Friday, December 30, 2011

Trying Not To Write

Beware. Abrupt subject changes lie ahead.

I'm trying not to write tonight. It's Sabbath. But when my mind's a whirl (as it is now), it's hard for me to do anything but. There can be no rest. There can be no relaxation. There can be no idle hands. Because try as I might to push the fear far from mind, I can't help but fret that an idea that's not written down is an idea that's bound to be forgotten -- and I don't subscribe to my wife's notion that "if I forget it, then it wasn't worth remembering." I am convinced I have lost entire Dickensian novels for lack of a piece of paper.

It's the holidays. Tomorrow is the last holiday of 2011 (and the last day of the entire year, for that matter). It's been a bittersweet holiday season (much like most of 2011, for that matter). My grandmother moved into assisted living last month and we went and visited her in San Antonio the week before Christmas. As surreal as it was to see her so small and frail, I really hope to have what she has. She has lived a long and rich life and has created for herself a large, warm, and caring family. I don't know how she views her life, but I do know that she thanks God for it every night. The Fogg family has had its share of bumps and rattles in its travel down the road of life, but I believe we are richer for the journey and I hope she does too.

2012 can't get here fast enough. I believe in 2012. I believe it's going to be a big year. As I said on Facebook recently, I expect big things from 2012, so expect big things from me.

Loren's and my podcast is going strong. Spinning out of that podcast is a new podcast which Dean Trippe and I are currently planning and trying to iron the logistics out on. Season 1 of The Ruffians went well and I'm trying to figure out what a season 2 might hold . . . You Being You also hasn't gone away, despite there not being a new video in some time. I'm still looking for subjects and if you know someone (or are someone) who you think has something to share, drop me a line! I'm also in production on a children's book, which we will be shopping around (I'm guessing) in early 2012. I'd love to see that in book stores.

I've grown weary of the world's negativity and cynicism. I'm currently outlining a story that I would like to use to combat some of that negativity. Only problem with this story is I need a comic book artist to help me see it into fruition. Expect to see me on the lookout for one of those in the near future.

Sigh. I should probably go to bed. But Michael Giacchino's exquisite score for Up is only half-finished and I haven't the heart to turn it off. I'll see it through to the end and see how I feel then.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Great McKay Finds

New promo video I put together for McKay. It's pretty self-explanatory. I had a different idea at first, but when the information I needed for that didn't come through, I turned to Twitter!

And Twitter saved the day.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Why The Ruffians

Three days before we shoot episode 3, I thought I'd sit down and explain why I'm telling The Ruffians' story. But I'm not interested in releasing this information right away, so I'm post-dating this blog entry to be released on my 31st birthday.

Most people know me as a giant dork. That's the aura that surrounds me. It doesn't take long, though, to cut through the layers of Doctor Who and Superman to discover what makes me tick. The people who know me best know me as a left-leaning Christian who belongs to the Seventh-Day Adventist Church who has found his calling as a writer. Any time I sit down and write something, it comes from a place of deep moral responsibility to our fellow man and our Creator. Which is why, on the surface, The Ruffians has some people scratching their heads.

Very simply put, The Ruffians comes from the same place Remnants, Nighthawks, Berashet, and Martyrs came from. But while each of those had elements of hope and beauty intertwined with them, The Ruffians is my view of the world, my view of society, as it tries to distance itself from God.

Before we even get to the characters themselves, it's a show about hitmen -- people who are paid to kill other people. The hitman has been glamorized in a multitude of television shows and movies, but I couldn't think of a more perfect metaphor for the toxicity and selfishness of man.

My characterization starts with SOFIA TOWNSEND, as played by Rachel Komorowski. Sofia doesn't want any responsibility. She wants to show up, do her work, and go home. The less she knows, the less she can be held accountable for. In trying to compartmentalize her life, she seeks ways to excuse herself from the bigger picture.

ALEXANDER GREENE, as played by Corey Newmyer, is the post-modern man. He, like Sofia, doesn't want to be held accountable for his actions. He is beholden unto no-one but himself. But he has this nagging voice in the back of his head telling him that he's wrong, or that something in his life is wrong (personified by Tenika Dye). And he doesn't like that. He wants to silence that voice, so he labels it and mocks it, which allows him to distance himself. Doing this, however, creates a void in his life that he has to fill. He refuses to feel guilty for his actions, and so he places a higher premium on his friendships and his relationships. If he's going to feel guilt, it needs to be over something tangible and important to him, not something moral, metaphysical, and intangible. This will continue to haunt him for some time.

It's easy to call CHARLIE HAMMOND an idiot. That's very nearly how I play him. But he represents society's desire to live in (and only for) this moment. He quickly forgets yesterday (and the lessons learned) and he doesn't think or worry about tomorrow. He doesn't stop to wonder if what he's doing is going to harm him or his friends later. He's exceptionally short-sighted, which often makes him look uncaring. He's deeply emotional and has a fairly sanguine temperament. Every single minute of every single day is either the very best thing or the very worst thing that could possibly be happening. He lives as if there is no tomorrow, as if there are no consequences and when tomorrow rolls around and those consequences show up, he doesn't understand why these things are happening to him.

Rick Hardaway plays JACOB WALLACE. At one point I toyed with making him the personification of Atheism, a cruel and unforgiving creation that boasts freedom and free will, but as the story unfolded, I found him a far more compelling devil than anything else. He lets our "heroes" believe what they want, for it suits his purpose.

