. Deep breath.

My team came in Monday morning, and we started to plan. Leigh needed to reach out to all of the locations. Brian needed to simultaneously prepare a production schedule with locations we did not know were available. It was the film version of chicken-and-the-egg, and we were pretty much an omelet right now.

Tech week - or what was left of it - was about to begin. Word went out to all our team - and our new costume designer, Caitlin (who had been "hired" without knowing if we were shooting) - that were were back in "prep" - for three days - starting Tuesday. It was a lot to do, but we had the people to do it.

Like a Law and Order episode - or a roller coaster - there were still more twists.

Monday, October 26, 2015

The Indonesian Job - Visa-Vis

"It's pretty physically upsetting, living life on a visa."
-John Oliver

This thread started with an email to my key crew and production staff in early September. It was meant to be the last email to explain changes.

That turned out to be far from the case.

At that point, we were scheduled to shoot twelve days. Those included INT and EXT scenes written as NY. My key people (some of whom were introduced in the last post) were my PM Leigh, who was also serving as locations manager, my First AD Brian, my production supervisor Aliki as well as my gaffer and G&E vendor, Adam, my production designer Orly and my then-Costume Designer.

These "final dates" were based on assurances from the immigration lawyer in Jakarta that the visas would be approved by a certain date. The lead actress, Raisa, was the O-1, and the rest were O-2. I will provide a link to explain more, but suffice to say it is a visa for an exceptional artist and their entourage. This visa process had been going on since the beginning of the year, and finally everything that was needed.

Or so we thought.

The INS requested "more information." It seemed that while the lead actress, Raisa, was an enormous pop star in Indonesia (her videos have millions of views, and she is regularly referred to as the "Taylor Swift" of Indonesia), INS was not overly impressed with her movie credentials.

Now, think about it. From the very first days of motion pictures, singers became actors. Nelson Eddy. Frank Sinatra.  Dean Martin. Elvis Presley. It goes right up until today, where the highway between the music world and the movie world is well-travelled.

Evidently, film history is a strong point among INS employees.

On September 24th, our plan had moved to start shooting seven days, down from twelve, starting October 8th through the 14th. Again, because our star, Raisa, had to leave for a concert in Malaysia on the 14th, there was never an opportunity for us to go beyond that date.

On Friday, September 25th, we had scheduled a shot list Skype meeting with the director, Rako, at 8AM. Brian, Leigh and I would have that meeting at the office.

I woke up at 3AM on Friday the 25th. I tend to be a bad sleeper, so this is not unusual. By instinct, I checked my email on my phone.

What I read woke me quicker than any cup of coffee. This is from Reza, the Indonesian producer.

"We just received news from Rini that the US Immigration will need 9 more days to approve or Petitions. This news simply crashed us here in Jakarta. Which means that IF it's approve, the approval will be on Friday, 2nd October 2015. If we can spare 7 days for the visa in US Embassy in Jakarta, then the shoot will be at 12th October 2015, when we all know that Raisa has to leave at 14th October 2015.. that simply not feasible for this production. So JB.. it is in our deepest regret to inform you to postpone this production until the I797 approved."
I had to reread a few times to see if this meant what I thought it meant. If nothing changed, the shoot was over. That was it.

I got on Skype with Reza, and we spoke one-to-one. It was eleven hours ahead in Jakarta so it was the middle of the day.

I had not read it wrong. The immigration lawyer was going to try and expedite the process, and that was the small bit of hope we had to hold on to.

It's the middle of the night and my people are coming in for a shot list meeting when they wake. What shot list meeting?

I texted my other members of the Key Four - Leigh, Aliki and Brian - to call me when they woke. I texted Adam, my gaffer who had turned down other work for not only he and his crew, but for his equipment package - to do the same.

As they called one-by-one, I had to tell people who had put their faith in me that they might have made a mistake, that they stood to lose up to thousands of dollars because they chose to be loyal to meet.

Reza was still in shock. If it was bad for us, it was devastating for them. They had done everything right, but now it was possible that their movie would not finish. The entire final sixty percent of the movie was about Raisa coming to NY. There was no rewrite that would save their movie, their dream, their hard work and their investment.

He asked in an email if the shot list and art meeting should still happen. When I said we should wait - what was a meeting to be about - he apologized. I knew there was nothing for him to apologize for. It was time to show our support.
Please do not apologize. We are here to be supportive of you.
It will take a few days to absorb all this for everyone. Take your time and sort everything out and we'll work together and do what we can to make the new circumstances work.
For the time being I am telling everyone that we are on hold as of the end of the day today. No one as of now is scheduled to come in on Monday until further notice.
Hopefully when you are ready our entire team will be available. I know my key people - Leigh, Aliki, Brian and Adam, will be.
Of the others, any who are not available we will find wonderful people for.you
Your friend JB"
I met that morning with Leigh, Brian and Aliki. We would have to tell our crew that they were not to come in on Monday, that we would know more the following week.

I learned that both Leigh and Brian had turned down work, Brian another feature just the day before. Aliki had turned down renting out their camera package.

Rini and I spoke on the phone late in the afternoon. Rini said she wanted to cry, and I wasn't far behind her.

My email to the crew the next day.

I spoke with Rini on Saturday. The latest is that the lawyer has put in for an expedited process for visas. They should have an answer on this Wednesday. The quickest that would get their cast and creative team here is the 7th for prep and the 8th to shoot. We would then shoot 7 days - likely straight, though it could be six. If it is seven straight I will talk with crew re: safety and opportunity to switch out - would have those discussions individually.

I am waiting for a Letter from Reza to confirm this is the plan. "The plan" has changed so often on their end, in fairness due to the visa problem and scheduling issues with Raisa, that I have asked that it be put in writing. I expected it today but did not receive, but understand that Reza may be swamped.

If they get turned down for visas, it's likely the film will be shelved.

