Saturday, 13 May 2017

Air fresheners in movies

I was waiting at a bus stop recently when I noticed a car with a Christmas Tree air freshener hanging from the rear-view mirror, which put me in mind of Repo Man (1984) and the whole business of the Little Trees homage shots that subsequently made their way into movies and TV.

Repo Man features pine tree-shaped air fresheners in almost every vehicle in the movie, including the police motorcycle. People will tell you that the manufacturer, Little Trees, funded the movie, but that's not true. No money changed hands, but a number of air fresheners did. It is part of the legend that every Little Tree used in the movie was scent-free, because no one could handle the smell of them.

Repo Man is a cult movie, little known in the mainstream, but beloved by aficionados, who include many young Hollywood directors. I don't know exactly when the trend started, but it became a thing to include a Christmas Tree air freshener somewhere in your movie. Here are some examples.

Repo Man (1984). The first car recovered by Emilio Estevez has a blue one.

In Repo Man (1984), even the police motorcycle has one.

Cadillac Man (1990). Robin William's wife has a red one.

Robin Williams wears a green one in The Fisher King (1991).

Charles Durning has two in his car in Home for the Holidays (1995).

Full screen in Ocean's Eleven (2001). Is this big enough?
In The Wire (2002), Season 1, Episode 2, Rawls tosses the wrong office. Landsman points out that this is McNulty's office. Notice the green leaf, bottom right.
As befits a Shopgirl (2005), Claire Danes has a pink one.
In 10 Items or Less (2006), Morgan Freeman checks all the options...
... before choosing a green Christmas Tree for Paz Vega's car.
In The Unit (2007), the CIA use a green one as a signalling device.

Ellen Page has the red Autumn Leaf version in Juno (2007).
Amy Poehler has a red Christmas Tree in Baby Mama (2008).
And in Despicable Me (2010), Gru opts for a generic green one.

First posted: 18 January 2013

Friday, 12 May 2017

Sunday, 7 May 2017

100 Greatest "Music Scenes" in Movies

Mew Lists has come up with their version of the 100 Greatest "Music Scenes" in Movies. I know you'll disagree with some of them. I would have liked to see the following included: Ray Charles singing "Mess Around" in Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987), the "Stayin Alive" segment from Foul Play (1978), the karaoke scene from Paperback Hero (1999), the title song from Shaft (1971), the title song from Live and Let Die (1973), "Let the River Run" from Working Girl (1988), "Why Don't You Do Right" from Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988), "Sooner or Later" from Dick Tracy (1990), "Cruisin'" from Duets (2000), the title track from Mo' Better Blues (1990), the karaoke scene from The Actors (2003), Wolfman Jack playing "Green Onions" in American Graffiti (1973), "Things Have Changed" from Wonder Boys, and "Lydia the Tattooed Lady" from At The Circus (1939).

What about you?

In case you were curious...

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Chili Palmer Talks Screenwriting

Can you believe it? Get Shorty is now twenty-two years old. Where did that time go?

Friday, 5 May 2017

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Linda Aronson: Two-Day Writing Masterclass - Sydney

If you are a writer in film TV or games (or want to be) and the only story model you know is one hero-on-a-chronological-journey you are at a serious professional disadvantage. The reality is that games, films and TV forms are now full of multiple protagonist stories. But in addition you need to master over a dozen nonlinear and fractured forms, including nine types of flashback, multi-plot and fractured tandem narrative, because these forms are now mainstream.

They are routinely nominated in the Academy and Golden Globe Awards and the Emmys and they're on TV every night. Audiences expect them. They are everywhere and, crucially, they are hybridising.

Like today’s leading writers in Europe and the USA, these forms need to become part of your stock in trade. Linda Aronson is the world expert in these complex structures. She is the only guru to provide practical guidelines for creating them. New Structures for New Audiences explains them.


Day 1: (29 July 2017): 

Mentor antagonist stories, tandem narrative, multiple protagonist narrative, double journeys, simple flashback.

