Monday, January 31, 2011

Producing Theater

I'm sick today. So sick that I'm thinking about the process of producing theater. I'm not so sick as to do it myself, but I'm sick enough to think about it. Stomach virus or food poisoning. Considering the bug that's been going around I suspect stomach virus.

Watch me segue into the next part:

Say you and a few friends come to New York. You want to build a theater company but you don't have very much money.

Firstwise, try to get some people together who get along. People who respect one another's talents. People who have positive attitude, who actually want to see their theater get done and not people who just talk a game but really don't want to do anything and who secretly get jealous of you when you get something done.

Next you need to figure out your "mission". Let me take a moment out here to ask you not to do something. Remember that idea you had for "The Cherry Orchard" back in college? Or that other play you read and always wanted to play the lead in? Or any other play that's already been done? Don't do them. Please. They've already been done. And, quite frankly, they've been done better. Over the last several hundred years some bozo has thought they could do that play better than someone else. And one of those bozos did. The other bozos? Not so much. Guess which category you're in? Heck, no, go ahead and produce another 12th Night. No really. I'm kidding. Don't.

So what is your mission? It's to develop new works. Go ahead, say it with me: "Our mission is to develop new works."

Now as far as actually producing new works, here's where producing at Theatresource pays off for you. As a producer you need to get a show up on its feet in front of an audience. You just have to. You can't tell how a show is working 'till it's up and running. You can start with a reading, but eventually you have to have actors in costumes and maybe some light and sound cues to actually see the dang show. And the biggest expense in doing that is renting a theater. You can get Theatresource for free if you're able to sell 30 $18 tickets.

So make a year-long plan where you produce between 1 and 3 works. Workshop the show using Theatresource's "development series" so that you're not renting and instead you're working on the stage of whatever other show is there. Your total budget can be as low as a few hundred dollars and you get to see a show on its feet so that you can make needed changes and develop it.

In a year you're going to have your show in good shape.

You're not going to make money hand over fist in theater. The only people who can do that are a half-dozen Broadway shows. But you can be a theatrical producer without spending thousands of dollars.

In the meantime, Pedialite tastes terrible.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

News from the Mouse

Still collecting images of jackets, because after all my band needs their own jackets. This is from the TV show "The Cape".

Lily and Greg of the City Samanas stopped by last week. It was a fascinating experience because Lily was interested in hearing new bass amps. At first I was thinking "well I don't have a bass amp" but then I realized that of course my Celtic Amps Edana is a Marshall JTM-45 clone. And the JTM-45 is basically the same circuit as the '59 Fender Bassman.

So I do have a bass amp.

And man, did it sound nice. Yeah, bass through what is traditionally a guitar amp. Now it was certainly true that the bass sounded much better in the "normal" channel than through the "high treble" channel. But boy it sounded nice.

Problem was, Greg's guitar also sounds awesome through the Edana. We're wondering if maybe they just got one amp and shared it...

I find it educational to hear other people play through my rig. My Lil' Dawg Mutt has an awesome compressed sound and breaks up early. Early but it a very nice way. And combining the sound of both amps just creates this huge organic and "three dimensional" sound which can't be beat.

I'm still cleaning up vocal tracks. Sometimes just fixing one or two notes makes an entire phrase sound much better. With the cleaned up notes the whole performance seems like it was intentional. Which (ha!) is about as good as we're going to get.

We forgot a couple keyboard lines last time Arie was here. We're going to fix that. I may be done with guitar parts. We just need to figure how we're going to mix this record. I've been pre-mixing it a lot and I'm getting better at mixing the band, but I just know if we go to Trax East the mix will be vastly better than anything I can do here at my studio and with Eric mixing everything will instantly sit right.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Legend of Bellware

My sister, searching out the few Bellwares of the world, stumbled upon the blog The Legend of Bellware, written by a young lady in Venezuela.
Her name is Isabella, and she adopted the nickname of "Bellware" in what I presume is an English-sounding name to her.

The irony is that "Bellware" doesn't mean anything in any language. If it were really an English name it would mean something like "the products made from bells" which doesn't really make any sense.

The Italians tend to want to spell it "Bellaware". Or at least in the part of the country I come from people want to make it rhyme with "Delaware".

The French (and there are some French Canadians with the name) want to spell it "Belleware".

The strange thing is that Bellware comes from "Belouin", which is in turn a corruption of "Blouin"*. I have no idea why, but when my great-grandfather joined the Union Army in the American Civil War at the age of 14 he adopted the name "Bellware" (as in, no kidding, "Francis Napoleon Bellware) and seemingly never looked back.

So we think The Legend of Bellware is simply awesome. It's like having relatives in Venezuela!

*Further research has revealed this to be technically incorrect. "Bellware" comes from "Blouin". "Belouin" also comes from "Blouin".


Can it be? That a motion picture uses... how can I put this delicately?... Marketing to sell itself?

Could they be lying that this movie, Silent House, was shot in one take?

Would the producers of a film stoop so low as to distort the facts surrounding the actual methods used to make the movie? In order to incite people to watch that self-same film?

How can it be? Heavens? I think I'm experiencing the vapors. This scandal is too much for me to take.

Next you'll be telling me that it didn't really sell for three million dollars.

Note, this is based on a true story.

Questioning Islam

So I've been trying to get a question about the practice of Islam by using the Internet. The Internet has been very irritable with me about answering the question.

Actually, I had two questions. What I wanted to know was:
  1. Which direction does one pray in?
  2. Do practicing Muslims who are traveling carry compasses?

Now the first question is a tad more complicated than most non-Muslims might think. We tend to say "Muslims pray toward Mecca". Er, technically that's not entirely accurate. The idea is to pray toward the Qibla which is in Mecca. Luckily there is the handy QiblaLocator online which points you to the right direction.

But here comes the very counter-intuitive part. If you live in North America and wanted to go the shortest way to Mecca/Qibla you want to go northeast. Which seems at first to be absurd. Mecca is clearly south of North America. But for the same reason that an airplane trip from Chicago to Singapore doesn't take you over the Pacific Ocean (you go over the North Pole and down Asia), the actual direction from practically anywhere in North America to Mecca is northeast.