Nothing makes me more unhappy than sending an email with a lot of "ifs" - but I am walking a fine line between keeping everyone informed and confusing everyone. There will be one more email from me on this matter - one way or the other - and that one will be definitive. 

Obviously, none of this is good news, and, having released everyone (As I had to) I understand if some of you are not available when we start up again. In this scenario some people would start prepping again as early as this Thursday October 1st- but due to the uncertainty, I cannot "schedule" anything (such as tech scouts, production meetings, etc).

We are in the uncomfortable position of keeping our fingers crossed for our friends in Jakarta, and for us.  Rini may contact some of you for information between now and then - please do your best to provide it.  I'm glad to answer any questions, but any questions regarding "what are the chances...." would be nothing more than speculation on my part. 

Thanks for all the hard work - and here's hoping to see you all on set soon."
We were in the middle of the ocean and the winds were nowhere to be found. Right now, we were dead in the water.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Indonesian Job - The "Thank You" Dinner

"If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough"
-Meister Ekhart

Those who follow this blog have seen pics like this before from the "Thank You" dinner.

The "Thank You" dinner actually started a few years ago. For years, I was able to avoid bringing on unpaid interns as the digital age drove budgets lower and lower. On The Unattainable a few years back, I had to bring on an unpaid intern as my assistant (she was here on a student visa from India and could not accept pay, and was being supported by her parents) and we brought on an APOC, Tasha on a flat rate stipend of $1000.

Near the end of the shoot, my POC, Megan, suggested that she buy the APOC a gift and I buy my assistant a gift and we take them out for dinner. We did that at my old haunt, The West Bank Cafe.

A year later, when I did Keep my Brother on even a lower budget (under $100K) I brought on Tasha as my POC and two interns as PM and APOC. Again, we did the dinner, and then added the one paid PA who stayed through the entire shoot.

On this shoot, visa and talent schedule issues threatened the entire shoot. Rini, the Indonesian-American producer, was in Washington DC for most of prep and put in the impossible position of being told by me and my staff on one end what we needed from Jakarta and from their end what they wanted from us, which was often very different.

My staff faced several moments when it looked like the shoot would not happen, including almost a week long hiatus while we waited on visa answers and then whether the key investor would make a transfer of funds. In that time, many production people would have looked for and taken other work. I offered all of them the opportunity to go out and do just that if they needed to.

Not one of them did, turning down sure work to stay with me and "what if."

On top of their talent and their noble efforts, that sort of thing just doesn't happen. There were tense days when I worried almost the entire day about the "what if'" their loyalty to me cost people I dearly respected and, yes, to some degree loved, money.

Thankfully, it worked out, and I took all of them out for a delicious (and drunken!) dinner.

There are many heroic tales to share in coming posts, but let me introduce you to my own Band of Brothers and Sisters.

Left to right above are Rini, who I mentioned above; Arneece, who came in with little film office experience and rose from APOC to POC by the end, Aliki, who is, herself, a producer and line producer and agreed to work with me as production supervisor, Leigh, also a producer, who was my UPM and Locations Manager and oversaw US casting, doing three jobs, two of which were impossible on their own and made harder by our changes; myself, Patrick, our great 2nd AD who worked with a lot of green PAs, and the Big Man, the one and only Brian, our First AD, whose praises I have sang to the heavens often on these pages.

On a shoot where so much could have gone, so much went very right. We came in on schedule and under budget, and it only happened because of the folks pictured here.

I have individually worked with many very good production people, but the good feeling among this entire crew and the Indonesian creative team was so wonderful that in the few wrap days after the film, there were various get-togethers. Aliki and kept marveling at how, on a difficult shoot, everyone had such a great attitude and there was such good cheer.

On a shoot that had huge challenges every day, we all felt very good about getting to work with each other. This is Right Livelihood.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Indonesian Job - Please Stand By

I must apologize for my prolonged absence from these pages. When last we met, I was close to beginning the New York production of an Indonesian film.

In that time, we went from 12 days to 7 days to 6 days and then back to 7 days. Myself and my Fab Four - Production Supervisor, UPM/Location Manager and First AD - officially worked 10 days straight and more realistically more than a month. The project was put on hiatus for a week while we waited to see if they had their visas, and emails like the first one became a regular occurrence.

During the ensuing hiatus, we lost two iconic locations, Grand Central Station and Luna Park, and had to scramble to find other "iconic" locations four days before we began shooting; the type of locations that typically would not even talk to you if you do not book three weeks in advance.

We just wrapped one of the craziest shoots I have ever done, but, remarkably, especially because of the Fab Four above but also because everyone on the Indonesian and US crews were fun, good people, it was a shoot that was exhilarating, exciting, and in the end. came in on schedule and under budget.

It was also the first in the new production offices in Midtown Manhattan of my production services company, Fire Lotus Entertainment, LLC.

It will take a number of posts to catch you up on this one, but I look forward to sharing it with you all.

All you need to know is that my amazing PM organized a basketball game at Harlem's Rucker Park, which we discovered is very famous in Indonesia.

Below, pictures from the game, as well as Reza, their producer, decked out in a Knicks scarf that was part of a swag package that the NY Knicks were kind enough to send when I told them that he was a big fan.

The Mets caps were a present from me so my Indonesian creative team could show their support for this years' NL East (and hopefully World) Champions.

Lots more stories and picks to come. Right now, I'm way too tired to write anything more than this tease.

Monday, September 7, 2015

The Indonesian Job - The Line Producer's Nightmare

"Line! Line! Oh My God"
-George Spelvin desperately hopes someone will give him
his line.
-The Actor's Nightmare
Christopher Durang

In the introduction to his play The Actor's Nightmare, Christopher Durang explains:

"I assume that most people who are in theater ...have had these "actor's nightmares." - you dream you have to go onstage, but for whatever reason you've never attended rehearsal and you don't know a single line...I've learned that in psychological literature this dream is called "the good student's dream" and the prototype is the student, in life usually quite conscientious, who dreams that he has to take a test, but that he is totally unprepared.  He has forgotten to study, or he has lost his book, or he can't read the questions..."
The time leading up to opening the production office is spent not with textbooks or play scripts but with lists - miles and miles of lists.