Day 2: (30 July 2017) :

Complex flashback forms, consecutive stories (including Pulp Fiction), fractured tandem, nonlinear fixes for film. Nonlinear in games and to promote binge viewing in new generation serial TV serials.
The 'what' and the 'how to create' of six families of nonlinear and multiplot narrative and their subcategories (over 30 story structures) that don't fit the Hollywood model, including 9 types of flashback structure.
How each form relies on splitting up, multiplying or truncating the basic three act structure of traditional screenwriting according to predictable patterns that you can use as templates.
How to use multiple protagonists, mentor antagonists, the passive protagonist and how the same character can be a protagonist in one time frame and antagonist in another; ‘the death of the second act’, that is, structures that truncate or do away with the second act altogether; also, stories that are exposition-heavy and cannot be told suspensefully except via non-linear.
How to use cross-connecting devices, including the 'macro plot' and 'the facilitating character'. 

How to use the 'portmanteau structure' a structural technique which permits a number of stories to piggyback on the structural build of one story (as in Pulp Fiction, Amores Perros, etc.)
Using a portmanteau to create your own Pulp Fiction-style structure.
Using nonlinear fixes for problem feature films.
How to use nonlinear series arcs to trigger binge viewing in new generation TV drama serials.
How nonlinear forms in games can increase emotional engagement and replayability. 


What the experts say.

'Linda Aronson is one of the great and important voices on screenwriting.’
~Linda Seger

'At last you will understand Pulp Fiction! All the vague confusing things that teachers and studio executives say about flashback, turning points and multiple protagonists are whipped into coherent shape, in a comprehensive, precise and extremely practical theory.' ~Christopher Vogler, The Writers' Journey

'Anyone who has heard Linda Aronson speak about screenwriting knows that the insight that she can offer YOU, about YOUR screenplay, is extraordinary. I have personally heard all of the so-called ‘script gurus’ speak, and I can tell you, if you want advanced professional script insight, Linda is the person for you.'
~Chris Jones, Academy-Award Nominated Screenwriter, organizer London Screenwriters' Festival

‘Linda Aronson is one of my heroes. My inspiration. Screenwriting Updated blew me away - Linda Aronson was the first person, maybe still the only person to really talk about the fact that structure doesn’t always have to be about one form.’ ~Pilar Alessandra. Leading Hollywood Scriptwriting Teacher.

‘F- ing brilliant’ ~Duncan Thompson, writer/script editor/screenwriting teacher.

'Narrative structure goddess' Linda Aronson ~Lucy Hay, top UK script editor.

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Linda Aronson

Linda Aronson is one of the best screenwriting "gurus" out there. Here she discusses advanced screenwriting techniques such as non-linear stories, flashbacks and stories with multiple protagonists.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Kingsman: The Golden Circle

Kingsman: The Secret Service introduced the world to Kingsman - an independent, international intelligence agency operating at the highest level of discretion, whose ultimate goal is to keep the world safe. 

In Kingsman: The Golden Circle, our heroes face a new challenge. When their headquarters are destroyed and the world is held hostage, their journey leads them to the discovery of an allied spy organization in the US called Statesman, dating back to the day they were both founded. In a new adventure that tests their agents’ strength and wits to the limit, these two elite secret organizations band together to defeat a ruthless common enemy, in order to save the world, something that’s becoming a bit of a habit for Eggsy.

Starring Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, Taron Egerton, Mark Strong, Halle Berry, Pedro Pascal, with Sir Elton John, and Channing Tatum, and Jeff Bridges

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Slyvester Stallone on screenwriting

Slyvester Stallone on screenwriting, with maybe the best advice you can give to a newbie writer.

Friday, 21 April 2017

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Three Mistakes Screenwriters Make That Ruin A Screenplay

Michael Hauge shares three mistakes Screenwriters make in Act 1 that ruin a screenplay.

Friday, 14 April 2017

Monday, 10 April 2017

The 2017 Hawaii Film Challenge

Sometimes having a great story isn’t enough to get it done. You need the right location, equipment, casting, talent... a lot of blood, sweat and tears to make a film. That’s where the 2017 Hawaii Film Challenge comes in! Submit your 10-12 minute film script here!