Now we are talking religion here, so of course there are Muslims who insist the "right" direction to pray in is southeast. And I'm sure there are arguments on Muslim message boards up the wazoo on the subject. Shockingly, even in English I haven't managed to avoid them.

For the second question, regarding traveling with compasses, as far as I can tell the answer is "yes". Many Muslims carry compasses.

The third, unasked question, is "Which way do you pray if you're in space?" I believe the answer is "toward earth."

Friday, January 28, 2011

Ha! Of Course

So the QC check on Day 2 was, essentially, a nightmare.
After Dark Horrorfest 4

Pro Tip: movies about post-apocalyptic cities should not have white delivery vans in the background driving through shots.

Also, we had some weird audio issues which... which I'm afraid are actually in the mix I did. They all seem to happen at about the same place in the second reel. So I'm going to fix that.

Actually, the only things which popped up on our QC were two shots that had trucks driving through (one of which I'd already fixed but apparently forgot to put in the timeline) and a half-dozen places in the second reel where the background cuts in and out (where I bet that pre-rendering the room tone will be the fix), as well as the ADR on this one damn scene which I simply cannot get to sync. The weird thing about that particular scene is that the non ADR audio doesn't seem to sync in that scene. I blame a sync curse.

So now we're aiming at a Monday delivery to the lab. Sheesh.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Thoughts for today

So the After Dark folks have all but abandoned buying outside movies. Instead they're producing 8 pictures a year. And they're releasing them theatrically (starting tomorrow, Friday the 28th).
What I find interesting about that is that the Asylum used to buy outside producers' pictures too, and then basically gave up on it because it was easier for them to make their own.
What I find heartening about After Dark is that they've found it desirable to make their own zombie picture, Re-Kill.
And the 8 pictures/year notion echoes the same plan that the Asylum has had for a while as well as even Corman back in the day.


Oh, and we've finished Day 2. Unless something horrible shows up in the last QC, it's going out to the lab baby. 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Did You Miss InGenius?

Well lucky you can see InGenius Again from February 17-20th at 8pm with a matinee at 3pm on the 20th.

See! Annalisa Loeffler desperately try to marry off her daughters while keeping a chin up after having left Moscow.
Experience! James Edward Becton doing situps, sexxy sexxxy situps.
Thrill! Michael Selkirk does dastardly things to the innocent Greg Oliver Bodine.

And more... so much more!

A Kitten and a Bunny

CNN's article on the least evil banks.
My brother David wins the Facebook comment of the day: in a discussion with my Canadian cousin about the workings of their health-care system:
Your health care is just like ours, then: if you can explain it, then you're not sick enough to use it.
And lastly...

Hmm... that's all I got!


Tana Sartinoranont sent us this sci-fi short to look at. There's an evil robot in it. As it turns out, we need an evil robot in our next movie. So for inspiration:

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

I Listen and Obey

Apparently I just read whatever books John Scalzi tells me to.

New Movies

So out of the blue, Nat Cassidy and David Ian Lee hand me a brilliant script. The Queen of Mars summed it up this way "It's definitely a Pandora Machine movie." (Hmm... I guess that could be taken two ways...)
It's written to be shot in my dad's warehouse and offices on weekends. There's a groovy little ensemble cast who get picked off one at a time by an evil robot. Big guns. Lesbian androids. Gratuitous lighting.
They even wrote a part for a "General Bellware" who is the world's most domineering jerk who calls the shots from behind the scenes. I have no idea why they would name such a character "General Bellware". Nor do I understand that final scene where he's stripped naked and beaten with rubber hoses by "Net Cissily" and "Daniel Even Knee". But I guess I'll figure that out when we get to the stage.
We are delivering Day 2 to the lab tomorrow because our rep tells us we have a south Asian buyer ready to go. I have to make a PAL master and an HD master. I'm only going to deliver four audio tracks even though I have a total of 16. Even so, we'll have to foist those upon a North American buyer.
We're a tad worried because FCP has been rendering weirdly. This is a new issue with version 7. My office-mate Blair said "What, were they bought out by Adobe or Avid and then they released 7 to screw it up?" In any case, we have to be very careful with new renders that we don't have any parts of the movie which are just black...

In Memoriam of the Drum Fill

 One thing I've always complained about is the over-playing of drum fills. Those "machine gun" fills of 32nd notes going down the racks of toms just... well they just practically never work. You'll notice that your "heavier" drummers practically never do them. John Bonham is very specific about every note in his fills.
That being said, what the heck has happened to drum fills? Did the advent of drum machines simply make them seem unnecessary, even in power trios?

You'd think that Civil Twilight's Letters from the Sky would be a perfect opportunity for what Ethan calls "In the Air Tonight" - style drum fills. Instead we get a quarter-note of a bit of snare and a tom before the band kicks in the first time and nothing the second time the band kicks in.
Maybe I just have spectacularly bad taste. Maybe this is why I'm not a rock star. But don't you just want to hear a giant drum fill bringing the band back in in this song?

This Conversation Actually Happened

We: Hey you know a funny thing about this book City & the City by China Mieville? They have "Reading Group Questions and Topics for Discussion" at the end of it.
All books have that now.
Well, not the books you read.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Early Hours Toward Betterment

I've been on an exploratory venture to make my vocals better.

I wish I could sing like Johnny Cash. If I could sing like him, all my problems would be at an end.

But I can't. So I've been trying to tidy up the vocals in, say, Ice Maiden, by singing earlier in the morning so that if I maybe hit a low note it'll be loud enough that once we tune it up it'll sound right. Or not. My big problem is in my lower range. Maybe I should have sorted all that out before recording the songs, sure. But we didn't.

So here we are.

This picture is from the Internet. Do you remember practicing this damn thing? I sure do.
I know that artists are all about saying that their latest project is their best and favorite, but this Tyrannosaurus Mouse album really is my favorite album. Everything from all my earlier albums is learned, and stuff I've never done before is executed. This is my first album using no click-track too. I'm so glad to have Lou and Ethan onboard -- they're such a fantastic rhythm section. The record breathes nicely. The band sounds positively unhinged -- but in a good way.