List of positions to hire. List of forms to be created. Distribution list. File List. Cast List. Crew List. Vendor List.

Lists of lists that need to be created.

And the cruelest list of all - the to-do list.

The To-Do list grows with each passing day. Most line producers have benchmarks based on what week of prep you are in of things that should have been accomplished.

On bigger budget films, you get through all of these lists and all of these benchmarks by making sure the people who work with you are helping to clear them. On low budget films, you almost never can afford to give people enough prep time to aid you in the process early on, so you wind up trying to do them all yourself.

And failing.

This is usually solved by having everything ready for these folks once you do hire them, and also by shortening the lists to what is absolutely necessary. Prioritizing is such an essential part of production, where each day sees you knocking off a handful of things on the list as new things that you could not have anticipated get added.

It's a beast you never slay. You hope it just stops being hungry and goes away.

I open my office this coming week, and all of the factors above lead to the inevitable line producer's nightmare.

Some elements are always the same.

I am in my production office, and everyone else seems to know what needs to be done - except me. They are going about their business, and I have this awful feeling that there are things I need to be doing but I don't know what they are. I can't ask anyone directly, because if they know that I don't know, they will fear that I am not competent to lead the ship and that will affect them adversely.

Much like the George Spelvin* in Durang's play, I ask leading questions in the hope that it will come to me. Certainly, they have the answers, and if only I can extract those answers from these very confident and competent people, it will all click.

But, it never does.

There are always new twists. For one, the people in the office change. Sometimes they are folks from past shows, sometimes they are baristas or bartenders or doormen or deli guys I know.

This time, the production office was in a house. The house is familiar to me, though the waking me can't remember which house it is. It seems that prep has started without me, and things are all in hand. While this should reassure me, it doesn't. It only makes me more concerned that all these people are on point and I am, well, lost.

At one point in this dream, I walked to where I planned to put my office - to where I think it might have been on some previous production. It is near the front of the house, maybe even a garage that had been converted.

When I get there, it's stripped bare, with exposed wires and cement floors. It looks like there are renovations or construction going on. In any case, this cannot be my office.

No one leads me to my office or mentions it, so it must be here somewhere. I walk into some offices hoping that, just maybe, I am sharing my office and there will a desk there that is clearly mine.

There is not.

Now, I begin the search for the person who has been running things so far. In this dream, it is a fellow line producer who I may be fortunate enough to have as my production coordinator. I keep heading to her office. She will have the answers I need, and as we have worked well together in the past, and will be partners on this shoot, I will be able to confide in her and we will sort this all out.

One problem. Even though her office is in this one house, and everyone is talking about how she is waiting for me, I cannot find it. In fact, I pass some other offices for the second and third time without passing her office. That is impossible,  but it's true.

I think I was outside the house - maybe on a porch looking in a window - when I woke up.

My reaction was to bolt out of bed, sit at my desk, and check my lists. They were all there, and if they weren't any shorter, they also weren't any longer.

The opening of my office has been pushed back a few days because of visa issues, the Labor Day holiday and an attempt to start the clock - and the outflow of cash - a little later. That has only added to my sense of urgency to scream "Out!Out! Damn Lists!"**

N.B. After writing the above post a few days ago, I had a continuation of the dream. If the first one was noir angst, this one was more David Lynch.

While I was not in my office, I was no longer looking for it.

It seems we are ready to shoot in two days (the actual shoot is more than three weeks away). I am walking around checking on progress.

As one point, I talk to a person rigging lights. She is actually a hairdresser I know, but this does not seem to bother me.The person directing the lighting is a female monk from the monastery I attend. She seems quite confident and on top of what she is doing, despite the fact that in waking life her background is in pottery.

I get on an open elevator that takes a circuitous route to the next level and then seems to have mind of it's own as to where to stop.

Although the rigging seems to be taking place in a theater, when I go outside, it's outside that same house. It starts to rain. A woman walking toward me as she exits the garage gets into a crouch and does front flips to avoid puddles, seemingly in fast motion.

Part of the crew is idling (always a bit of my nightmare). I inform them that all special equipment orders must be in by tomorrow, and before they can protest, I tell them, yes, I am aware that we have not chosen, no less scouted and certainly not tech scouted the locations. I look in their eyes one-by-one to make sure they understand, even though it makes little sense to me. One of them, lying on the ground, looks up at me and nods. He is a key grip who I once fired and would never work with again.

There are two directors, neither being the actual Indonesian director who is working on this project. They are the two gentlemen who I work with in development, neither of whom has ever directed. When I talk to then, they have their backs to me, but not, seemingly, out of disrespect. It just seems the norm with them

I can't wait to see what dreams may come once we get closer to actually filming!

*George and Georgina Spelvin are traditional actor pseudonyms in theater, the way Alan Smithee is for theater and film directors.

**The lead character in Durang's play is pretty sure he is in a Shakespeare play, but he can't remember which one, and he keeps butchering famous Shakespeare lines. My apologies, Willie.

Friday, September 4, 2015

The Indonesian Job - The Inspirational Email

"Director: [in Japanese] Mr. Bob-san, you are relaxing in your study. On the table is a bottle of Suntory whiskey. Got it? Look slowly, with feeling, at the camera, and say it gently - say it as if you were speaking to an old friend. Just like Bogie in Casablanca, "Here's looking at you, kid" - Suntory time.
Translator: Umm. He want you to turn, looking at camera. OK?
Bob: That's all he said?"
     - Lost in Translation

When I was working on an odd film in Miami, I wrote a series of emails for a friend back home. That became my first blog.

I am now line producing the US portion of a film that was shot in Indonesia. Both sides are dealing with translation and visa issues.