Your story can be set anywhere in the world, it's up to you. If your script’s chosen, they’ll fly you and/or your core team of Director, DP, Editor and Sound to Hawaii to make your film!

The deadline is July 15th 2017. Give it a shot!

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Scott Frank

In this BAFTA lecture, Scott Frank illustrates the importance of opening scenes, the challenges his craft encompasses and how, ultimately, "it's all about the words".

Friday, 7 April 2017

Thursday, 6 April 2017

The Emperor of Time

The strange and sordid tale of Eadweard Muybridge, the man who accidentally invented motion pictures. The film is told from the point of view of Muybridge's abandoned son and viewed completely through a nineteenth century early cinema contraption called a mutoscope.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Wild Elephants

Elephants, right? Nature film. Ho hum. This one surprised me. Take a look.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Ben Wheatley

Ben Wheatley talks about his approach to writing (Free Fire, Kill List and High Rise) and how he got his early work produced.

Monday, 3 April 2017

Onions and Garlic

This animated short tells a humourous Hebrew folk tale about a man's venture to introduce onions to a far away kingdom and a disreputable man's attempt to exploit that.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Saturday, 1 April 2017

April Fool's Day

A prank done for April Fool's Day for a math class. The professor "accidentally" drew on the projector with a whiteboard marker, and got help from a YouTube video to fix things.

Friday, 31 March 2017

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Times Square in winter

Experience what it was like to drive through this storm down Seventh Avenue and through Times Square in 360˚ Video.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Tricks Advertisers Use to Manipulate Photos

The photos look good, but what's really in them?

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Best Dialogue of All Time

A good conversation might be the most efficient way to tell a story. This week, we're looking at the best flirting, bickering, threatening and subtext-filled bantering. These are our picks for the best dialogue of all time.

Monday, 27 March 2017

Anatomy of a Gag

David Cairns takes a close look at the carefully calibrated minimalism of Hal Ashby’s masterful satire.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

The First Day Of The Blitz

Archive footage and first-hand accounts provide an insight into the terror London faced on September 7, 1940 when the Nazis began the first of many attacks from the air.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Mark Gatiss On Screenwriting

The Sherlock creator and writer on the mystique of screenwriting, researching period pieces and making comedy work with drama.

Friday, 24 March 2017

Thursday, 23 March 2017

The Pencil Trick Scene in 'The Dark Knight'

This is a comprehensive analysis of camera angles and movement of the "Pencil Trick" scene from Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Chess in Movies

Chess is everywhere in movies, and it can mean a lot more than you may think. Let's take a look at chess and see what this ancient game holds for us in cinema.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

How to Create a Great Twist Ending

Want to learn the formula to creating a great twist ending for your movie? Then this is that video.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Barry White on Making Love

"When a man is making love, the last thing he thinks about is war." ~Barry White

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Camera Angles and Movement

This is a comprehensive analysis of the "Sanchez's apartment scene' from Orson Welles's Touch of Evil, his second great masterpiece after Citizen Kane. The scene is a 12-minute one-take shot that was designed to be invisible. How did Welles pull that off?

Friday, 17 March 2017

Errol Flynn - Mysteries & Scandals

This was supposed to be an episode of Mysteries & Scandals, the story of Errol Flynn, but the video is no longer available. Try this documentary instead.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

'I Have A Dream'

Take a look at how Martin Luther King Jr. wrote 'I Have A Dream,' one view of the creation of a great monologue.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Tony Scott: An Artist of Pure Cinema

This is a primer on the work of Tony Scott by Rosssatron.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

David Niven

James David Graham Niven (1st March 1910 - 29th July 1983) was an English actor and novelist who was popular in Europe and in the United States. He may be best known for his roles as Squadron Leader Peter Carter in A Matter of Life and Death, as Phileas Fogg in Around the World in 80 Days and as Sir Charles Lytton, a.k.a. "the Phantom", in The Pink Panther. He was awarded the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance in Separate Tables (1958).