What I would like to do is to mult down all the guitar tracks to a stereo pair, mult down all the bass tracks to a mono track, and maybe even mult the kick and stare tracks so that there's only one of each rather than two of each (inner and outer kick, top and bottom snare) as there is now.

The reason I want to do this is that when I eventually have some money to mix this album I want as few tracks as possible to make mixing easier. The trick is that if I screw up the mults and premixes in my little studio I'll end up making more work for the mix at the end. So it's sort of half of one and six dozen of the other. Or something.

Mon Oeuvre

The one part of the script I'm not so sure about is the android lesbian three-way you have in there.
But we wrote the android lesbian ménage à trois just for you!
Yeah, I know, everyone thinks that's what I want, but it's not necessarily.
How could that be? Aren't all your movies about lesbian alien androids?
Well, yes, that's frequently true but certainly not exclusively.
It seems to be a theme in your work. I thought you'd want more androids in kinky love affairs.
No, no, it's too close to real life for me.
Oh I see, you want fiction then.
Yes, although my films are personal, I don't make documentaries.

Josh James on the 'Zon

Author, playwright, father, man-about-town, Josh James has a book of plays for the Kindle up on the Amazons. Buy it today.
Ooh look, the slightest of research on my part shows us two books of plays. "The The Plays" and "Spooge". Once upon a time at least one of these was produced at Theatresource. Uh. I'm too old and I don't remember. I vaguely recall dinosaurs roaming the earth. I need some hot chocolate. Maybe a sweater with patches on the elbows.

How To Direct

Via the Queen of Mars on a post-mortem of InGenius:
Adjust your directing style to the people you have in front of you.
Be organized. Use the time effectively.

Via Mitchell:
RC helicopter equipped with 640x480 video camera. The trick is that it's only SD video, HD would be nicer. But the kit is only $80.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The New Beat Sheet Calculator

The old beat sheet calculator is gone. But there's a new Blake Snyder Beat Sheet Calculator.
At a 4:1 ratio we seem to like Zombie Hunter better than Zombie Killer. I like Zombie Hunter better too. We better have some good zombie hunting in the movie then.
The trick is that we have to make that catalyst and the break into two work. Then it's all fun and games. Ahem.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

My Entire Claim to Cool

Interplanetary has very sexy space helmets, Dave.
Is that our movie Millennium Crisis has a trailer on the Interplanetary DVD.


Pushkin -- I would call him "Mr. Fun". Stories include: him drunk dialing my dad's ex-girlfriends (yeah, I'm not going to blog about that one, you'll just have to ask me sometime), the way his tail would be up in a question-mark and then flip over to be a question-mark in Spanish, and how he would patrol the whole house in a fun lurky cat-stalky way.
He was so so soft. Really luxuriantly soft.

Floaty duck-cat with cat toy. He looks like a bad composite here, doesn't he?
These pictures were taken by my sister at the end of 2001.

Using you to discover the betterment.

As I am laying waste to David Ian Lee's brilliant screenplay I need to know what's better. Do you like "Zombie Hunter" or "Zombie Killer"?
This is project number 1005. David is going to hit the ceiling when he sees what I'm doing to his script. I had an inspiration of how to get through the first 10 pages.
In the meantime, please vote vote vote like a baby stoat.

Pushkin Stories

My favorite Pushkin story is the way he met my dad. My dad was adamantly opposed to "having animals in the house." To him, having a pet is such a great responsibility because he was brought up on a farm, and on the farm the animals come first.
And furthermore, cows and chickens are major pains in the ass.
He never realized that cats are vastly easier. You don't have to milk them every day. They're relatively clean. You don't need to "walk" them.
In any case, friends of mine had a spare cat. It was a cat who originally belonged to their neighbor, who had gotten a pit bull which effectively chased the cat of of its own house. So the cat was living with Kevin and Andrea but they already had a couple cats and those cats weren't getting along with the new cat.
So I took the cat on the condition that I'd bring him back if my dad really had such a big conniption that I really couldn't keep him.
The first night, I kept the little fellow in my room. Then I moved him down to what was then my office -- the back porch of the house. I could put his litter box there and keep him closed off from the rest of the house. That wasn't such a bad deal for the cat as the back porch is bigger than most New York apartments. In any case, I had him there for about a week. He hid in the cupboards for about a day. He didn't come out until I was talking on the telephone. Then he immediately jumped on my lap. That's when I learned that he absolutely had no fear of people and loved to hear them talk.
So one day about a week later I'm out at work and my dad, not realizing I'm not there, stops in to check on me in my office and he opens the door to look in.
Sitting on my chair is this cat.
I so wish I had a picture of my dad, standing there slack-jawed at the cat, and the cat looking back at him.

But rather than be scared of the very angry man, the cat jumps down off the chair and trots over to the door where my father is just seething. The cat rubs himself on my dad's shins (as cats are sometimes wont to do.) He's being all purr-y and affectionate when my dad had been very clear that he wouldn't accept any animals in the house.

My dad, for whatever reason, decides that my sister is somehow primarily to blame for the illegal importation of this cat into his home. Which worked out well for me. It did not work for the logical disconnect -- my sister lives hundreds of miles away. And furthermore, the fact was that my stepmom (who hadn't moved in yet at that point) was thrilled that we had a cat.

So my dad talked to me about it and I promised that the cat would only stay on the back porch and my dad wouldn't have to worry about him. We hadn't named him. Some things like "Howard" were suggested. I think Kevin and Andrea were calling him "Ivy" as in "IV" (although I don't remember if that was because they felt he had a greenish look to him or because he was the fourth cat, or because of his markings.) In any case, a couple weeks later I find out that when I was going out to the theater at night my dad was secretly letting the cat out into the rest of the house.


A couple weeks after that my father agreed that the cat could stay downstairs. No animals allowed upstairs (this was actually the rule many years earlier when we had a dog.) But the cat wasn't restricted to the back porch at all, he just isn't allowed upstairs. So what did the cat do just as soon as we let him out of the back porch? He makes a bee-line, up the stairs, for my dad's bedroom, and jumps up on my dad's side of the bed, where he curls up and goes to sleep.