In order to keep my key creative and production folks in the loop, I wrote an email that was both brutally honest but also meant to say that while it is not the way any of us want to do it, we can make it work. As a matter of fact, because these people are so talented, they are in an even better position to make it work.

Over the years, I find that rumor can be much worse than even the scariest truth. It is why I am trying to keep the people who need to know not only in the loop, but provided with all the facts. If any were to say they did not want to do this (which I do not expect), I would understand and respect their decision. Staying, they can do so with all of the facts in front of them.

I will try to do more real time posts like this as we move forward. As much of the information is proprietary, I have gone to using the same method of protecting information as when sensitive documents are released - but without the black marks. Readers of this blog well know that since the folks who work with me deserve their privacy, I rarely use real names unless it is to praise, so I have not here, though they all deserve praise.


Welcome to the world of international co-productions.

First, the great news. We are on with a slight adjustment. The office will open next Wednesday, September 9th, at [REDACTED}. Will give you all more specifics on that and schedule soon.

As you probably know, my company, [REDACTED}, will be the production services company for [REDACTED} which is the Indonesian company. That means all funds will be sent to my company, and all deal memos and payments will be through me. I have secured this, and a cash flow that has all funds secured weeks before production, so as to assure that I control getting you all paid and on time, and neither you nor I have to chase a company from overseas for payment. Pay will be as I usually do it - at the end of each week with no wait. All contracts will be independent contractor with you being responsible for your own taxes.

I will have deal memos available by next Wednesday, and will be bringing each of you in to sign them, either that day or the day after. You are all people who are important to me and to this project.

Because of the visa situation the dates have changed.

The new shoot dates are 

Day 1 - September 30
Day 2 - October 1
Day 3 - October 2
Day 4 - October 4
Day Off - October 5
Day 5- October 6
Day 6 - October 7
Day 7 - October 8
Day 8 - October 9
Day 9 - October 10
Day10 - October 11
Day Off - October 12
Day 11 - October 13
Day 12 - October 14

Needless to say, this means the schedule and strips will change. We need to take into consideration things like turnaround, when certain locations are available, etc. The shoot cannot go past October 14th because the star, Raisa, needs to leave the next day.

Again, because of the Visa situation, the key creatives (Director, DP, etc) may arrive AS LATE as September 27th.

That is not a typo.

I have explained to the US-based Indonesian producer as well as the producer and director in Jakarta what this means. 

It means that they will have to sign off on everything - from locations to wardrobe right down to props - by photo, skype, etc. We can't be scouting locations 2 days before a shoot (though we will do a tech scout and production meeting).

I will be meeting the US-based Indonesian producer in DC on Tuesday for a long meeting to discuss logistics. Jakarta is 11 hours ahead of us, and we will be doing a lot of Skype meetings at some odd hours. Some will be from production office, but, depending on the hour, will certainly be good with some including my keys from wherever they are (like the comfort of their home). Likewise, there will be meetings during our business hours that will be inconvenient for them.

This is clearly not the textbook way to do a movie, especially when you consider that beyond that the Indonesian producer speaks conversational English, the director enough to get by, and the others not much at all.

I assume none of you speaks Indonesian.

We will be scheduling skype meetings individually with your counterparts there; [REDACTED}, with the DP; [REDACTED}, with their AD [REDACTED} and the director [REDACTED}[REDACTED} and [REDACTED} with their production designer and costume designer, respectively, as well as their director. 

[REDACTED} will be part of all of those meetings. She is fluent in both language and has a production background in the US. She understands how we work, so she will not only be translating, but helping both sides with  understanding how the other works, as she has worked there as well.

Additionally, a recent negative exchange rate of their currency vs the US dollar has forced a cap on their budget, while their entire point in coming to NY was to show iconic (and, unintentionally, expensive) landmarks like Grand Central, an Amusement park (currently Luna Park), Times Sqaure, JFK, etc.

This means that budgets will be tight in all departments.

I have to do a new budget. It will force them to make hard choices, and likely cuts to things the director wants to do, some likely painful for them. Similarly, I have explained to them that while you are all wonderful, you are not magicians nor do you have the ability to turn water into wine or feed 5000 people (or extras, who are similar to people) with five loaves and two fish. Neither do I. 

On Wednesday, when we meet, I will have a set budget. With all of you, that will include flexibility with how many and what type of support crew you need and working out salaries for the people who are important to you.

The budget is similar to an Ultra Low[REDACTED}.

I will need your feedback in helping me convince them of what we can do and what we can't do, as well as creative solutions to problems.

The above email is as upfront as I can possibly be about the project. I truly believe we can make it work, and those of you who have seen the trailer know they can produce a professional product. The director has won awards in Indonesia, as have some of the actors. The director has done 15 movies, so he is not a novice, nor are the DP or design people. We have all been on directors' first features, so we can be thankful that we are working with people who understand the art and the craft.

I think together, we can help finish a film that we can all be proud of. I don't doubt we will have a few stories along the way.

IMPORTANT - In replying to this, PLEASE reply only to me. I don't want a long chain of woe. I will gladly address your concerns (and I can imagine some of them and await others).

I hope this addresses the big picture questions, and am available to answer your questions individually. You are my IMF . At the beginning of the old show, Phelps picked the people he most trusted. 

You all would get picked every time. And, remember, they ALWAYS got it done :)*

*However, the Secretary will disavow any knowledge of your action in the event.......

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Over The Hill Gang Rides Again

"There's nothing tragic about being 50. Not unless you're trying to be 25."
-Joe Gillis, Sunset Boulevard

I once played poker with a very well-known, A-list actor who had created iconic roles in iconic films, and won a an Oscar, a Tony, multiple Golden Globes and literally been nominated for dozens more. He was producing and starring in a very personal film, one he had wanted to do for a while, and reached out to a young actress who was "flavor of the day" to be his co-star. She had not returned his calls.

"Maybe she thinks I'm over the hill," he said. He was about fifty at the time.