The other characters and the victims live in this same world. But less time was put into their being. They are intended to reflect, magnify, or contrast the mindsets and philosophies of Charlie, Alexander, and Sofia.

MARLENA, specifically, was created to illustrate the continuity of time and the consequence of actions. While Charlie lives his existential life, Marlena exists slightly above that. She's first introduced as an idea. We simply hear she exists. She exists before the show began. Then we see Charlie calling her. Then finally, he's reunited with her. Marlena unifies Charlie's existence and makes yesterday as important as today and tomorrow. His belief in her is the closest thing to a spiritual life Charlie has. Her existence makes "the sherpa" moot and vapid. It is (and will be) Marlena that is most directly effected by Charlie's short-sightedness. She's making the most of her life, but deep down, she knows that it's all for naught. Their victory over Jacob Wallace will be short-lived and temporary at best.

And that's all I have to say about that.

Except not really. I love conversations on these topics, so drop me a line or pull me aside. I'd love to hear what you think.

Monday, December 5, 2011

On Turning 31

Here's to the listeners.
Here's to the silencers.
Here's to the rebels.
Here's to the followers.
Here's to you that supported me, encouraged me, and pushed me forward.
Here's to the people who reminded me of my limits.
Here's to the wild ones.
Here's to the tame ones.
Here's to the people who didn't laugh at me.
Here's to the people who laughed with me.
Here's to the church.
Here's to the world.
Here's to you who helped me spot a good idea (and a bad one too).
Here's to the Whovians.
Here's to the Batman fans.
Here's to the majority.
Here's to the ones without faces.
Here's to the children of the world.
Here's to the ones who haven't been born yet.
Here's to the lost.
Here's to the found.
Here's to the seekers, the searchers, and the explorers.
Here's to the builders, the fortifiers, and the protectors.
Here's to me.
Here's to you.
Here's to my friends.
And here's to the ones I haven't met yet.

Thank-you for being you, whoever you are. You helped define me. You showed me what I wanted to be and what I didn't. You made me laugh, you made me cry. You made me want to be a better person.

And with perseverance, God's grace and a smile on my face, some day I will be.


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Behold the Lamb of God

Just cut this together for Tenika, who's adaptation of Andrew Peterson's "Behold the Lamb of God" opens this weekend.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

BORING DVD ART: Sparky Edition

Coming soon to a theater/DVD player/Blu-Ray player/digital file format player near you: SPARKS! They seem to have become the poster creator's favorite new element. Sometimes it makes sense, but most of the time it looks like they're trying to make us think we're about to step into the sequel for Backdraft that never was.

Drive Angry? Okay. Nicolas Cage is try to escape Hell, so one should expect a certain firey element there. Transformers? Um . . . sure. There's a lot of metal grinding on metal in that movie, so I'm sure there's going to be some sparking. But The Dark Knight? "Maybe it's symbolic of the impending doom and chaos that's about to engulf Gotham?" "Yes! Use it for Harry Potter, too! Just switch 'Gotham' for 'Hogwarts!'"

But one can only assume that there's a scene in the new Conan movie where Conan the Barbarian literally tries to put out a fire with his sword.

Sparks: The art department's cowbell.

Never mind. I take it all back. That's friggin' bad ass.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Movies You Should Love

Considering my extensive relationship with the iTunes Store and after reading the Steve Jobs biography, it's very surreal to be able to find me in the iTunes Store. Yet, there I am. For all the world to hear.

It's Movies You Should Love, a podcast that frequent partner-in-crime Loren Small and I cooked up and have been recording for the past couple of months. Loren built a gorgeous site for it, with me contributing the title aesthetic and the faces by John J Salomone (who you can commission to pixelate your face).

Basically Loren and I sit down and examine classic films (specifically AFI's Top 100 list) and try to figure out what makes them so special. It's something we do anyway, often staying up into the wee hours -- we thought we might as well record it and share it with the world. We're definitely enjoying ourselves and we really hope others do, too.

If you enjoy my ramblings here, you might enjoy my ramblings there.

Friday, November 11, 2011

at the mercy of technology

Last Friday we filmed the final scene of episode 5 (not the final scene to be filmed, but the final one the audience will see). I was not in a good place when filming began and I hope I didn't take it out on anybody.

The computer started acting up on Thursday. Thankfully, not the editing computer. But my desktop plays a very vital role in all of this (including, but not limited to storing my 200 GB of music). I had just enough time to transfer the pictures and the scripts off the computer before it completely crashed.

There's few things that will sour my day so instantly as the resolute feeling of powerlessness. There was nothing I could do. The computer was gone. I called Dell, told them the error code I was receiving, and the guy on the other end said, "oh yeah, that's a hard drive that's dying. And it looks like your warranty ran out back in 2010, so we won't be able to replace it for you, but you can buy one from us!"

This was the second hard drive Dell had sent me in the four years that I've been paying off my computer. I'm still paying it off and the thing's already failing. "No thanks, Dell. I'll shop around." It's so wildly frustrating -- actually, there's a word for "wildly frustrating" and it's INFURIATING. I tried to not bring that energy to the set, but I'm sure everyone could feel it.

I sent out a text to all my computer-savvy friends and Loren swung in to the rescue and recommended a good hard drive and hard drive dock, that I might save some of my files. I ordered it that night and come Monday, I was back up and running. In the grand scheme of the things, was it a big deal? No.