Monday, 13 March 2017

Louis Armstrong on His Chops

Even if we had two, three days off I still had to blow that horn a few hours to keep up the chops. ~Louis Armstrong

Sunday, 12 March 2017

The Paper Tigers

One of my favourite independent filmmakers, Tran Quoc Bao, is getting ready to shoot a feature called The Paper Tigers, and he needs your help. With money. Of course, with money. He provides the brains and the sweat, and graciously leaves room for the rest of us to play a part in the struggle to find a toehold in the filmmaking universe.

The film
When their old Kung Fu master dies under mysterious circumstances, three estranged friends, despite being terribly out of shape and washed-up as fighters, must reawaken their abilities in order to find the killer and restore their master’s honor.

How to contribute
The project is receiving fiscal sponsorship from Fractured Atlas. Click here to go to the donation page.

The Challenger
I know I've run this short film before, but it's worth watching again now, given that it is both a prequel to this new movie and a showcase for Bao's skills as a filmmaker. 

Saturday, 11 March 2017

The Three Rules of Living Animation

A look at the fundamentals of hybridizing animation with live action film.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Humphrey Bogart

Humphrey Bogart, the one and only.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Dead Bodies

The master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock, sat down for a short interview on the set of a film tentatively titled, From Amongst The Dead. The film would be released in early 1958 as Vertigo, the classic starring Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak. In this interview, we go inside the mind of a master storyteller with a penchant for fear.

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Playful Cinema

In the realm of underrated filmmakers, Brad Bird stands out as a director whose work has been and continues to be some of the most joyful. This is an analysis of his playful, theme-park-attraction, stuff-your-face-with-popcorn, blockbuster style.

Friday, 3 March 2017

Monday, 27 February 2017

Peter Lorre

A documentary on the life of Peter Lorre.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Creating the Ultimate Antagonist

Heath Ledger’s performance as The Joker is universally celebrated—and with good reason—but there is more to the character than his excellent performance. In this video Michael Tucker analyzes what makes The Joker the perfect antagonist for The Dark Knight.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Isao Takahata

Today's subject is the idea of a story filter or lens. Often utilized through genre, this idea is sometimes the very best method at getting to the heart of what your story is really about. So, let's explore that ideabut rather than through genrethrough animation. And let's use the work of one of the of form's greatest contemporary directors as our example.

Friday, 24 February 2017

Thursday, 23 February 2017

How To Film Thought

Evan Puschak walks us through an episode of Sherlock to open up the method used to convey thought.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

When Harry Met Sally

When Harry Met Sally takes the conventions of a classic from-hate-to-love story and flips them on their head, creating a unique and charming film.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

The Immersive Realism of Studio Ghibli

Studio Ghibli has consistently created the most compelling animated films I have ever seen, in part due to their immersive realism. Despite the fantasy and magic, Ghibli's films consistently feel tactile and realistic. In this video essay, we explore how Studio Ghibli consistently achieves immersive realism in their films.

Monday, 20 February 2017

Edward Hopper's 'Nighthawks'

Evan Puschak takes us on a study of a famous painting.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Film Noir: The Case for Black and White

Black and white has a gorgeous look in film. Let's take a look at Film Noir to see what it can do better than color and study how the techniques of black and white filmmaking continue to influence modern filmmaking (especially Breaking Bad).

Saturday, 18 February 2017

David Lean's Scene Transitions

Despite whatever presets there are in Premiere, scene transitions are not limited to wipes, fades, or dissolves. Let's examine the work of David Lean and see what unique ways we can find of cutting picture and sound together to make transitions really shine.

Friday, 17 February 2017

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Gene Wilder

"On stage or in the movies I could do whatever I wanted to. I was free."
~Gene Wilder, March 2007.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Every Best Cinematography Winner (1927-2016)

Here we have clips from every Academy Award for Best Cinematography from 1927 to 2016.