His friends assured him that was ridiculous, that he had earned much more in the business than she had, and of course she would respect him. Eventually, she did do the film, but this actor's reaction that night was genuine concern for no longer being relevant, regardless of what he had accomplished.

Fear of aging is nothing new for actors, and especially actresses. All About Eve is a great film about an "aging" star, Margo Channing who is getting bumped aside for a young ingenue, Eve Harrington. Bette Davis, who played the "aging" Channing, was 42 at the time.

Just referencing the 1950 classic immediately says something about my age. Note that the movie came out seven years before I was born, but I have seen it many times, and had seen it on late night television and occasional revival houses, the same way I saw all the classic films from before I was born. There was no Netflix or home DVD or HBO or TCM to watch them on a regular basis. Yet, I, and people of my generation, watched these movies, knew these movies.

Sadly, I meet many young film people who spent years at film school and have never seen these movies. Frankly, I just don't get it.

But, as I am wont to do, I digress.

While natural for performers, the issue of remaining relevant affects production people as well, and often I am working for much younger directors and producers. Most of the time, this is great, as I try to constantly learn from them as much from them as they learn from mel. Digital post, and then filming, has made this an industry that is changing exponentially, just as all of the technology around us is changing at a pace never seen before. One has barely downloaded all their apps onto their new phone before it is obsolete, replaced by the next model.

The picture above is of the Over The Hill Gang, a fun and charming western about truly elder lawmen and gunmen hired to protect a town. As you can see, the actors are in their seventies and eighties, and a fine group of character actors they were.

Now, when movies are made of past-their-prime heros, they are younger. Bruce Willis was 54 when he filmed Red about forgotten CIA agents.

I remember being forty and being the First AD on Floating with Norman Reedus and Chad Lowe, who were playing high school students, and the girls they hung out with in their teens. My director was in his early 20s, with a maturity level about ten years younger. I felt pretty old then, the "Dad", and that was nineteen years ago.

All of this leads me to recently having the opportunity to work with people in my age group, and loving the fact that we are not yet extinct. I story produced a trailer for a docu-series about moving a new opera to New York, and did interviews with two veteran theater people: a Broadway and Off-Broadway producer whose father had written for the Dick Van Dyke Show, and the founder of the opera company that had taken seven years to first get the opera to the stage in Wales.

Then, I worked with an LA film producer and casting director who joked about how every movie needs "an old guy" He is about three years younger than me, and since I will be line producing the film in New York, I said this production had two old guys and we would have to share the title.

Then, there are the two guys who I am helping develop film and television projects with, one of whom was born the same year I was and one a few years younger. The directors of one of those project are my age, and one is older.

More, soon, on all of these projects.

All of this has caused me to reflect not on whether there is a place for those of us who are older, but what is our place.

What keeps coming to me is balance. We have obviously learned a lot in our time, much of it the only way anyone learns, which is the hard way by making mistakes. We certainly should help others avoid those mistakes.

However, we can't completely change the process, or try to make them us. I've recently met a few extremely talented young women who are excited about production, and have been taking some time to share how I prepare projects. I think they are going to be fantastic but the first thing I ask them is, "how do you do this now." I try to work with what they know and what makes them feel comfortable.

One of them loves to print things out more than I do. One starts wanting to see shot lists and storyboards and will help create them. I usually encourage directors to work with the DP on shot lists and I stay out of it until they are done, and as for story boards, well, I can't draw stick figures.

I also recently went to a birthday celebration for one of the real stars I was lucky to have worked with at the beginning of her career, and two others from that same short movie, Venice, are also masters at what they do. That group I sometimes refer to as my "kids" (much to their dismay, I might add, as they all now on this side of thirty). If I had kids, I would want it to be them, not only because they are incredibly bright and talented but because they are never satisfied and always trying to be better.

And there's the lesson. I hope to be learning about this business until they wheel me out one day. I remember how excited my mentor, Stan, was when I showed him Movie Magic budgeting. He had been doing breakdowns by handwriting them and created a cardboard stripboard and budgets with a calculator since the 1950s, but he could not embrace this quicker way to do things fast enough.

 Rather than being frustrated by the changes, I embrace them, while still bringing the experience of things that still continue to work. I do show folks I mentor how I do it and how it was done before, so they can take what works and discard it when need be.

That's the "old guy" I want to be.

With "the kids"

Friday, July 17, 2015

This Post is Dedicated to Nancy

"Perhaps, therefore, ideal stage managers need not only be calm and meticulous professionals who know their craft, but masochists who feel pride in rising above impossible odds."
- Peter Hall, Director of National Theater, England

Before I worked in film, I worked in theater, and my first real experience was as a minor actor in an ensemble play about Michael Servitas and the Protestant Reformation. It was a very long play. One reviewer said he felt like he had sat through the Protestant Reformation. It was done at a hot theater in summer and we wore heavy clothing, but it was there that I discovered the joys of stage managing through meeting Nancy Juliber.

I've told the entire story before, so I will spare long-time readers a complete recount. Suffice to say that Nancy took me on as an ASM on her next play, and I went on to stage manage probably close to a hundred small, Off-Broadway and so-far-off-Broadway-you-couldn't-find-them-with-a-map plays. Some were done with some of the best "downtown" companies and actors and directors.

Every play asked for a bio. As stage manager, you realize that nobody but your family cares about your bio. I always kept it brief. Sometimes it would be just one line - the line that would end all my bios in theater as stage manager and later as director and even the few times I got back to the stage as an actor.

This play is dedicated to Nancy.

I must admit that part of this was my own sense of humor. I loved the fact that if anyone bothered to read my bio, they might wonder who Nancy was. A lost love? The sister I lost as a child? My high school English teacher who inspired me to a life in the theater? At least, I hoped they wondered. More likely, they never gave it a thought.