Yes, he was actually as silky soft as he looks. 
A year or so later after my stepmom had moved in my dad was complaining about how the cat was sleeping on his side of the bed. Finally my dad said he managed to solve the situation by getting Pushkin off his side of the bed -- by turning the electric blanket on the other side of the bed. My dad said "I got Pushkin off my side of the bed so now he sleeps on his side of the bed."
Wait. His side of the bed? My stepmom was not amused but it cracked me and my sister up.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Your Three Things from the Pandora Machine

The blog of the visual effects designer for Moon.

OK, so this image is a fake. Still, it's cool.

So everyone's been all a-Twitter, as it were, about the background rendering plugin for After Effects. I don't think my shop would use it, but it's great that people are making plugins for AE.

Remember that bit a while back about the "standard" of producers paying for the deliverable tapes? Ha! This guy thinks that's standard. I dunno, every single licence agreement I'll looked at has been totally different from any others. Or wait. Did I already link to that? I have no idea.
Today I am fighting with computers to try to make screener DVD's. Our 8-core Mac makes like it's making a DVD up 'till the last minute. And then it spits out the unburned DVD like a used piece of gum and just freezes. Last night even the trusty old Mac Mini froze up. I can't get the PC's to burn at all. Let me tell you, this is the most exciting part of the movie-making process.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Rest, Pushkin

199? - 2011

Pushkin died today at the age of about 13 or 14. He had liver failure and had stopped eating, his health having declined rapidly over the last week. 
He was always such a nice cat who loved people and responded to the emotions of humans. He is missed.

Monday, January 17, 2011


We have a branding problem at Theatresource. Back in the day Fiona came up with the best name for a women's festival: Estrogenius. OK, that's pretty funny and it's catchy.
Soon we had Homogenius, Juniorgenius, InGenius, EthnoGenius, and now TestoGenius.

Now, I love a lot of the guys doing the TestoGenius festival but I have to say the name? Ugh. And why?

OK, so I'm going to start from a position which goes against the current orthodoxy about women in theater. The first year we produced Estro, Theatresource really needed to produce Estro. But that's not because of the lack of female playwrights on Broadway. We have nothing to do with the Broadway system. Exactly one of our shows in 10 years went to Broadway (and then only for a couple months). We are not a feeder institution to Broadway or even Off-Broadway.

We needed Estro to bring more women into Theatresource becuase otherwise there were a LOT of straight white guys running the place (yes yes, you -- snickering in the back -- we needed a women's festival to bring in more hot chicks for those straight, single men. Are we done? OK, now pay attention.) Leading into that first Estro we had relatively few female playwrights and directors working at Theatresource. After that first Estro (when I counted at one point) we were rolling about 50/50 at Theatresource -- about half the shows were written/directed by women.

So the important part of these festivals was to bring in a group we didn't have at Theatresource before. I think that's why "Homogenius" failed -- it's not like gays are underrepresented in theater. Plenty o'gays, everywhere. We're fine.

JuniorGenius? Brilliant. Keep up the good work. Bring youngins into a professional environment. They love it. Their parents will buy lots of tickets. It looks good on our CV.

You know who's not a part of our community in proportion to their proportions out there in New York? African Americans, Asians, and Latinos. And for years there's been talk of AfroGenius or EthnoGenius or something like that although it never got off the ground.

But TestoGenius? Why don't we make it just part of InGenius? Or call it "Uncle Vinnie's Whiskey Hour". I mean, who wouldn't come to that?

Sorry guys, I just can't even say the words "TestoGenius" without feeling a bit sick to my tum. I feel like we all need those rubber things that hang down from a truck's trailer hitch...

More about Theatre

OK, this is what I think.

Theatresource should set up three different producing entities -- each responsible for 3 or 4 weeks of theater per year. Let's call these the "A", "B", and "C" companies. One could be the Writer's Forum in its present form, one could be a producer who wants to lead their theater company, the third could be a collective. Heck, they could all be collectives or all be run by individual "Artistic Directors". There are many different ways to organize the three companies (and naturally they'd work with one another). And they'd probably change every year.

The companies are given budgets of zero dollars. Maybe we'll spring for subway fare for actors. Maybe you can use the rehearsal room at Theatresource as long as you use it during the day and you keep the stomping and shouting to a minimum.

  • Theatresource at the Director level doesn't care what plays you're putting on. We just want the money you bring in.
  • Theatresource at the Director level cares deeply what plays you're putting on. Other funding and grants are dependent on how well your theater serves various communities.

Your biggest imperative as a producer is to sell tickets. You must be selling tickets. You have to sell tickets. Selling tickets? Why that's your job. Sell tickets.

(And that being said there are advantages to well-reviewed plays, plays which serve a variety of underserved communities, that sort of thing. But that's for another blog post.)

I think that each production company (whether that company is a person, a collective, or a pre-existing development and production company) would likely do something like two weeks of a full-length show, one week of short plays, and fill in the dark nights with a half-dozen works in progress. And you might split up your weeks so that you have a couple months in-between each production. Or you might gang them all together. Everyone has lots of options.

The trick is that the producing company has freedom to do whatever they want to do (as long as it doesn't cost money). We have a LOT of lights. We have a LOT of set pieces. We have a shocking number of costume pieces. Everyone is willing to work for free. Theatresource pays the insurance. As a producer you have to make sure the show actually happens without too much crying.
And you must sell tickets. Sell 300 tickets a week between your 5 mainstage shows and your two flopnights each week. That brings the theater in $6300 (50 seats at $18 for 7 total performances.) I've had a drink but I think my math works out.

That's enough to cover our nut and even get postcards made.

The job is to sell tickets. The art will come along on its own.

Second Commentary

Today was Mimosa day in the Pandora Machine. We recorded a second commentary track with the Queen of Mars, Tom Rowen, Danielle Quisenberry, and Henry Maduka Steady.
The Mimosas were delicious.
Now we have to make the screener DVD's. This, as it turns out, is one of the most difficult tasks we have before us. As it turns out only the oldest computer we have in the studio will make DVD's -- the pre-Intel Mac Mini. And this morning it wouldn't even accept a DVD 'till I used compressed air and blew into it through the disc drive. Good times.