Monday, 13 February 2017

The Master: How Scientology Works

Evan Puschak walks us through the Scientology elements to be found in the film The Master.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Where to Find Visual Comedy

If you watch a lot of film essays, then you've probably heard the complaint that visual comedy is something of a lost art nowadays, with most mainstream comedies opting instead for jokes done strictly through dialogue and improv. So, let's look back at one of cinema's greatest visual comedians and see where he found his visual comedy.

Friday, 10 February 2017

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Camera Movement

Without camera movement, films would be all static play and no fun. The way the camera moves says more to us than just a show-off of technical tricks. Directors, throughout the years, have implemented their own unique camera styles to best tell their stories on-screen. These are just some of the top moves in film history, so far.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Interview with Chance McClain

Chance McClain is a busy guy. He is an author, radio program director, playwright, musician, songwriter, singer, and filmmaker, who lives in Houston, Texas.

He is probably best known as the writer of the Yao Ming song (more about that later), but he's done a lot of other things.

I met him on Twitter and was soon fascinated to read about his career. I figured others would be interested as well, so I asked him some questions.

•  Where were you born, and where did you grow up?

I was born in Houston, Texas, and grew up here as well. I bounced around a few colleges in Texas before joining the Army and serving from 1994-1997 as a light infantry medic. During this time I lived near Seattle, Washington. After my military service I moved back to Houston where I have remained. My growing up is still a work in progress.

•  What kind of a family did you grow up with?

I grew up in a typical American family. You know, divorced parents, craziness. I married young and remain happily married with two kids. My son (Noah) is 16 and daughter (Abbey) is 12.

•  Where did you go to school?
I went to the University of Texas on an academic scholarship, full of hope and ready to take on the world. I barely made it two semesters. I bounced around a few different colleges before joining the Army at 20 years of age.
   When I graduated high school, I really enjoyed both playing football and stage performance. I initially started my major as RTF (radio-television-film), but prior to starting school was convinced to switch my major to general business. I was a horrible general business student and it took me over a decade to right the ship and get into the industry where my passion rested.

•  What was your first paying job?

My first traditional job was at a large waterpark in Houston, when I was 16. Splashtown, USA. I worked at the tube rental facility and it was fun. There were lots of students from my school that worked there in the summers, so it was basically a three-month party that paid minimum wage. 

   My first ‘career’ type job was soldiering in the Army. I had a lot of fun, but it wasn’t for me. During my twenties I hopped around several jobs doing everything from loan officer for a mortgage company, to industrial uniform sales, to working in the oil industry as a downhole drilling tools salesman. 
   During all of these ludicrous jobs, I filled my spare time recording music, mostly silly songs. I was still passionate about sports, so many of my songs were parodies, or originals, about local or national sports stars. 
   In 1999 my favorite basketball player was a 6’10” forward, a bench player for the Houston Rockets named Matt Bullard. I wrote a song glamorizing him and sent it in to a local sports radio station. They played it on the air. What a rush! 
   From there the Rockets heard it and asked permission to play it in the arena, when we made a shot or a good play. What a larger rush hearing 16,000 people sing along with a goofy song I recorded! 
   Flash forward four years and I had songs played in arena for all the professional teams in Houston, and I was working as the creative director of a sports radio station. From there, things just kept getting weirder and better.

•  You were a ‘Jock’ in high school, yet you wrote songs from an early age. What was the first song you ever wrote?

Wow. I think the first song I wrote was called ‘It’s Cold’. I had learned to play a boogie-woogie on the piano. Basically, it was the chord progression of Jerry Lee LewisGreat Balls of Fire. I would stand at the piano and bang that out, singing about how cold it was in the room where I was singing.

   Later, in the summer, I wrote a stellar follow-up called ‘It’s Hot’. I think there were ‘It’s Raining’ and ‘It’s Dark’ versions mixed in there as well. My young mind was apparently limited to observational songwriting. I just wanted attention and I got it, so it was effective. And super corny. The first songs I recorded were with a dear friend of mine, and called ‘Oh, My Little Girl’ and ‘Have Faith’. This was 1989 and they were synthy New Order/Erasure pop awesomeness. At least I thought they were, back then. I have mp3s of them, and now crack-up listening to our pretentiousness.