However, in part, it was a sincere tribute. Nancy taught me how to stage manage, and later got me my first film production office job as assistant office production coordinator on a feature and showed me how to do that. I have talked lots about mentors, but no one contributed more to the direction of my career toward the production side more than Nancy. Indeed, stage managing prepared me for film production in many ways, from understanding how to protect and care for actors, how to make directors feel that subtle suggestions were, in fact, their ideas, and how to remain calm in the middle of storms. All of these skills helped me as First AD and, later, line producer and producer.

I got to thinking of this the other night when I went to see an old friend in a play at Soho Rep in Manhattan in the Anne Washburn play 10 Out of 12. 

The title refers to the number of hours Actors' Equity allows their members to work in a twelve hour period. The entire play is a tech rehearsal of a play we never see. It covers what Jesse Green of Vulture accurately calls "the only part of theatrical life almost everybody hates: the intense, soul-crushing boredom of tech rehearsal."Audience members are given headsets and can hear backstage chatter,  including the lighting and sound designers making adjustments and the stage crew reporting on how things are going.

And, of course,  the stage manager. Although the actress playing the stage manager is seen only briefly, she is, in many ways, the center of the show. The play is, intentionally or not, an homage to stage managers. If there is any doubt, check out the playwright's interview with three stage managers at the end of this post. 

Theater is not simpler or easier than film in many ways, but it is different. Watching this play, and laughing along at every inside joke, I was transported back to a time I remember now with fondness and love.

My first love, and I miss it. Like most first loves, the memory of it is likely way more satisfying than reality,  the bad days and the disappointments conveniently forgotten. 

The show is hilarious, and Gibson Frazier (the actor Upstage Left in period costume), who was writer, lead and producer on the film I am most proud of, brings the same incredible skill set I remember. He also gets to deliver a line that reflects not only the immediate crisis (a difficult actor making tech even more difficult) but, on a larger scale, maybe the absurdity of creating art at all:

“It’s too hard. It’s too complex. It’s too much of a task. It’s going to always lack. There will always be a kind of failure. We have to find a beauty in that.”

The characterizations were very much spot on, with just the right touch of existentialism and dramatic license. I also especially loved the director, played by the always wonderful Bruce McKenzie ( featured at the front of the stage above). Directors are often portrayed as fierce dictators. This director is much more what I remember, a benevolent despot who, in the end, is being blown around by the forces around him just as much as anyone else.

World-weary cynic that he is, he asks:

“With the playwright gone, where’s that little nimbus of panic and criticism right over by my right shoulder? How am I to know that I’m getting everything very subtly wrong?”

That reminds me of my stage directing days.

I would dedicate this post to him. Or to Gibson.

Except it's dedicated to Nancy.

Monday, June 29, 2015

When It's Not About the Money - Part 2 - For The Love of the Game

[T]he job of mass entertainment is to cajole, seduce and flatter consumers to let them know that what they thought was right is right, and that their tastes and their immediate gratification are of the utmost concern of the purveyor. The job of the artist, on the other hand, is to say, wait a second, to the contrary, everything that we have thought is wrong. Let's reexamine it.
-David Mamet in a Salon Interview

There is a common truth about the producer in theater and in film. They are salesmen. They are salesmen that sell art, but they are still salesmen.*

Mamet knows art, and he knows salesmen. He writes great characters who are obsessed with money, and in interview after interview, he distances artists from salesmen and talks disparagingly about producers and the film and theater business and how it's all about the money.

His film producer in State and Main, Marty Rossen (played by the wonderful David Paymer) is a petty little man who cajoles when he can, and threatens when that doesn't work. Or as his producer says in Speed the Plow

"Life in the movie business is like a new love affair; it's full of surprises and you're constantly getting fucked."

The Coen Brothers give us Jack Lipnick in Barton Fink, who alternately woos the titled writer when he thinks that will work, but offers him this when it doesn't:

"I run this dump and I don't know the technical mumbo-jumbo. Why do I run it? Because I got horse-sense, Goddammit. Showmanship!"
And that may be what separates producers in film and theater from other salesmen. Deep down, they are showmen.

The Producer's Max Bialystock uges his new partner, "When you got it, flaunt it!"

But he knows there is no art without commerce.

"Don't forget the check-y," Max tells one of his elderly suitors. "Can't make plays without the check-y."

For some of us, it makes us feel cheap. I have never been good about having my hand out for the check, which is why, in Part 1, I talked about how I never liked that part of producing. This, even though I often describe being a line producer as being a glorified accountant. I'm okay with counting and watching the money, but not collecting it.

Someone has to do it.

The previous post - When It's Not About the Money - was going to be a one-off. However, as often happens after I publish, I woke the next morning to the realization that there was an entire side to the story I had not told. It was not a part of that article, so I didn't edit it. It was a follow-up.

What I have seen in my new-found position of working with people who are good at raising money is that there is a side of the salesman many don't see, and that's the love of the product.

In the past few weeks I have seen producers as salesmen at work, and what I walked away with was how seamlessly they blended art and commerce.

Doug is a theater producer, and if you looked up a theatrical producer in a dictionary, his picture would be there (maybe without the big cigar).

When I first met him for coffee in a hotel bar, he immediately broke into his spiel about his current musical, complete with flyers and cards and props from the show that he carried in his bag, a bag that was seemingly as bottomless as a magician's hat and had whatever it needed.

Then, he played his favorite song from his the new musical he is raising money for on his phone for us. A few seconds in, his face lit up, and it lit up for real. The snake-charmer charmed by his own tune.

When he talks about his current comedy - a hilarious piece he was kind enough to take some of us to - he beams. "I've seen it a number of times now," he says. "A day in the theater never fails to cheer me up."  He offers a satisfied sigh, and you know he truly loves it.

When I sat with Marc, the director and producer for a film we may be able to help get funded, he, too, had all the marketing and social media angles covered, as well as potential tie-ins to his very clever movie about the lottery. Once he talked about the scenes from the script, though, he lit up. He could see the scenes right before him, and that was not about box office or grosses, but seeing a dream come to life.