I've gone and applied to a film festival. I have no illusions we might get in, because we won't. But the festival is an IMDB qualifying festival so we can get our IMDB listing with it.

Here's the information I'll need tomorrow as I'm sending in the screener DVD:

SCI-FI-LONDON: The London International Festival of Science Fiction and Fantastic Film
145 - 157 St John Street
London UK EC1V 4PY
United Kingdom
Tracking Number: SFL10-0219


So Arie came in and layed down some keyboard overdubs and we started listening to One Last Drink and we decided we liked it so we totally forgot to put the Hammond solo down. Eerf! ;-)

I stuck a temporary keyboard solo in there in order to demonstrate where the solo goes for when Arie comes back. You'll note that my sad, slow, and sloppy, guitar-solo playing is evident in my keyboard-solo playing.


You know, I've noticed that lawyers tend to use a double-space after a period. I mean, my dad still uses a double-space but that's just because he learned to type some sixty years ago and only had a computer for the last ten. Slate has a hysterical article about two spaces being wrong. And I don't know about the lawyer thing -- do they reinforce the double-space after a period in lawyer school? Or maybe it has nothing to do with lawyers and it's just a coincidence.


Our own wonderful Clare Stevenson is in the short film "Extropy".

Extropy from Jonathan Sanden on Vimeo.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Theater, the Source

Theatresource is back!

Well, almost. Last night at the after-party for InGenius you could certainly be forgiven for thinking that the place which has "produced some of the finest plays and playwrights of the past decade" (according to, see below) is back to doing just that. The excitement, the talent, the urge to do good work and to help others do good work was all there.

But then again today, Sunday (today), the place was closed altogether. Nobody (except me) doing anything there.

The Writer's Forum (the producer of the InGenius show) did a great job of producing. And by "great job of producing" I don't mean making sure the plays are written and directed well with good actors because although they did do those things, those things don't matter. I mean "getting butts in seats." Because that's the number one (and oft-neglected) job of the producers.

The fact of the matter is we have a branding problem. The "Writer's Forum" is really the writing board of Theatresource. The "InGenius Festival" is really the in-house production company of Theatresource. But politics being what they are, all of these things get different names.

In any case, there's been a sincere effort to get the Writer's Forum back up and running. And it's been recognized that the Writer's Forum is the "heart" of Theatresource. Of course, getting a group to workshop and produce short plays even once a year takes tremendous effort. But it's not only best for Theatresource to be able to produce its own original works for artistic reasons, but for financial reasons as well.

After all, we're dark a lot these days. And being dark costs us money because our daily "nut" is about the same whether we're dark or have a show.

There are two things we can do in order to make sure the space is booked every day:

  • Get outside producers to pay to put their show(s) up in our space.
  • Produce our own shows. 

The advantage of outside producers coming in is that we don't have to do that much work and we get cash coming in without us taking a risk on whether the show sells well or not. The advantage of producing our own work is that the potential upside of the ticket sales approaches our secret actual "nut" which includes all kinds of exciting debts that the 501c3 company owes to (say) the State.

I would suggest that Theatresource make itself responsible for producing three or four times a year for three weeks at a stretch. We could produce a couple full-lengths out of that. Making a commitment to produce that much work (from 9 to 12 weeks) is a lot of work. But if the producers focus on getting tickets sold, it would also be remunerative for the theater. We'd have fewer dark nights and fewer nights which would have to be filled by outside (rent-paying) producers.

The trick is that it's a lot of work. Maybe Theatresource needs a "Production Committee" which has the mandate and the authority to produce up to (say) 12 weeks a year. It's absurd to have to go to the Board of Directors to get permission every time the Writer's Forum wants to produce. The Production Committee has to have fiduciary responsibility to make sure their revenue is greater than their expenses. Other than that, they need a mandate to produce (and yes, there is a Production Committee of the Writer's Forum, I would suggest they be given such a mandate.)
There's a great review of the InGenius show up at

Saturday, January 15, 2011

I Wish My Tower of Horses Weren't So Blue

Arie came in and laid down a whole bunch of keyboard parts. Here is version 2.04 of Ice Maiden (you can't see the gadget for playback in an RSS reader.)
The new Hammond organs are a "fluty" thing in the verses and a more growly thing in the choruses.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Ides of March

Are, as it turns out, an AWESOME thing. The most brilliant indy science fiction film of the decade (and it is indeed a "film") is being released.
Like American Astronaut meets Moon on the USS Valley Forge. But you know, with an Alien influence.
I can't say enough about how great this movie is. Directed by Chance Shirley. Buy one. Heck, buy two because you'll wear the first one out.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Moe Prager

So I've been reading more of the Moe Prager series of books by Reed Farrel Coleman. I met Reed at a wedding, but I'd never read any of his books.
I'm reading The James Deans now. And it's just another terrifically well - written book. The idea in the books, about a Jewish private investigator, is just brilliant. The relationship Moe has with his brother, with his Catholic wife, with people from Brooklyn, is all about things like the relationship of Jewishness to American-ness and intellectuals and the working - class and... well it's about so much stuff it's impossible to write a short essay about it. But the important thing is that it's all in the form of brilliantly hard-boiled detective fiction. But you know, Jewish hard-boiled detective fiction.
Now with all that said the following might seem maudlin but it's not. The stories don't hit you over the head with their themes. I thought this was awesome. The book is written in the first person and at one point the protagonist is given a Star of David and a .25 automatic by a Holocaust survivor (right? I know).

"I couldn't help touching the star. It had been so long since I'd worn one that it felt odd against my chest, even a little uncomfortable. A little discomfort was a good thing, I thought. It made you pay attention. On the other hand I had almost forgotten about the pistol tucked in my jacket pocket. Strange, the things you get used to."

I don't know who his editor is, or if he does that work himself, but Coleman is a helluva writer.

20% Off!

Click on that link over to the right. I think T-shirts count as underwear, don't they? 
Anyway, now click on the Spreadshirt link and buy some Tyrannosaurus Mouse T-shirts.