But I am powerless without electricity. I am at the mercy of technology. If anything refuses to work, or decides to crap out on me, what can I do? My computer has become an extension of me. Everything I'm doing and everything I'm trying to relies completely on it. As grateful as I am for its existence, I kind of resent it.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Humble Brag

Is it bragging to notice how much you've grown? I hope it isn't, but if it is, I don't care. Because as I sit here editing together episodes 4 and 5 of The Ruffians, I can't help but feel immense pride. Seeing these scenes come together is absolutely thrilling and I really, really can't wait to share them with everybody.

As happy as I was with episodes 1-3, they really don't compare to 4 and 5. Ten months have passed since we began shooting and editing these. I've experimented, I've learned, I've committed to memory. And in those ten months, there have been other projects. Five episodes of You Being You, the live concert video of Derek Webb and Sandra McCracken, and two McKay commercials. It's quite possible that I've done more and grown more in these past 10 months than I did during all four years of film school. I definitely feel more pride over these past 10 months than most anything I did while in film school.

If I had a single piece of advice to any artist, it would be this: Stay busy.

You will not believe how much inspiration comes to you while you're working on something else. You will not believe how much you accomplish in such little time. For reasons unknown to me, the busier you, the more time multiplies. The more you relax and do nothing, the more time slips by you.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Shooting Schedules Are Fluid

Found out last night that one of our actors wasn't able to get off work for the shoot tomorrow. Since said actor is in every scene we were planning on shooting tomorrow, this puts us in something of a bind.

There are only two scenes, in fact, that remain to be shot that doesn't feature said actor. So we are going to push for shooting those scenes, as well as one scene with the actor early in the morning so they can still get to work.

I'm not complaining, but this -- more than genetics -- is why I'm bald.


While we had secured the location for the scenes we still need to shoot, we had secured them for a different day. We weren't sure if we would have access to them tomorrow. But we just word "that'd be fine." So tomorrow will be quite productive.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Restlessness Before the Storm

In the musical Nine there is a song called "My Husband Makes Movies." It has been playing on a loop in my head all week long. Weeks like this make me love my wife all the more. Weeks like these make me appreciate her so much more. Weeks like these make me feel sorry for her.

My husband makes movies.
To make them he lives a kind of dream.

I don't sleep well during production. My brain, which is often a constant playground for thoughts, ideas, scenes, characters, and dialog, absolutely refuses to shut off. I lay in bed, wanting to sleep, but story boarding next weekend's scenes instead.

Some men catch fish, some men tie flies,
Some earn their living baking bread.
My husband, he goes a little crazy
Making movies instead.

The lack of sleep makes me cynical -- which, for the project is okay. The Ruffians is a very cynical and judgmental look at the world around me. It's less okay in my day-to-day life. People annoy me. Society frustrates me. I snap at people. And the lack of sleep makes me a little less guarded and I show me true emotions a little too often, a little too raw. I find myself wanting to lock myself in my car and scream at the top of my lungs, just to see what emotions come out and see what the root of my frustration is.

My husband makes movies.
To make them, he makes himself obsessed.
He goes for weeks on end without a bit of rest,
No other way can he achieve his level best.

I often find myself envious of people who can just go home and do nothing. I wonder what it must be like to get off work, eat dinner, and then relax. Because I don't. I can't. My brain won't let me. I look to the day with equal portions of excitement and fear when my brain relaxes and allows life to happen without trying to make sense of it in a bigger context, or reap interesting nuggets out of it for the current or next script.

Some men read books, some shine their shoes.
Some retire early when they've seen the evening news.
My husband only rarely comes to bed,
My husband makes movies instead.

It's torture, to be sure. But I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

McKay: More

A great way to make the money you need to afford all those wonderful toys is to take on side projects. Observe: The second video in a series that I wrote, directed, and edited for McKay Used Books.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

the bride of episode 5

Two teaser images from episode 5. They are not colour corrected, so expect them to look ever-so-slightly different in the final episode. ;)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Scheduling Episodes 4 & 5

Scheduling might be my least favorite part of the filming process. It might get better, I suppose, when I have money to throw at actors and crew members as incentive for them to leave their jobs, but since I cannot do that, I have to schedule the shoots around everyone's school and work schedule.

One nice thing about episodes 4 and 5 of The Ruffians is that not only are they a two-part singular story, but they use all the same locations. So instead of trying to shoot this in chronological order (by which I mean focusing entirely on episode 4, completing it, and then moving on to episode 5), I am dividing the schedule up by location. We'll be shooting both episodes simultaneously. It's going to be a bit of a challenge come the edit, but it'll ultimately be worth it -- I think.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Breaking Bad & 50/50

Just when I was starting to feel good about myself as writer, I watched Breaking Bad's fourth season finale.

Big mistake.

It is a perfect episode. It is absolutely flawless. There's nothing anybody could do to make it a better hour of programming. The characters, the script, the acting, the special effects, the story, the plot, the twists, the conclusion and the set-up for next season . . .

It humbled me. I know that artists are all different -- because we, as people, are all different. Present a group a problem and each person in that group will try to solve it in a different way. Give a group of writers a story idea, each writer is going to come up with their own way to tell that story. Sure, some structures will be the same, some content might be similar, there may even be identical dialog. But the pacing will be different. The tone will be different. The perspective, the reason, the conclusion, the moral, will all be different.

That is the only solace one can have in the shadow of an episode like "Face Off." It humbled me -- humbled me and challenged me.

I can be that good.

I know it.


I followed this episode up with a trip to the local cinema, where I took in the equally superb 50/50. Tonight just a cavalcade of good writing and excellent entertainment.

The gauntlet has been thrown down.