My producer friend Trevite says of herself, "I'm a closer." She is good at making deals and not shy about making sure investors deposit the checks. While she says she doesn't like being on set (she has the LP and PM and AD for that) the truth is that she has a hand in every side of the creative process, and not afraid to get her hands dirty to make things get done. I got to see the rough cut of her latest feature, and it looks great - not great for the small budget they had - but great like I would have enjoyed it if I had paid $15 in a theater for it.

Maybe that's the difference between producers in theater and film and other salesmen. The dream came before the money, and the dream was not about money but the work. "Whereas money is a means to an end for the filmmaker, to the corporate mind money is the end," says Robert Redford.

This is what separates them from the Willy Lomans, whose boss tells him, "The only thing you got in this world is what you can sell."

A few years ago, I was line producer on a true art film, so much so that I can't give you a simple description of the movie. The screenplay was based on an existential novela and was, if possible, even less commercial than the book. The producer and I had lots of issues with how each of us work, but I never stopped admiring her for raising over $600K for a film I could not describe by a first-time feature filmmaker.

That is certainly talent.

Sometimes I wonder if those of us in the arts embrace the fact that "artist" is the word that most comes to people's minds after the word "struggling" is not just a way of us justifying our lack of financial acumen. The work should be the badge of honor, not the poverty.

Later this week, I will learn if my marriage of these two worlds lands a script and two filmmaker friends that I very much admire their funding. If so, we will be shooting in the Fall. That will make it all worth it.


Many people know one of my favorite "poor artist" speeches is by Bill Murray in "Tootsie." Here is a little bit of it.

*As with the term "actor," I use it for both genders.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

When It's Not About the Money....

"When they say it's not about the money, it's about the money."
H.L. Mencken
Recently, I watched what may be the worst film I have ever seen. Ever. And I've seen some very bad movies, some of which, I'm afraid to say, were films where I was on the production side.

Characters didn't talk to each other, and they certainly didn't listen. Every scene involved one character sharing a heart-rending story from their past for a few minutes, followed by the other character doing the same. Might have made for a good monologue class, except the writing was predictable at best, and unbelievable at worst.

For years, I have said that the reason I was a line producer and not a producer is that I hated raising money. When people ask "why," I, like the people in the movie, share a story. Unlike the movie, I'll keep the monologue short - for once.

This goes back to my years as close friend of Eran, the director of The Rook*. He commissioned me to co-write an erotic romance story, and I did. It was the type of story that was inspired by Red Shoe Diaries, in fact, we were hoping to attach Joan Severance in the lead. There's little else to say about the story other than Eran and I probably made it much more complicated and multi-layered than it needed to be, as was our wont.

We started with a budget of under $1M. After months of trying to raise the funds, we thought we had hit pay-dirt with a production company of an old friend of mine. There was just one catch. First, we had to make sure they made money. Then, we needed to attach better talent to attract their investors. Then, the investors wanted more for themselves. More months and many budget revisions later, we were at $3M.

All of that work was worth it, we thought, when a company agreed to put up the money. On a Friday, they asked for our bank routing information, the deal was signed, and our bank confirmed that they had, indeed, authorized a transfer. It would take the weekend to go through, but should post the next business day, Monday.

Eran and I did what any normal, struggling artists (a bit of an oxymoron, that - normal struggling artist) would do - we celebrated. In fact, we celebrated pretty hard and spent a good deal of money celebrating. What did it matter? We were in the money!

You can see where this is going.

On Monday morning, no money had been transferred. Over the weekend, the Korean markets had crashed, and the entire deal was contingent on Korean money and pre-sales.

We were devastated. We asked the production company if there was anything we could do? They told us that the money folks said they would have done it for less, but that there was no way at $3M. Why they asked, was the budget so high anyway?

This experience soured me on the art of raising money for film, much as chasing "angels" and grants had in theater. I pretty much walked away from that world.

Until now.

In my new job, I am working with two guys who have connections in the finance world and experience putting deals together. Furthermore, they enjoy it. It's a good combination, as I look after the production side and need to do only minimal glad-handing.

The two worlds met recently when I showed them a script I had budgeted for the past three years. Both the script and the budget had gone through many revision,  but we were now at $1M. Both the guys loved the script, and also loved the directors and writer of the script, two other guys who have become like old friends to me.

I'll share more about the script at the appropriate time, but we brought the package to a finance contact of my partners, and they like it enough to have set up a meeting.

We aren't there yet, but if all goes as we hope, it will mean that I will have helped two old pros who I truly like very much bring their script to the screen.

I won't say it's not about the money - we know what that means - but this would give me some special satisfaction. To see my new partners and two old friends all benefit from a script that is screaming to get done would make me very happy.

At least on this one, it's also about more than just the money.

*For those newer to the blog, there was a long series on The Rook that probably could be a book by itself. My experiences there shaped much of my line producing later, and, especially for those who enjoy the production lessons (or the stranger, funnier war stories, it's one of the best series you can follow. Check it out if you have not done so.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

The Absence of Chaos

"Chaos was the order of nature; Order was the dream of man."
Henry Adams, The Education of Henry Adams

Be careful not only of what you wish for, but what you dream for.

For some time now, I have felt dissatisfaction with the nature of the indie film business in general, and the production side - especially line producing - specifically. It seemed like an insane way to go through life, and has made more than one good man or woman at least a little bit insane.

With budgets rushing to the bottom, the process has become endlessly trying to stuff 10 pounds of - well, stuff - into a 5 pound bag. After my last feature last summer, where we completed the project on-time and on-budget in 12 days and under $100K, but at the cost of my emotional well-being, I started looking at other work.

Let's be serious. I've been a freelance production person in film, and before that theater, and before that radio and the music business, my whole life. Yes, there were brief periods of "real jobs" such as being Director of Operations at a political research firm, and my time at Gun for Hire, but for the most part, it has been a life of making impossible dreams come true, bringing the imagined to reality and getting various creatives to work together with always a little less money than was really needed.

