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We’ve been selected for the ninth annual Chicago Comedy Film Festival 2019 and we’re screening on Friday night, April 5th. I’ll be flying in from New York for it so come see the film and say hi! You can get tickets here: https://www.chicagocomedyfilmfestival.com/ and for more information about the film go to https://www.funnyyouneverknew.com/
As we are coming toward the end of easily the most challenging project in my career I thought it was fitting to include some behind the scenes photos from our last day of shooting on "Funny You Never Knew" with Kevin Pollak and Fred Willard in Los Angeles. The cinematographer pictured below is the talented and lovely Nancy Schreiber, A.S.C and the location was the home of Emmy-award winning comedy writer Jerry Belson (Dick Van Dyke Show, Tracy Ullman Show) who is sadly no longer with us.
We have some remaining bits of the licensing process to complete after which we will, at last, be able to go into the final sound mix and picture grade. Will keep you posted...
Currently In Post-Production: I'm making a feature documentary entitled "Funny You Never Knew" about the re-discovery of three amazing comedians from the 1950's, Imogene Coca, George Gobel and Martha Raye as experienced through two contemporary comedians, Fred Willard and Kevin Pollak. Interviews include Lily Tomlin, Bob Newhart, George Schlatter, Norman Lear, Carl Reiner, Tom Smothers, Jack Carter, Carol Channing, Alan Young, Hal Kanter, and Rose Marie.
The project is the brainchild of Karl Tiedemann, the film's Executive Producer, who used to write for David Letterman, Robert Klein, Disney etc. and is a respected expert on America's early years of comedy.
If you have a favorite story, clip or episode from any one of the three I'd love to hear it. Drop me a line or leave a comment below. Thanks!
I was interviewed live - at 4am in the morning NY time no less - on Newstalk ZB's Sunday show "Real Life" this month. It's an iconic radio station in New Zealand that I grew up listening to thanks to my Dad always having it on in the car! It also played an interesting role in my life when I survived the massive earthquake in Cairo back in the early 90's and ended up doing a "live to the nation" interview with the great Leighton Smith, as you'll hear me talk about in the interview. When the producer initially contacted me about being on the "Real Life" program, he told me that it has been "the top rating show for its time slot nationwide for the last six years" and having been a part of it now I can see why. The host of the show, John Cowan, is a great guy, very funny and creates a relaxed atmosphere for the interview. They also had me provide them with a list of five of my favorite songs that have some personal meaning to me. During the hour long interview they would come out of each ad break with one of these songs and discuss them and it was great, somewhat analogous to the way that certain smells can take you back to a time and place.
Some of the songs include "My Lung" from the amazing Jo Mango, "Paris Nights/New York Mornings" by Corinne Bailey Rae and "Rocketlove" by Houseparty (a band I was a founding member of back in the day and this was our first single.) I had also chosen my brother Deryck's band "Semi Lemon Kola" and their single "Before Heaven" but sadly it was the only one they didn't play. Sorry Deej! Love that song tho. For those of you who have never heard it, out of share loyalty and love for the song, click here to play it! (I've been listening to it as I write this post!)
The interview turned into a bit of a "This is your Life" program so for any of you curious about my past lives sit yourself down with a nice glass of wine, (chilled Sauvignon Blanc from the Marlborough region in NZ would be best) put your feet up, relax and press play!
The images above were from a celebrity shoot I did earlier this year as a part of Bloomingdale's October Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It was the second time I'd used the Canon 5D MKII and the results were excellent. It wouldn't be my first camera of choice tho, in general at least, and would rely largely on what I was shooting. The audio problems are solvable with a decent sound guy and I don't mind syncing things up in post like the old days but I do find shooting on a compressed format (H.264) annoying when it comes to grading the image in post. The color information is just not there and you feel like you are dealing with some 8bit image. When I first started using the camera I was transcoding it, as one must, to an editable format like prores422 but have since started using the prores422 (HQ) setting to ensure I take as much color information into the grade. There's no doubt that you'll pay for anything incorrectly exposed with this camera and it simply doesn't carry the same latitude to afford a "fix in post" mentality.
Having said all that, the big chip and a long lens produces a beautiful and very shallow depth of field that is wonderfully cinematic and makes going back to an EX3 or the like - without any film adapter - quite disappointing.