Challenge accepted.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A Profound Sense of Accomplishment

I like it when a day ends with a profound sense of accomplishment. I don't have enough of them. I have so many days that, at the end of, feel like not enough was accomplished -- or worse yet, were a complete waste.

Working backwards, tonight we had a costume fitting. Bri will be playing Marlena in the next two episodes of The Ruffians and she will be in a wedding dress for most of her screen time (spoilers!). We found a wedding dress for her (thanks to my wonderful co-worker Heather), but Bri somehow always seems to be a little bit smaller every time we see her. She says she's not shrinking, and we are inclined to not believe her, as size can be a relative thing and if she's not getting smaller every time we see her, we're getting bigger. So Kelly had to resize the dress. Bri came over, tried it on, Kelly pinned it where it needed pinning and not an hour later, we had a perfect dress for Marlena.

An hour before Bri came over, I made dinner. It wasn't a huge deal, just black beans and rice with chicken, but the sense of victory over the kitchen cannot be denied.

Leading up to dinner, I was working on a new script -- well, not a new-new script. But a new-ish script. A new script based on an old outline. I wrote an outline for a story that I'm still quite fond of, but I abandoned it upon the release of Inception. There are some very clear similarities between the two and I shook my fist at Christopher Nolan, a little angry that he beat me to it and a little in awe that we had such similar ideas. But with some time having passed, I'm ready to give the story a shot. It is quite different from Inception -- if in nothing else the tone and overall story -- and by the time it gets made, nobody will be comparing it to Inception (ha, as if anyone would have ever).

Fast-forwarding in time to the point after Bri left, I watched the magnificent German film Downfall. I haven't set so still, so enraptured by a movie since . . . well, Inception. It's a fantastic film that everyone should see.

Which brings me to now. I'm taking a moment out from storyboarding the next episodes of Ruffians to share all this with you. I don't do this to gloat or boast, but to share what a good day for me looks like.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

McKay: Books

Behold! McKay Books' first Internet promo!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Mean Man & The Ruffians

How long has it been since the last Ruffians? Three months? . . . Nope. Just checked Vimeo. It's been four months. For a project that I said I wanted to shoot one a month, why's it taken me so long to follow up the third episode?

Two words: Mean. Man.

We filmed the short in the summer of 2007 and due to a long and convoluted story, it was never properly finished. That's been nagging at me for the past four years. Knowing that there was a project out there that I had begun, that I had invested time and money into and it was just sitting there, not being finished, it drove me a little crazy. So I decided that I was going to include snippets of Mean Man in episode 4 of The Ruffians. I was going to reveal that Charlie was something of a writer, working on a spec script in-between kills. It was going to be a somewhat lighthearted episode that would have ended in someone's homicide.

But I couldn't make it work. For the past four months, I have wrestled with this thing. I have tried to make it work and . . . it just couldn't. Mean Man kept trying to take over the episode and this episode of The Ruffians was suddenly no longer about Charlie, Alexander, or their hit list, but about this strange story that Charlie was trying to tell. It didn't make any sense, it didn't fit into the story, but I was relentless.

Until I relented. I finally admitted that it was just a bad idea that needed to go away. I slapped together a montage of the short film and posted it on Vimeo. That way, people could see what we worked on. I could get out from under its shadow. I could move on with my life. And, no kidding, within 24 hours of me making that decision, episode 4 of Ruffians opened up and revealed itself to me.

It's still going to be something of a strange episode, but I love it. It makes much more sense. It's internally consistent with the rest of the show. It's a little metaphysical (something I wasn't counting on), it's a little out-of-the-box, but I like it. I'm moving into pre-production now.

So stay tuned. There's at least two more episodes of The Ruffians headed your way.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Logan's Mean Music Montage

So here's a little something I worked on one sweltering weekend in 2007.

Due to a great many production problems, this is probably all you'll ever see of it -- which is probably for the best.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Vampire Metaphor

I went and saw Fright Night last night and thoroughly enjoyed myself. It was funny, it was scary, it had David Tennant in it and most importantly of all . . . it embraced the vampire metaphor that I find so fascinating.

Anyone who knows me (or follows me anywhere online where I may rant about such things) knows that I've been obsessing over vampires and various other creatures for some time now. I've asked the question, "how much can you change something before it stops being the thing it originally was?" And we've had some good conversations and debates and hopefully very few hurt feelings. Last night, watching Fright Night, I was able to solidify in my mind what it is I like about vampires and why the "vampires" of Twilight don't cut it for me.