Now I got that whole Boost Mobile thing straightened out. I quit my iPhone.
Not only is the Boost "pay as you go" plan vastly cheaper for me than AT&T, it also works in my apartment. As in I could send and receive phone calls from my apartment. And although I have a telephone in my apartment, sometimes being able to text is good.
In any case, I'm sure Verizon works great everywhere. I just don't feel like spending $1200 a year on Verizon. I'm thinking I might be paying somewhere $200 for a whole year (including the Sanyo semi-smart-phone) with Boost.
And that's just how things are.

"Someone deflated your tennis racquet." and "That's worth one 'Jabberwocky'" both amused me to no end today.

Talkin' to the Man from Galilee

As we get toward the very end of deliverables on Day 2 we run into all kinds of computer issues (as is typical). For whatever reason various plugins in Final Cut Pro decide not to render... sometimes. We get "out of memory" messages as the computer just stops rendering.
We can't render the whole movie. We can, however, pre-render small pieces at a time. If you select a whole sequence and go to pre-render it, you'll get a "bla blah bla plugin failed to render" or an "out of memory" error. But if you select, say, a few minutes of a sequence and go to pre-render that? Oh sure, we can render that for you.

I've QC'ed all the M&E's for stray English dialog. I was supposed to fix a line that a zombie says but I can't even remotely find the file out of the thousand files we recorded so it looks like that's not going to happen.

And actually getting actors together for a second coming commentary is nigh on impossible so we may just go with the one we've got.

Yeah. Johnny Cash can actually do anything he wants. I mean, even if he is dead. And has help from a couple Swiss guys.

Seat girls - RJ41 Productions from RJ41 on Vimeo.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


My zodiac sign may have changed! Oh noes! I might be a Capricorn now.
What I really want to be is a Ophiuchus, just because how cool would that be?*
I plugged my info in at the free chart from Alabe. I think I was born at 8:14pm but I could just be making that up. I asked my dad.

Next: I'm taking up alchemy!
*"Ophuchicus, or the snake holder, was ejected from the charts when the Zodiac was codified at the 12 we know of today, to align it more accurately with the calendar. And Libra didn't come into things until Julius Caesar's time."

DM&E on Rye

Every filmmaker I know (who has had at least one movie get distribution) has had to turn into a sound mixer at some point because they've had to deal with splitting out DM&E's or "Dialog, Music, and Effects" tracks.
Creating DM&E's is fantastically annoying and difficult. The trick is that you have to deliver music and effects tracks which sound just like the full mix but without dialog. You'd think "Well then I just put dialog on the first four tracks in my digital audio editing program and then I run off a copy with those tracks muted and that'll create my M&E's."
You can think that, but you'll end up being surprised at just how many extraneous sounds are on those original dialog tracks. Sounds you can hear in the full English mix.
So you have to do a lot of: foley, creating new hard effects to mix on top of the sounds already there, and/or creating identical sounds and putting them on a track on your audio editing/mixing program which is muted during the roll off of the English mix and unmuted when you roll off the "M&E".
But the worst worst worst mistake you could make is to accidentally leave a piece of dialog in the M&E tracks. Because although a distributor in a non-English speaking company might forgive that the M&E tracks are missing the sound of a scrape of a shoe or a crumple of paper under the English mix, they will not be able to deal with the wrong language suddenly showing up in their dubbed version of the movie.
So today I'll be listening to the DM&E's of all of Day 2. Lucky me!

Speaking of Day 2, here's a longer trailer for a picture which is similar (The Battle of Los Angeles -- I posted a previous trailer earlier). The movie looks great. I think our picture has a better idea though, but of course I'm prejudiced.

Do You Have Your Tickets?

To the Theatresource production of InGenious? There's a lot of great stuff, including our own James Becton and Greg Oliver Bodine wearing sexxxxy flip-flops. The beautiful and glamorous Robin Kurtz plays in a play writ by the Queen of Mars. Alaina Hammond (Earthkiller) is a writer, so is Vincent Marano (Clonehunter). Michael Bordwell (Earthkiller) is a director
Why must needs to get your tickets early? Because there are (give or take) about a thousand members of the cast and their friends and family will be coming and the show only runs for 9 performances!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

No, I WON'T Be Singing This Better

So I'm all like "collaboration and blah blah blah" but then when I actually go to sing the songs I'm like "forget it, this is as good as I'm going to do."
Ethan suggested that I support better -- especially on lower notes. As it turns out, I can't do that. As in can't do that. So I didn't. In fact, I did the opposite -- I dropped support on the lower notes. Because at least that sounded like something, not just "Oh, Drew's running out of breath."
So yeah, "collaboration" means "do the inverse thing". Meh.
Look. I tried. But this... this is what we've got in the way of a singer.
I mean, does it make any difference? At least our drummer is good.
Here is "Mercury" by Tyrannosaurus Mouse. Other ridiculous trivia about this song? It was "written" because I was trying to distract Ethan from playing "Another Wasted Afternoon" at a rehearsal and then I thought we should record it. The band had exactly zero idea which way the song should go when we played it the one time through (when we recorded it in, er, one take). So you can hear me shouting things as we go from section to section in the beginning. But you can always hear me shouting things in the background, it's the cattle we bring with us.
So yeah, the arrangement was actually improvised by the band. The stop? Totally made up on the fly. The come back in? Also, totally on-the-fly. The arrangement of the song was created mostly by us looking at one another and hoping that everyone else was going to do the same thing.
I added the guitar leads and the vocals in my studio. And that's what we've got.
If you want something different in the vocals please tell me. If you want it better, though, I have some bad news for you...


You Will Enjoy It

Jury Fraud Schemes are just another reason to never pick up the telephone.
I can't get Boost Mobile to get back to me when I submit via their special submission form. I suspect I have no way of not paying for the phone every day.
UPDATE: they did get back to me, but by talking to my voicemail. Which for most people represents more personal service (I just inherently hate the telephone, so I prefer email). In any case, indeed, the phone costs $2 every day whether I use it or not. Poopity. So that was a hundred-dollar mistake (the cost of the telephone). That actually makes the phone as expensive as AT&T. Plus, of course, I spent a hundred bucks on the phone. I think this means I'll be moving over to Virgin Mobile's $25/month plan.
Oh wait, no, unless I go with their "pay as you go" plan. The rates on it are... weird. And complicated. We'll see how that works. The lady on the phone should have told me about that.
This is an image from something called the Internet. There are many cute animals (and naked people) on this "Internet". For that reason alone you will enjoy it.