For this shoot I needed a two camera set up so that I could walk away with two angles out of each interview. As is often the case when filming celebrities we were not given long with each person so a big plus of the Canon 5D MKII is it's cost point, making a two camera shoot easily affordable.
I wouldn't want to shoot a "run 'n gun" styled documentary with one of these but in the right circumstance it's an amazing tool to have at your disposal. Did I mention it also takes great stills!
Please note: All photos above were taken by the wonderful Tim Greeson. (http://timothygreesonphotography.com/)
The following photos show how the interviews were used in the Bloomingdale's stores. These were taken at the flagship store in Manhattan.
I recently completed production on a six episode series based on the New York Times bestselling book "The Reason for God" by Timothy Keller. Check out some behind the scenes production stills below. The series comes out in October. You can see the trailer for it in my Films section or simply click here to go to that page.
My wife Joy and I attended the 2010 Film Independent Spirit Awards as a result of my film "The Love Game" winning the nationwide Bflix competition. It was a fun night. Bloomingdale's put us up in the Casa Del Mar on the beach at Santa Monica, which was awesome, and added to the whole experience. As they say: location, location, location!
The event itself was great. It started with a walk down the red carpet, which oddly enough is blue at the Indie Spirit awards, followed by cocktails, then a dinner and finally the awards. During the cocktails I met and talked with Leonard Maltin who was fascinating to chat with and then the highlight for me: meeting with Jermain Clement from "Flight of the Conchords". I said to him, "thanks for putting NZ on the map" to which he replied, "not everyone thinks so, a lot of people complain that we made fun of NZ". He was very "down to earth" to chat with and it was just great meeting another Kiwi at the event.
Eddie Izzard was a brilliant host although I'm not sure the American audience got all his jokes, but we were killing ourselves laughing! After it finished we went on to the after party which was OK but we were tired and had to get back to Elias who was being brilliantly looked after by our good friend Sunu. Thanks Sunu!
It's Sunday and we're about to head off for breakfast and then a walk along Santa Monica pier. So enjoying the weather and the break from the New York cold and snow!
You can check out some photos from the event below:
The Love Game wins!
"The Love Game" and the other four Bflix films are screening at Tribeca Cinemas next week. It's an industry screening for press, cast/crew, and other industry insiders. The screening will be followed by a cocktail reception and a panel discussion with myself and the other four directors. It'll be so good to see it on the big screen and to see the cast and crew again after what feels like forever! I'm certainly over watching it online. Just not the same.
For those of you who've been invited I look forward to seeing you on Tuesday! Will keep you posted on where we play next.
The Bloomingdale's promotion ends soon but the five films will have a life outside of the BFLIX campaign. They will tour the international Film Festival circuit starting with the prestigious Hamptons International Film Festival this week. I have never attended this festival before personally but have heard a great deal of good things about it so I'm very much looking forward to it. I will be on a panel on Sunday along with the other Bflix directors discussing "New Approaches to Reaching An Audience". Definitely a hot topic in Independent film right now. Here's the details of the event below or you could click here to go straight to the site.
I went to the HD Expo last week and attended the Q&A with Lance Acord (DP on Being John Malkovich, Lost in Translation and Where the Wild Things Are, to name a few). We also got to see some of the commercials he has directed and man, he's as good a director as he is DP. Very talented guy.
I was chatting with him afterwards and was super impressed with how mellow and authentic he was to talk to.
Earlier this year I was sent, first to London, and then to Amman, Jordan to consult on a 30 Episode Drama series the BBC are planning in the Middle East.
In this photo I'm standing with one of the lead actors from a popular Bedouin drama series shot in Jordan. On the right is Tim O'Mara (long standing director of Eastenders, Coronation Street and other British classics).
It was a fascinating trip and very interesting to see, first hand, how different production is done in Jordan compared not just to the West but to other parts of the Arab world where I have worked in the past.
I've been invited to take part in a panel with Megan Alexander - Correspondent with Inside Edition and D.T. Slouffman - Emmy winning TV Producer. The subject is the Art & Challenge of Storytelling in the 21st Century and it's being held on April 15 at CBS.
We met in the Rainbow Room at NBC for breakfast and enjoyed the stunning views of Manhattan as we discussed our plans for the forum.