The vampire, in my opinion, is a metaphor for evil -- more specifically, a metaphor for the devil. It can be stretched and explored in various ways, with there being an original vampire (Dracula or whoever) and then there also being willing/unwilling subjects of his, but the parallels of the traditional vampire are quite striking:
  1. It is common Christian tradition that the devil cannot create life. That is what is at the root of his beef with God and that is why he is so jealous of us. We can create life, he cannot. In order for him to have "offspring," he has to convert people. He has to infect them. As to with the vampire. It has been explained in various ways, from the vampire not having a soul to the vampire technically being undead, but in order for the vampire to have offspring, it has to infect someone. It has to turn someone. It can't reproduce.
  2. In order for the vampire to "turn" people (or just drain them of their blood), he has to get close. He is often seductive or hypnotic (or tempting?).
  3. The vampire can often hide his true form. Sometimes it's just a matter of hiding his fangs, sometimes there's a complete transformation. Either way, you often don't see his/its true nature until it's too late.
  4. A vampire cannot enter your home without you inviting him in. The same can be said for the devil. If you want to avoid evil, if you want to cast the devil out of your life, don't invite him in. Don't give him a place to stay.
  5. The vampire is immortal (until killed). This goes hand-in-hand with Number 6.
  6. The vampire burns to ash in the light of the sun. Or is that the Son? It's hard to say. This is a metaphor/theme that can run very deep, from living your life in darkness and coming out into the light, to the very simple "the Son will always triumph over the dark one."
  7. Crosses and holy water. Not being Catholic, I'm not sure about the strength/power/whatever of holy water, but I find it very interesting that the cross, or the sign of the cross, has the power to repel vampires. In Fright Night, the hero tries to repel the vampire with a cross, but the vampire just laughs at him, saying that he doesn't have the faith it requires to cast him away -- which is really, really, astounding. The hero understands the power of the cross but doesn't have the faith it takes to firmly stand on it -- and is weaker for it.
Of course this is just my opinion and observations. This is how I like my vampire. This is why I find the vampire such a fascinating character, one ripe for storytelling. When you water it down, you weaken the metaphor and weaken the character.

Every storyteller focuses on different aspects of the character and I don't think all of these have to be present in order for a good vampire story to be told, but I would prefer for writers to either embrace the metaphor or make a new one. If you don't like the vampire metaphor, create a new one. Don't call it a vampire. Call it "like a vampire but . . ."

That's just me, though.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Derek Webb & Sandra McCracken

It looks like I'm going to be spending a good portion of my day tomorrow with Derek Webb and Sandra McCracken, two heroes of mine. I've been wanting to meet Derek for some time now. I've just wanted to shake his hand and say, "thank-you and keep it up."

I discovered his music at a very important point in my life and it has influenced me in truly immeasurable ways. Its his music that gets me through the week. I listen to him in the car and on my iPod. When I'm writing or brainstorming or reading.

For some people it's The Beatles or Bob Dylan or Johnny Cash. Even if I outgrow him or he goes down a musical path I don't care to venture down, for me it'll always be Derek Webb. His style and content was clearly born out of a love for 60's protest music and it has spoken to me, challenged me, brought me to tears, and comforted me in my darkest of days.

In a big, heady sense it was through his music that I was able to define my artistic identity. On a smaller level, it was comforting to know someone was successfully doing in music what I was hoping to do in film.

I just hope I don't make myself look like an idiot.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Alfonso & Beatrice

Just posted an update about that little children's book I mentioned in my last blog. Swing on over to Kelly's and my The Next Chapter to see how that's going. I'll post more here (you need not worry), but due to the content of the children's book (and the inspiration behind it), I wanted to debut it over there.

Check out that gorgeous Beth Maurer art.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Children's Book Needs Illustrator!

I'm using every social networking tool at my disposal (and this blog) to let you know that I've written a children's book and I'm now looking for an illustrator to team up with to make something truly special. Please contact me if you're interested.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Editing episode 4

I'm putting it together and keep shaking my head.

What were we thinking?

Monday, June 6, 2011

Something Personal

Not to say that The Ruffians and Remnants didn't come from the heart, but the next project I work on is going to be something personal. I've been aching to tell the kind of story that first appealed to me when I got into film. Something small, intimate, raw and deeply personal.

I've begun my first draft.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Crafting Episode 4

Episode 4 of The Ruffians is going to be very Charlie-centric. The original idea for the show was that we would alternate every other episode as an Alexander-centric episode or as a Charlie-centric episode. But once the story began to evolve and the characters became better defined, I realized that every-other-episode wasn't going to be the case. Which really doesn't disappoint me at all. I like the direction the story has gone and the next two episodes are really going to be quite fun.

Episode 5 is basically already written (a first draft at any rate) and it concludes this story. There may be more Ruffian stories down the line, but after episode 5, we'll be done for now. I always knew how I wanted to end the story, so I wrote it before I wrote episode 3 or 4. And there were things that came in episode 5 that are now informing episode 4.

I haven't written episode 4 yet, but I've been feverishly working on it. I actually already have hours of footage that I'm working through and editing that will play a big part of episode 4. Once I see how all that edits together, I'll sit down and write the episode and then we'll shoot it. Quite looking forward to seeing the finishing product on this one. We're going to see Charlie's home life in these next two -- which should prove very interesting.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Exporting Episode 3

In the other room, the laptop is exporting episode 3 of The Ruffians and I really couldn't be happier. I was worried about the light, but it looks great. I was worried how it would edit together, but it all came together. I was worried about the sound, but it sounds great.

This episode has some of my favorite moments so far:
  • Alexander switching from tortured soul to man-in-charge
  • The moment Ben softens
  • Sadie's unintelligible retort to her boyfriend
  • Tenika's final scene
This episode might also have my favorite soundtrack so far. I really had to resist using music from Battlestar Galactica (specifically Richard Gibbs' "Goodbye, Baby" from the miniseries' score). It would have been too recognizable to we nerds and would have been too on-the-nose.

It should be up in the next hour or so. Check here and if it's not up yet, check again later!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Rendering Episode 3

There's an on-going joke in the Fogg house that if one wants to know how long a shoot will take, take my estimate and multiply it by three. I don't like to admit it, mainly because I still think my estimates are achievable, but more times than not, this "joke" is really quite close to the truth.

We filmed most of episode 3 on the Monday and Tuesday before the Wednesday the tornadoes hit. That definitely set us back. Tonight we're going to complete the rest of the "car" scene and figure out our plan for filming the opening sequence. I was hoping to edit today, but I didn't count on the 7 hours of render time Final Cut would need to make my video files viewable. So maybe editing will begin tonight. Or tomorrow.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

what's in a name?