Millennium Information

I'm surprised that people actually read this blog. But Fred Greene did and he answered the question about whether After Dark still releases theatrically. And the answer is "yes".
Sometimes I like to post this, the Japanese version of Millennium Crisis,
because it's so awesome.
To which we say "You go!" Rah rah rah!*
‘Robot dinosaurs from the future battle the Marine Corps on Mars!’
Actually, that sounds like a great idea for a picture. I'm going to get right on that.
So we're getting this error message when trying to render in Final Cut Pro. Apparently it's an issue unique to working in ProRes 422 but I'm not sure:

"The effect 'Looks' failed to render. Your hardware cannot render at the requested size and depth."

The answer, here, is to disconnect the second monitor and re-boot the computer. That worked for me at least. But it is somewhat irritating.

*Seriously. Anybody able to make money in distribution? I'm their biggest cheerleader.

Monday, January 10, 2011


Amalgamated Bank, America's Labor Bank, still has free checking. That makes it different from a bunch of other banks. Amalgamated has free checking for both business and personal accounts.


Zambri is playing at Brooklyn's The Rock Shop on Saturday the 8th. Oops. That was two days ago.

As it turns out:

"The different Scandinavian "languages" are more similar to one another than the different Chinese "dialects" are."


So I bought a Boost mobile phone with their $2/day plan and I don't know if they don't charge me $2 for any day I don't make any incoming or outgoing calls or texts or anything. And I just discovered that I don't know this late last night.
Which surprises me, because I would have thought I'd have caught that.
And it means that I may have just blown a hundred bucks on buying the Sanyo phone from them if I end up having to go over to Virgin's $25/month service anyway.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Distributing the Machine

So, maybe we've been very lucky, or maybe we've been unlucky. I can't really tell. But we've never had a foreign sales agent (which means someone who sells to non-North American markets) take out expenses from any sales we've made. Contractually there have never been "recoup-erable" expenses in any of our agreements.

Now, we pay a rate that is much higher than rates you usually hear of. Think twice as high. But our rep's only expense that he charges against us is the cost of making the actual DigiBeta deliverable tape for the customer (and yes, that cost comes directly out of our money from the distributor).

An oldie but a goodie.
Distro411 is a new blog about, well, distribution. Again, their experience doesn't reflect our own experience with overseas sales. We have, for instance, always had approval power over any deals the sales rep signs for us. Considering that a tape costs about $250, any deal over about a thousand dollars is a net positive gain. Not that we want to be signing any thousand-dollar deals, I'm just sayin' that we would actually see positive cash from such a deal.
Joe Bob Briggs is looking for screenplays. If he's seriously considering making features budgeted at anything close to $100K a piece then we still win the "smallest micro-studio in New York City" award.

I brushed my teeth this morning

Both to make more friends and to give me something to talk about today.

I Don't Understand

Why The Electric Heartbreaker isn't the biggest pop duo in the world. Turbo Dancing is the future of the Birmingham scene:

Apparently all the coolest stuff ever is in some way related directly to Chance Shirley.

Toward African American Film

There's an article in the Times today about a plan to:

...put black-theme movies in commercial theaters, initially from the independent film program recently begun by the AMC theater chain, for a two-week run supported by social networks, mailing lists and other buzz-building services at the disposal of allied ethnic film festivals.

Hmm... seems like we've heard this kind of distribution scheme before. It would be awesome if it worked. But I'm afeared it just won't.

I do think a mistake is being made in assuming that "black-theme" movies are a genre. There was a market a while back for movies aimed at an African American audience. What was that, about 10 years ago? You could actually make a little bit of money in direct-to-DVD pictures in all sorts of genres (rom-coms, thrillers, action pictures) with "black-themes" (and yes, I'm refusing to not put that in quotes) back in the good old days.

But gay-themed pictures as well as black-themed pictures (there, no quotes) have fallen by the wayside. And I suspect that even if they've only fallen proportionally about as far as everything else has in this business, it's pretty danged far.

Heck, the horror genre, which has the most dedicated fans, has taken a mighty tumble.

So I don't know if very many pictures specifically marketed toward African Americans will do well anymore. You're taking a gamble that members of a particular ethnic group feel so starved to see their own ethnic group represented in whatever sort of story you want to tell that enough of them will pay to see your picture. It seems to me that the heyday for "black-themed" movies came and went*.

The films will not be part of normal festival programs, but will screen in all cities simultaneously with promotional backing from the festival organizations, which will share in revenue.
Hmm... so the distributor is taking an cut and the film festivals are taking a cut? That so doesn't sound to me like the producer gets to take a cut at all. This model of distribution has been tried both with horror pictures (are the "8 Films to Die For" even in theaters anymore or do they just do straight to DVD now?) and art-house films (the entire IFC model, which makes some money for IFC but I ain't heard of a success which paid for the cost of making the picture out of proceeds from IFC distribution.)

And it seems to me that a separate "African American" cinema might also be having a problem with its audience. Yes, the Tyler Perry pictures do well. But the wall between "white-themed" cinema and "black-themed" cinema is not as high as it was in the 1950's (say), and in some ways arguably the barrier effectively doesn't exist (for black male actors at least, if not directors and writers). But more than that it may be that there is enough cinema to satisfy an audience which wants "black-themed" pictures (after all, there's almost a hundred years of black-themed pictures to watch.) This seems to have happened to everyone else (gay film, Latino film, etc.) so I wouldn't be surprised to find that there is a degree of saturation which has occurred with black-themed films.

Because after all, saturation even (finally) happened to horror films.

Billy Dee Williams was originally screen tested for the role of Han Solo. 
Still, I sure hope that "Blackdance" is phenomenally successful. But hope and faith are two different things.

*Actually, that day came way back when movies were first invented and that day stayed right up through the early 2000's. There has almost always been a "black film industry" in America which produced pictures by and for African Americans. What I'm suggesting here is that the economics of the entire industry affect "black-themed" pictures as well as what we might call "white-themed" pictures.