In other words, a life of herding cats.

It gets to a point where it becomes part of your nature, and you expect it. Well, at 57, I decided that it was time to make other things a priority and started looking for work where I could apply my administrative skills in a creative environment.

The problem was, theater and film are the only creative environments I truly know in and out. A few interviews for non-industry jobs scared me straight. I was never going to fit into that world; not even the tangential worlds of things such as event planning. I have no experience in the creative worlds of graphics or art direction.

This is where I was when I answered an ad for a production manager full-time at a media company. It looked like a glorified office manager job, but I was willing to talk.

I met with two guys, John and James, from Liverpool and Ireland, respectively. They were my age, and we talked about a show with a classic rocker cooking and sharing stories, and a few other shows they were developing. They had some false starts getting these projects going, but a lot of smarts, desire and serious contacts in the business world, finance world, and international broadcasting.

They were low-keyed and open in the interview, and I really felt a connection to them. The similarity in age had something to do with it - more on that in a subsequent post - but more than that, they seemed to really be enjoying their lives, and intended to continue doing so.

Hadn't someone told them how hard this world is? Hadn't someone mentioned there were more times that things didn't get done than did? Hadn't someone told them that even when you did succeed, it was at the cost of your sense of joy?

Evidently, not.

I see this often in younger people new to the game, which is why I think it's always important to mix youth and optimism with age and, if not pessimism, too heavy a dose of realism.

I wanted to say "yes" right away, even though the money up front was not very good. They were funding everything out of their pocket, out of other successful ventures. I made it clear that developing these projects could take some time and more money, and that I was intent on doing it right. They were game, and willing to bet the money they had made in other fields.

I asked for two days, and then went on to meet with a guy who had some commercials coming up, and then hoped to do some branding work for non-profits I believed in. The former was tempting from a financial standpoint; the latter from a sense of reward and doing something important.

By contrast with John and James, this guy was hyper as they come. Again, talented and experienced, but a guy who fed on adrenaline. I was ready to go with John and James anyway, and about an hour after I said "yes" to the guys, he called and said the sponsor for the commercial wanted someone they had worked with before on-board as PM.

So it was that I began working on the projects, and John and James immediately made me feel at home as a creative equal. They weren't afraid to speak up when they disagreed or just wanted something another way, but that is part of the process, but it was working. The job combines what I know and what I love, and the title now is "Producer/Production Supervisor."

I now found myself going into an office every day, with the prospect of doing that indefinitely, the same office. That office was in Midtown Manhattan, and I hate the rush hour crowds of people trudging to and from jobs they hate. Together with the fact I'm an awful sleeper and accustomed to getting up early from years of dawn shoots, I tend to get to work at 7AM or so. I love the peace and quiet of the building in general, and my office specifically, at that time. I can hear myself think.  The guys are very reasonable, and never expected me to put in massive hours.

I was working a normal day, one that often was half of what I knew on set. There was no one screaming, no impossible hurdles thrown in front of me. There was no angst or search for blame. As a matter of fact, they love to do meetings at the Irish pub next door, which I have dubbed "Conference Room B."

It isn't for the drinks, though there are often a few of those. They like meeting people in a more informal atmosphere to put them at ease, and it works with many of the people in the industry they know.

For once, I was home at a normal time, having relaxing meetings where we moved forward without a lot of grief.

I was talking with one of my teachers one day, and was surprised at what I told her. I missed the chaos.

How could I miss the chaos? Who misses chaos? It seemed, I did.

A lover of quantum physics, it does not surprise me. The history of the universe, as the quote above suggests, is creation coming from chaos. Artists from all fields, from the fine arts to music to dance to theater to film, will talk about the chaos. The lives of so many writers are filled with chaos.

The brilliant author Ray Bradbury described that part so well:

"Every morning I jump out of bed and step on a land mine. The land mine is me. After the explosion, I spend the rest of the day putting the pieces together."

As I searched for images for chaos, all of them had one thing in common. They looked like something being created.

I came across a quote which I saw attributed to different people in different forms, but it is the essence that stuck with me.

"Peace is not the absence of chaos."

What follows varies in the different quotes, and it is used by various people to make different points.

For me, what it reminded me was that, while the chaos is necessary for creation, we need to remember to love the creation - which we need to make work -  and not the chaos. We may need the chaos to get the creation started, but creation needs us to make something of it and find our peace in the middle of it to make it work.

Before I start too much down a shiny New Age-y path of joy and light and good coming from everything, life, and creating, is a messy business. I have found myself more than a few times in the past weeks frustrated with the process, or the guys, or myself, and that will continue.

I do need the occasional jolt, so I was really happy a few weeks back when one of the bright, young producers I know offered me the chance to AD a one-day commercial on a weekend, with the holiday the day before for prep. All the production juices flowed, and with a great crew. Yes, part of the day was me complaining about the focus - or lack thereof - of my director. As I do most days when I AD, I spent the entire day, right up until the Abby, as if we were not going to make it.

It was a bit exhausting - and I loved every friggin' second of it.

As I move forward, I will try to keep that touch of chaos in my life. It won't be hard. We're trying to get funding for a feature I believe in, and while I would hire a line producer, I know I will fret making the day and find myself pacing on set.

Be the chaos. Own the chaos. Even enjoy the chaos a little bit. It's okay.

Just make sure you get around to picking up the pieces.

NB - Adjusting to the new work schedule, as well as still taking some budgeting jobs and a busier social life - talented friends having their movies screened, for example - have made me a bad blogger. It's been too many weeks since I've posted.

Worry not. I've slapped my own wrist, to spare you the trouble. This time has not been barren, and getting this post out of the way will help me shape and give birth to the orphan posts that have been sitting in drafts while I figured out how to share this new experience.

I suspect the next few will come quickly.

For those trying to follow what happened on The Girl in the Holograph  - patience. I will get back to it, and a lot of things that came after it. I just need to sort out the present while it's still fresh before I go back to the past.