I often have a hard time with character names. Names are wildly important to me. Not only does the name have to fit the character I'm creating, it has to be a name that I want to hang out with for the next year of my life. I have unfinished screenplays and manuscripts wasting away on my computer because I just couldn't stand to type J-E-S-S-E again. And sometimes the only thing holding me back from starting a story is knowing the character's name.

I read a book once. I don't remember the name or the author. It was, I can tell you, one of those books where a writer tries to tell you how "you too can become a famous write like me!" In that book he said that names are unimportant. They are so unimportant, that you should be able to assign each character a number. Instead of Frank and Sue, call them 1 and 2. Once you finish your manuscript, do a "find & replace" search and change all the 1's to Franks. His philosophy was that not only can names bog you down, but how can you really know your character until you've gone on a complete journey with them? I understand what that writer was saying, but I just can't do that.

I need to know Charlie before I can write for him. Knowing that this guy grew up being called "Charlie" tells me a lot. Speaking of Charlie, that's the other thing I like to do. I like to pay homages to other characters, friends, and heroes of mine with the names I choose (even if I'm the only one who gets it). Taking the characters from The Ruffians, for example:
  • CHARLIE HAMMOND. I named him after two of my favorite Charlies ever: Charlie Brown and Charlie from LOST. Hammond, however, came from Russell Hammond, the character Billy Crudup played in Almost Famous. I have this theory that Russell Hammond is actually Charlie's father, but we'll have to wait to see if that's true.
  • ALEXANDER GREENE. Originally his name was going to be Xan (though short for Alexander). I work with a guy named Xan who is supremely cool and I liked the name. But Corey, who plays Alexander, preferred going by Alexander. So we went with that. His surname, Greene, came from one of my favorite people from American history, Nathanael Greene.
  • SOFIA TOWNSEND . . . I wish I could speak to this name, but it was the creation of Rachel Komorowski. You'd have to ask her. I imagine it's because she's a fan of short shorts and Stuart Townsend.
I'll stop here because I could go on and on about all the different characters I've named. And honestly, it's just not that interesting (except to me).

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Time Capsule

Just created a time capsule. Come back to this blog on December 6th, 2011 to open it.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Second Drafts and Sound Tests

Stayed up until the wee hours of the morning (4am?) finishing the second draft of episode 5 of The Ruffians. I'll probably do at least another draft of the script, to smooth out and/or intensify one particular monologue, but I like the flow of the episode and don't think anything else will change all that much.

Had to get the oil changed in my car. I was miles and miles overdue for an oil change. So I watched the mechanics work on my car while I chomped on some Krispy Kremes, sipped my coffee, and listened to Never Not Funny.

Came home and did some sound tests. Sound has often been my Achilles's heel and I want to turn that around with Personification. I don't want to ever talk about sound again. I don't want it to be something people talk about any more. I don't want complaints and comments about loud sound, muddled sound, or no sound. I want them complaining about the episodes being too short and too much time passing between seasons. I came to the conclusion that the sound has been so low in past episodes due to distance between the microphone and the actor. Whether we use the H4N's onboard mic or the boom mic, we get great sound -- if we're close enough. So that'll probably be my #1 direction to the sound guy on Monday.

Think I should go mow the lawn now. I'd like to put it off till Sunday, but on Sunday I want to be re-watching Doctor Who (season 6 begins tomorrow night! AAUUGGHH!!) and picking the El Camino for Monday's shoot. So . . . yeah . . . let's go mow that lawn.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Not Writer's Block

It's Not Writer's Block.

I'm not stymied. I'm not facing a wall. I know exactly where my script is going. I know all three of its parts and have already written the first. I'm about to start the second but first I must wait.

Not Writer's Block is what I call the calm before the writing storm. I see the story laid out in front of me, but I cannot progress until I find the perfect combination of words. I need the first sentence. I've written the first visual, but now I need the second. I need the thing that is going to launch the second act -- I believe the thing that will launch the story is a sentence. A phrase. A thing that a previously unseen character will say. He will set the tone for the rest of the episode and I need it to be perfect.

That's where I am. The start of act 2 of episode 5 of The Ruffians. I'm playing the scene out in my head and examining it from different angles. I just need to find the right approach. I need to find the thing. I need to crack the code.

It's Not Writer's Block. It's not frustrating. It's thrilling. It's the writing process. I'd say "it's why I do this," but I do this because I have to. I can't do anything else. I wouldn't know how. Yet, this is the part I love the most. The sometimes slow, often methodical, exploration of character and story.

And it must be done before I can continue. So on the surface, it resembles writer's block. But it's not. It's Not Writer's Block.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Independent Film Scripts

Just finished watching Atlas Shrugged, Part 1. The movie had a smattering a problems -- and while, yes, many of them could be traced back to the book -- they could all be traced back to the script. There is absolutely no excuse for that.

The wonderful gift of being an independent filmmaker is that you don't have producers and studio execs asking questions like, "but what if she had a ditzy best friend? Ditzy best friends are hilarious. You know what's also testing really well right now? Chimpanzees. Can we have a scene with a chimpanzee in it?" These producers and execs mean well, but their interest is attracting more people to see the movie (and thus make more money), not tell a better story.

Being an independent filmmaker means you are in charge of the story. Nothing has to be put on the screen that you don't want there.