Saturday, January 08, 2011


A picture of us recording the commentary track.
So today we did the commentary track. We had David Ian Lee, David Frey, the Queen of Mars, and Nat Cassidy on hand to talk about the movie. Although we were expecting her, Danielle Quisenberry didn't come, so the commentary track ended up being rather boy-heavy. Maduka was away shooting something else.
I don't actually remember doing the commentary track that much. We had spiced rum and mango juice, and David Lee brought Bourbon and vermouth for Manhattans. So right now I'm surprised to be sitting in front of a computer. Actually, I'm surprised to be coherent enough to write at all.
Here's a new rule I learned. If you don't show up to the commentary track we will talk smack about you. And that goes for you too, Mr. Steven Spielberg.
I used the Chance Shirley commentary recording methodology. That is using the same recorder we use on set -- a Sound Devices 702 in this case -- to record the commentary (which is then edited into Final Cut Pro). We divided ourselves into a gang of three (David and David and the QOM), and a gang of two (Nat and me). The 3-gang got an Oktava (which is the same mic we use on set) on a table stand while Nat and I shared a large-diaphragm Rode. At a fundamental level you might not care about that, but I care deeply because it was a good-sounding way to record the commentary which we'll have to use again.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Mix Master Drew Blaster

Leda mixes her swan in 6.0
I have a couple questions. Like, why do I even bother doing surround mixes? Nobody, and I mean nobody cares. By and large distributors don't want them because it makes DVD authoring harder. Plus, c'mon, what are you really putting in those rear channel speakers?
I'd argue that the potentially highest-end environment any movie could ever play will be in someone's high-end home theater. There are a few people out there who actually watch movies in tuned rooms with THX certified sound systems. The key word here is "few".
Everyone else, even those who have surround systems, likely have their sound system unoptimised at best, or live in a nightmare world of complete out-of-calibration sound where they have their subwoofer hooked up to the center channel and the right and left reversed with the surrounds and a fish tank over the amplifier.
And because all surround systems will decode stereo 2.0 audio streams, why do I bother actually mixing to 5.1?
I have no idea.
If it were up to me I'd mix the whole darn thing in mono. That way the sound effects will sit better with the dialog anyway.
I'm continuing to do the QC check on Day 2. As the movie goes on I have fewer and fewer notes. That's good. Did I just get better as I was mixing later in the movie, or does the movie just pick up after the first couple reels?
We'll find out tomorrow when we do the commentary track (v1.0). We'll be missing a few people like Maduka and Tina and Tom, so we may have to do two versions of the commentary...
David Ian Lee better bring a lot of top-shelf Bourbon, that's all I can say.

The Hipsters are Winning

Actually, I'd give you a link here to the BMI page of the news article which reports that vinyl sales are rising. But I can't because they don't offer a permalink option and the "share" button is spectacularly frustrating to get to actually work. So yay for my performance rights organization making things harder for me!
I've been wondering lately how long it takes to warm up.
But that's not what's important right now. I got some great notes back from Ethan on the vocal performance in Ice Maiden and I was able to step back and really listen to the song to hear what he's talking about. But I spent all morning trying to make the vocal in the verses stronger and... well it's just not going to happen*. I'm not strong enough a singer to fix it. But hey, at least I know what I'm supposed to do!

*That's not quite true, I was able to clean up the most egregious of the lines.

Thursday, January 06, 2011


So we're scheduling a big gang commentary track for Day 2 this coming weekend. And I figure that somebody should actually watch the movie the whole way through before we do that. Right?
For me this is one of the most excruciating tasks while making a movie because every little mistake or error looks like a huge painful stab-me-in-the-eyes apallment. It's really hard for me to watch. (To which you can say: "Hard for you to watch?! How about us?!!" Ha!)
And of course I see mistakes like traffic in the background and other things which shouldn't exist in a post-apocalyptic world. There are a couple color-correction issues (especially in exposure where the close shots are stopped down a bit because the lens was wide open for the wide shots, if you know what I mean then you know what I mean.)
So far I have 6 out-and-out mistakes in Act 1. The exposure could be adjusted for dozens of shots, I don't know if/when we'll get to that. Only one of those big blatant errors is a picture mistake. The rest are all audio.
Oh, and if you're looking at my notes: "E.D." stands for "Extraneous Dialog." No. Really.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

How I Intend To Trick My Band

You know, when we started Tyrannosaurus Mouse, I said "We have to figure out what we'll wear." People who aren't musicians said "Shouldn't you be more concerned about the music first?"
I told them "No."

And, of course, I was right. The music would come. The real trick is what we look like.
Tricking the Mouse
Now it's probably true of most bands that the members feel a bit foolish putting on costumes just to play some rock 'n roll. But the cold hard truth of the matter is that the band simply must look like "something" on stage, in videos, or in the picture on the album cover. Which is why, of course, I went to so much trouble getting a psychedelic band jacket.

My second task is to get the other guys to wear stuff which is cool and makes sense aesthetically in the Tyrannosaurus Mouse world. We actually have a fair range of styles we can wear to achieve my vision. There's Hussars jackets, or heck -- anything from the 15th through the 19th Centuries, and whatever variations in-between.

I think I can convince the drummer to go with a subdued steampunk look. A nice shirt (he'd look great with ruffles in the front, but I don't know if I can go that far) and a nice 19th-Century vest. Something like a bar owner might wear in the Old West. Best would be a pocket watch, of course. He's easy to dress because he looks good and even though his natural garb tends to be more casual he'll look so fantastic he'll just have to acquiesce.

The bass player has been talking a game about him wearing a cape, but I have a feeling he may bail out on that idea. Luckily for me I know his wife likes him in rock-star clothing (and he does look good in anything sexygroovyjangly). And he'll do whatever his wife says. So all I need to do is talk to her. I think a cape and a tophat would be perfect on him. Plus I'm totally envious of his ability to grow a mustache.

I don't know how I'm going to get the keyboard player in a fez and smoking jacket. I'm still working on that.

You'd think that the band would make all kinds of noises about what they're willing to wear. But they'll all just talk among themselves about "Is Drew serious about having naked girls dance for Tyrannosaurus Mouse?" Note that the answer to that question is "yes."