I shall include a copy of the invitation for those interested in coming below.
Earlier this week I was invited by Palm Pictures (who had distributed my film The Accidental Activist) to a private screening of the film Dream of Life, directed by Steven Sebring, about American Rock Icon Patti Smith. Sebring and Smith attended the screening and entertained us all with an engaging Q&A afterward which included a number of Songs by Patti.
First time director Steven Sebring, a celebrated fashion photographer, befriended Smith and filmed her over a 11 year period resulting in the Sundance award winning film Dream of Life that we enjoyed that night and a coffee table book by the same name.
Congrats to Palm Pictures for a great night!
I gave a lecture on Monday at NYCAM where the students are a mixture of fine artists, writers and new media artists. This definitely changed the way I prepared the lecture. I found myself more inclined to find universal connecting points between the various disciplines and so I spoke about how story is central to all the arts and the role the arts play in "cultural renewal." As artists and therefore storytellers, we are all engaged in some form of cultural renewal shaped by the way we see the world. Tim Keller - best selling author and authority on J.R.R Tolkien - was giving a lecture about Tolkien during which he talked about how Tolkien's personal worldview influenced the kind of stories he told. Keller prefaced it by defining cultural renewal this way:
"Every artist is doing cultural renewal. Every artist has some theory about what's wrong with things and what would put them right or righter. I mean if you really think that things are just broken and nothing will ever put them right then it's a dark vision but that's your working theory. If you think that things are bad but the world's an illusion then that's your working theory... every artist is trying to move the onlookers, the hearers, in a direction - some more subtly than others - but everyone is doing cultural renewal."
Mike Myers, during his interview on the Actor's Studio, expressed his worldview by stating that he is "obsessed with movies being a transformation of consciousness machine, that that is what you pay the money for: the fantasy that within 90 minutes somebody could have one indelible belief system that seems to give them identity and by the end they put that onto the sacrificial altar and believe in a completely different reality and whether that's done with broad comedy or if it's done with 'high drama' doesn't matter to me."
Tolkien had a theory about art that was integrated with his deepest beliefs, with his own worldview and I think you can see that - not just in Tolkien's work - but in every movie you see or book you read, or album you listen to and so on. I often find that the really good storytellers are articulate about their own working theory of art and they posses a deep understanding and respect for the audience their work touches.
This is what makes James L. Brooks such a great writer; he knows who he is as a storyteller, he understands his audience and how to connect to them and this imbues the way he engages in cultural renewal. The result is that even in simple films like Spanglish he is able to make a connection between the audience and his characters that is so deep because we see our own humanity in them.
So if we are all engaged in cultural renewal then it makes sense to ask ourselves: what is our working theory of art? what is our worldview? and to what degree do we know our audience? The answers can only make us better storytellers.
I was a guest lecturer at NYU's Tisch film program in New York city today and was impressed both with the facilities and the students. They say you can judge a lot about a Film School by the quality of its output and there's no doubt that the Tisch Film program deserves it's fine reputation. The students I worked with that day were immensely talented, passionate about story and brimming with intelligence.
I was invited to lecture there by Professor David Zung who is himself a working storyboard artist of the highest caliber not to mention a deeply gifted artist. We had hired David on a project last year and it was the best director/storyboard artist relationship I had ever encountered. On reflection I believe this was in some part because David and I see story the same way but it was in large part to David's remarkable humility as an artist. There are far too many egos in our industry and it was refreshing to work with someone who brought such passion and talent to the project.
The lecture was three hours long, the first half of which consisted of working one on one with the students going over storyboards they had done for their film projects and the remaining half was the lecture I gave entitled: "The Director's Vision - Creating and Sharing your Vision to Cast and Crew."
As part of the lecture we deconstructed the films "American Beauty" and "In the Mood for Love" and then ended with an exercise from one of my recent films "The Accidental Activist." I gave the students the script of the film's opening scene and then asked them to storyboard it. I then asked them to figure out how to shoot what they had storyboarded. It was, at times, a comic reminder of how differently a script can be visually interpreted and at the same time underscored some of the challenges involved in visualizing the written word.
All in all it was a great day and I left looking forward to seeing how their films turn out. If it's anything like the school I'm sure they will be brilliant.