There are a lot of corners that have to be cut when you don't have studio backing. Not having the budget of Spider-Man 3 means you're probably not going to have a lot of CG action sequences. You're going to have to be thrifty with your time and money. You might not be able to afford sets, lighting, or film. And so you plan your shoot accordingly.

But you know the one thing that's not affected by the budget? The script. The script is free. The CG antics might need to be reduced and the number of locations might need to be reconsidered, but the story, as it's written, doesn't cost a dime. The dialog can be polished ad nauseum. As the screenwriter, you may have a deadline, and you may be working with people who have a very specific film in mind, but you really have no excuse for churning out a lackluster script.

The script should shine above all other things. The lighting and the acting and the locations should fail the script. The script shouldn't fail the actors. Walking into an independent film, the audience expects not-the-best acting and not-the-best lighting. So impress them with your script. Show the audience why this movie got made. Because if your movie has not-the-best lighting and not-the-best acting and not-the-best sound and not-the-best camera work and not-the-best script . . . then what is there to enjoy?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Nerd Royalty

We were going out to dinner, the wife and I. As we were driving down the road, we passed The Law Offices of Richard D. Malek.

I smirked and said, "Richard Malek? Richard D. Malek? Now there's a Dalek who's not even trying to hide his secret identity!"

I expected a groan. Instead Kelly looked over at me with a grin. "I was thinking exactly the same thing."

I am her Nerd King and she is my Nerd Queen. Oh, how I love her.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

episode 3: the cast

in case you missed it on Facebook . . .

Episode 3: Personification. Starring Corey Newmyer, Scott Fogg, Chris Walter, Rachel Komorowski, Jordyn Henderson and the surprising return of Tenika Dye.

Rehearsals will be on April 18th and 19th and we'll be filming on April 25th and 26th.

Thursday, March 31, 2011


Hello, Writer's Blog. I feel like it's been a while. Maybe it hasn't. Maybe it's just because of how frequently I used to update this blog, my maybe-once-a-week updates seem sparse.

I'm taking a break from my verbal storyboards of episode 3 ("Personification") to share my dirty little storyboarding secrets:

  1. I don't always storyboard. Episodes 1 and 2 of The Ruffians weren't storyboarded. For episode 1, we picked four or five angles from which to shoot the conversation and just went from there. And for episode 2, I let the flow of the confrontation, the actions the actors picked, and the actual location dictate the camera angles and movements.
  2. I can't draw. The best I can muster are stick figures so vague and without form they only serve to confuse everyone involved, including myself. Thus . . .
  3. My storyboards are completely verbal. I take whatever script I'm working on, copy and paste it into a new document, and then start adding BOLD camera directions to the script (sometimes I use colour!).
Episode 3 is a far more visually demanding story than any of the previous episodes have been. There are very specific things that need to be revealed at very specific times in order for the story to unfold in the correct manner. There are certain gags and visual cues that have worked their way into the script. And, for the first time ever, there are going to be special effects. And those special effects have to be shot from certain angles for them to work.

In other words, episode 3 was a beast to write and it's going to be a beast to shoot.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

reflections on 2 as we head into 3

Episode 2 is done and up (if you haven't seen it yet, you can see it here) and I'm quite happy with the way it turned out. As I watched it, I realized that in many ways, episode 2 is the fleshed-out version of the Ruffians teaser we shot. I didn't plan that, yet I really couldn't be happier with that connection. When we shot the teaser, we only had the first script written, but I knew what the tone of the show was going to be and tried to reflect that in the teaser. Little did I know it was going to serve as such a literal blueprint.

There are two parts of "Small Mercies" that I am especially happy with. While I'm happy with the overall product, there are two parts that stand out as special to me -- and these two moments in no way diminish all the other wonderful parts of the episode.

The first is the conversation in the car my character has on the phone with his girlfriend, Marlena. That was a moment I came up with on Monday. We shot everything with Tenika on Saturday night, I started editing on Sunday, and we shot Corey's and my introduction on Tuesday night (along with my moment in the car). Originally, in the script, we cut from Kendra and Alexander heading to Kendra's bedroom to Charlie out in the car, looking at photos of Marlena. He goes to call her, but accidentally calls Sofia (Rachel's character) and hilarity ensues. As I cut together the conversations that take place inside the apartment, I realized that the tone wasn't right for a joke. I still liked cutting out to the car, but having a joke there seemed wrong. So I came up with this little moment instead, where Charlie calls Marlena and leaves her a message. It was in post that I cut the scene up and made it one unchronological moment, instead of an elongated scene that played out in chronological order. I was really, really pleased with the way it turned out.

The second moment was the ending. I cut that together first. From the look(s) on Corey's face, to the sigh of resignation from Lucas, to Rachel's swooping camera work, I really could not be happier with the ending to that episode. It makes me laugh every time I watch it. That might make me a little dark and twisted, but I chuckle.

I write all this as I wait for a part of episode 3 to render. True, I haven't shot anything for episode 3 yet (that comes April 18th and 19th, mark your calendar!), but that doesn't mean I don't have already have something! I'm going to be a little hush-hush with this sequence, because I'm really excited about it and can't believe it's coming together the way it is. When you finally get to see the episode, check out the opening sequence. That sucker is (spoiler alert) four years in the making. That's all I'm going to say about that.

Friday, March 18, 2011


In the spring of 2009, Theo Brown approached me about producing a short film. He was a film student and I was a graduate of the film program he was now working his way through. We had worked on a few other smaller projects before and had bonded through our love of comic books and Back to the Future. For class credit, he needed to serve as producer on a short film. He asked me if I had anything I would like to direct. I immediately thought of Martyrs.