•  You had success writing and directing the internet musical Horrible Turn (2009), the unauthorized and unofficial prequel to Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog (2008), What did you learn from that exercise?

Oh my word. What did I learn? Horrible Turn was my equivalent of a college education in filmmaking. I knew nothing about the technical aspects of making a movie. I didn’t know what an over-the-shoulder shot was. I didn’t know what focal length was. I didn’t know what three-point lighting was. I didn’t know what a skateboard dolly was. And I had no concept of story. Three acts? Huh? Arc? Isn’t that the boat with the pairs of animals? And I did not know the first thing about organizing people, places, and things. 

Horrible Turn: ... make a blunder and you'll never see the wonder of... Australia!
I wrote Horrible Turn because I loved Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog but had so many questions about all of the wonderful characters Joss Whedon had invented. Why was Dr. Horrible bad? Why did people like Captain Hammer when he was so douchey?
    So I wrote it as a musical play. While sitting in a sake bar with a buddy, we decided to change it into a screenplay. Google and YouTube were my friends. I discovered Celtx, the collaborative screenplay software. I discovered the importance of a filmic look, which guided me to Letus lens adapters.
    I cashed in my 401k, bought a camera and a bunch of gear, found friends and neighbors willing to go on an adventure, and made a movie.
    At the time, I was on the board of directors of a community theater, so I had access to stage actors who could sing. I worked at a radio station, so I had access to a recording studio. Basically, I had all of the resources to make a musical within arm’s reach, and, together with my friends, we decided we could do it.

•  Why the choice of Australia for Horrible Turn?

There was a line in one of the songs in Dr. Horrible in which Neil Patrick Harris, while daydreaming about how "evil" he will be, offers the line: 'I'll hand her the keys to a shiny new Australia'. I'm not sure why the Brothers Whedon went with that line, but it was awesome and I fixated on it. I decided to open Horrible Turn with a little insight into why the character was such an Australiaphile.

•  What’s the story with Kristin Massa? Her 'Australian' accent wobbles a bit, but it’s not bad.

Kristin Massa is an amazing talent. She showed up at a casting call and blew us away. There was a friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend situation where we had a girl from Sydney in town for a week of shooting, and she helped with the accent as well. She was actually in the film, as one of the students in the Math competition. Kristin is an impossibly talented young lady and she did all of the accent work on her own. We were nervous that actual Australians would laugh at us, but I think Kristin did great.  [She slips into posh English occasionally, but is spot on most of the time. Ed.]

•  Your most successful song has been The Yao Ming Song, in honor of the Chinese basketballer Yao Ming. It has been played on radio across America, in China on television (before Yao Ming's games), and at Houston Rockets’ home games. How did that one song change your life?

That is a very astute observation. It really did change my life. It is bizarre that a cheesy song would have such a massive impact on my life, but it did.

   I thought of the song while driving to work at an oil company one day. That night I was in the studio recording a jingle for a jewelry company. As an afterthought, I asked my recording partner, Kevin, if we could squeeze in a recording of The Yao Ming Song. We spent maybe an hour on it.
   The following day I dropped off a CD at the same radio station I mentioned before, and they played it. The NBA season had not even started yet, but Yao Ming mania had. The song was played on the radio station every time his name was mentioned. When the season started, the song was a part of the Rockets game operations arsenal. It was catchy and corny, and the Rockets fans got into it.
   One of my favorite memories was the first time Yao played against the Lakers and their Hall of Fame center, Shaquille O’Neal. The Rockets asked me to perform at halftime. Keep in mind that all of my musical escapades had been in the studio. This was the first time I would be performing live, and it was in front of 16,000 people. It was an ESPN and CTV (Chinese Television) game. Prior to my walking out to sing the song, the director of game operations told me that ESPN and CTV had elected to carry the in-arena feed of me, singing... meaning literally hundreds of millions of people would see my performance.
   After that, there was a USA Today article, ESPN stories, CNN... people all over the world were singing this goofy-ass song. This was in the heyday of file sharing, peer-to-peer sharing, and basically pirating music. I made the song available to a popular Rockets fan site, never thinking about monetizing it. Oops. The song was available to everyone and seemingly everyone grabbed it.

•  Your biggest songwriting venture has been the stage musical Kissless. It took you all the way to the New York Musical Theater Festival in 2011. Tell us how you came to write a stage show.

Horrible Turn had an awesome premiere at a historical 500-seat movie theater in Houston. It was a packed house and everyone had a big time. At midnight that night, we made the film available for free online on YouTube and Vimeo (It’s still there at
   After that, at about 1AM we were back at the same sake bar. I looked at the people that were still standing and said, “That was fun. Let’s do it again.” They laughed at me. No way in hell they were going through that mess again.
   It turns out that the insanity of making a feature, with no training or professionals, wasn’t as enjoyable to them as it was to me. So I was on my own.
   This was November of 2009. Before I could get started on whatever was going to be next, the press decided they kind of liked Horrible Turn, despite its flaws. We were nominated for a Streamy Award and enjoyed going to L.A. for the Awards during the summer of 2010.
   This reinvigorated my urge to create things. I had a couple different ideas floating around in my head and my favorite was about a misfit girl and jock boy falling in love. In March of 2011 I wrote a draft of a screenplay called Goth Chick. In April I changed it to a stage play, because nobody wanted to make another movie with me.
    I was having trouble finishing it, so, to motivate myself, I submitted the script and about half of the songs to the New York Musical Theatre Festival. I had no expectation of being admitted. This was a prestigious festival and I was nobody. In the early portion of the summer, I had cobbled together a cast and mounted a staged reading of the show, now called Kissless. It was during a rehearsal that I got word that Kissless had been accepted.
   This set a lot of chaos into motion. We cast the show in Houston, raised $167,000 and in the fall a cast of 28 talented Houstonians travelled to the Big Apple to put on Kissless six times at the Off-Broadway Theatre at St. Clements. This was another ‘holy crap’ moment for me.
KISSLESS: An awkward misfit is forced to live with an uber-jock and his quirky family over summer break. An inconvenient love develops, threatening the rigid social structure of Forest Glen High School. 

•  You made a feature length film of Kissless. What’s happening with that?

Upon returning from New York, I set to work immediately on keeping Kissless alive. It wasn’t necessarily a Broadway-type show. It was teen-oriented, slightly immature, and raw. At the time I didn’t see it going on to a traditional path. I felt like schools and community theatres would like the show, but did not know how to let them know about it. 

   So I decided to take the best of both worlds, stage and screen, and film Kissless in a new way. Along with my business partner, Patrick, we posted a nebulous casting call in Backstage Magazine. It basically said we were looking for non-union musical theatre actors willing to move to an undisclosed small town location for 5 weeks to film a musical. Despite the cryptic nature of the casting call we received over 2,200 submissions. 

In March of 2012, we were back in New York auditioning 140 actors. By April we had identified our cast. A dozen New Yorkers, four people from a local Texas university, and a few people from Houston, including my son, Noah. He was to be an understudy to a Goth character, but the boy who had the role was cast in the national tour of Tom Sawyer, so my son was elevated to a principal role. He was money, by the way. 
   We elected to do the movie in the small town in the Texas Panhandle, where my partner has an engineering firm. We wanted to be sequestered to focus on the show and bring a splash of weird into Borger, Texas. A dozen New Yorkers showed up in July and we had a blast putting on the show. I indicated that we took the best from both worlds... we had cameras at the back of the house for master/establishing shots and then did alternate takes with close ups and mediums. We did some handheld shots. Some dolly shots. Some jib/crane work was done. The final product is a truly unique experience to watch. Presently we are marketing the material to schools and community theatres around the country to license and perform the show. It is an exciting project.

•  You were an extra in the movie Pearl Harbor (2001). How did that come about?

June of 2000, there was a story in the Houston Chronicle about a feature length film looking for extras with military experience.
   Hey! I was in the Army once! 
   I went to the cattle call and was selected. 
   Filming was slated for July 19-21. My wife was pregnant; my daughter was due on the 22nd. We didn’t take any chances, we did what any normal parent would do. We induced early.
   Actually, my wife did the inducing. I was just kind-of there. Abbey was born on July 18, and I was an extra in a movie.
   In hindsight we should’ve waited. But it was fun being the first person in the crow’s nest of the Battleship Texas in three decades.

•  Who has had the most influence on you as a filmmaker and song-writer?

As a songwriter I am greatly influenced by the harmonies and song-structures of The Beatles. Abbey McClain was named after Abbey Road, the studio of The Beatles. I am also heavily influenced by 1970s and 1980s country music.

   As a filmmaker, I am a bit of a simpleton. It is not popular amongst the indie film scene to admire the people that I do, but without shame I love James Cameron. He is a genius. To do what he has done, after starting as a miniature-model maker at Roger Corman Studios, is nothing short of a miracle. I am also fascinated by, and enamored with, anything and everything Pixar.
   My dream dinner would be John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, Joss Whedon and James Cameron. If I could include dead people then we would welcome Walt Disney and Steve Jobs. If you are curious, we would eat barbecue.

•  What are three things you wish someone had told you about filmmaking when you were starting out?

1. Story is all that matters. Everything else is secondary. A great story, shot poorly, can still be great, but a crap story, shot beautifully, is crap. And either way, your name is affixed to it forever.

2. Be exceptional. For years I would make a song or a commercial or a short film or a feature length musical or anything, and immediately post it on the internet because I wanted the immediate response. I would put out products that were not professional, but good enough to get a chuckle. I wish I had had the patience to wait and hone before releasing. Now I don’t want anybody to see anything, unless it is as exceptional as I am capable of making it. If the creation doesn’t exceed my threshold of acceptability, it stays on the shelf, perhaps forever. 

3. Yoda was right. “Do... or do not. There is no try.”
    If you have a task and your goal is to ‘try’ to do it, you are destined to fail. Trying implies incompletion.
    Set out to do things. We didn’t try to make Horrible Turn. We did it.
    If I had applied numbers 1 and 2, it would have been better, but at least we did it.
•  If you could recommend just one filmmaking advice book to a newcomer in Adelaide, what would that book be?

Without question nor hesitation, if I was to recommend one book it would be Invisible Ink, by Brian McDonald. I did not discover this gem until last year, but have since bought no less than ten copies as gifts. My copy is dog-eared, highlighted, circled, smeared and smudged. I have it with me at all times. When I write I refer to it constantly. Even when writing a 60 second TV commercial, I try to incorporate elements from the book. I have corresponded with Mr. McDonald. He is a gentleman and completely accessible.

•  Name ten of your all-time favorite movies.

The Abyss (1989)
Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-03)
Star Wars trilogy (1977-83)
Finding Nemo (2003)
Airplane! (1980)
The Matrix (1999)
Les Misérables (2012)
Anchorman (2004)
The Breakfast Club (1985)
Jaws (1975)

Yao Ming is a retired Chinese professional basketball player who last played for the Houston Rockets in the National Basketball Association (NBA). At the time of his retirement, he was the tallest player in the NBA, at 2.29 m (7 ft 6 in).

Yao was selected by the Houston Rockets in the 2002 NBA Draft. He was named to the All-NBA Team five times. He reached the NBA Playoffs four times. He is one of China's best-known athletes. His rookie year in the NBA was the subject of a documentary film and a book titled YAO: A Life in Two Worlds. He represented China at the 2000 and 2004 Olympics, and was national flag-bearer in 2004.

Here is the Chance McClain song that greeted him whenever he scored for the Houston Rockets.

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First posted: 17 January 2013