At the time, though, the script wasn't called Martyrs and it wasn't set in Nazi Germany. I had written it a year or two earlier for Ben Mitzelfelt, who pitched me the idea of a short film that could be shot in a single camera take. I wrote him a love story and we went through several drafts of the script together before abandoning it and going with 20Q instead. So when Theo asked me if I had anything, I immediately thought of this script. I took one more pass at the script, sent it to him, and he loved it. We started work on it immediately.

Casting Brianne Johnson and Joshua Michalski (who, in real life, went on to get married a year later) was a no-brainer. I had been wanting to work with Bri again for a long time, after years of performing with her on stage. She was the first girl to audition for the part and was cast almost instantly. When Josh came in and read opposite her, there was no way I wasn't going to cast him. The two of them were so in love it was inspiring. Which meant that the two of them wouldn't have to fake being in love and we could all focus on the meatier subjects of the script.

Filming took place on two separate days at the Heritage House here in Chattanooga. Theo found an antiques dealer who was kind enough to let us borrow some antique furniture. We set the scene and the cameras started rolling. We filmed using a RED, and that thing was a beast of a camera.

It was, ultimately, the most gratifying film set I had ever been on. The crew was amazing. The cast brought my love letter to my wife alive. I loved it. It was perfect.

Then post-production began. For Theo's class we had to have at least a rough edit of the film done by a certain date so that he could get class credit for it. I made a rough assembly of the film and we turned it in. We planned on coming back to the project soon, and giving it the full attention it deserved . . . but the film student life conspired against us.

I was able to create the edit of the film that I wanted, but I was never able to finish the sound effects, nor was able to crop the film down to the proper aspect ratio. Theo wasn't happy with my choice to leave a three minute, single-take shot in the middle of the film. I felt like cutting it would degrade the actors' performance and I just wanted to show them off. We locked horns on the subject and were never able to come to an accord on it. He moved on to other projects and I, not having editing equipment of my own, was powerless to do anything about it.

For those of you interested in constructing a timeline, this was filmed after Berashet and before Remnants.

It is now March of 2011 and I finally have my own editing computer. Martyrs is finally seeing the light of day. The sound in the film's final moments isn't perfect, but I was able to fix the aspect ratio. Finally, you can see it. I hope you like it. The film means a lot to me and the cast and crew put a lot of hard work into it.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Ruffians: Episode 2

and when you're finished with that, the blooper reel:

the music of episode 2

While I wait for Vimeo to convert the movie file, I thought I'd take this time to call extra special attention to all the music that appears in episode 2 of The Ruffians.

The episode begins with Linkin Park's "When They Come For Me," from their A Thousand Suns album. Linkin Park provides great driving music. Nothing's better on the way home from work. I've listened to a lot of Linkin Park while conceptualizing and writing The Ruffians, and have plans for at least one more of their songs in a future episode.

The main reoccurring "theme" of the episode is Christopher Drake's "A Death in the Family," from his score to Batman: Under the Hood. Drake is someone I've only recently discovered, from his excellent work on the DC animated movies. I would especially recommend his Superman/Batman: Public Enemies score, as it was the first score of his I heard, purchased, and then listened to over and over again. His themes for for the titular heroes are top-notch and give hope to a post-Williams theme for Superman.

The music that accompanies Charlie as he wistfully looks at pictures of his girlfriend is Florence + The Machine's "Addicted to Love." I heard this song for the first time on So You Think You Can Dance and haven't stopped listening to it ever since. It is not to be confused with the Robert Palmer song of the same name.

Thomas Newman's "Dead Already" plays under the scene in the kitchen. It's a selection from his score to Jarhead. I listen to a lot of Thomas Newman when I write. He's one composer that deserves to be a household name, but somehow isn't. Everyone knows his music: Road to Perdition, Wall-E, Finding Nemo, and of course, American Beauty. If you haven't taken the time to sit down and listen to some of his work, rectify that now.

Playing over the closing credits is Gangstagrass' "I'm Gonna Lay You Down." This duo may be the single most unique band/group/ensemble/duo I have ever heard. Their bluegrass rap is something to behold. When started watching Justified, I had to find out who was responsible for its opening credits song. It's these guys. Check 'em out. You won't regret it.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Joy of Rendering

Episode 2 culminates in a 30 second sequence that I cannot wait to edit. I'm so excited about how it's going to cut together and how it's going to look and sound, I'm actually going to start there. However, before I can begin editing together those 30 seconds, I have to wait 16 minutes for the video files to render. And that's 14% of the way into the render process. I think it started at something closer to 20 minutes.

I'm actually beginning to enjoy editing. I'm no pro like my pal Loren Small, but I've come to realize that it's in the edit bay that I get to have one last crack at the script. This episode, for example, had 5 drafts to the script. As I sit down to edit it, I'm beginning to suspect there will be a sixth draft to the script. I won't add any lines (though with some crafty ADR, I could), but I might drop a line. I'm actually eyeing a montage right now that get dropped (sorry, Tenika!). But we'll see.

The part of editing that drives me up the proverbial wall is the rendering. I wish rendering existed somewhere else in the process. Maybe at the end. The very end. After I completed the edit and liked the way it looked and sounded. Once I had finished everything, then I would render it and save it as a .MOV or what-have-you. Because here at the beginning it's such a drag. I'm excited to edit, I'm excited to sit down and start the next step in the filmmaking process . . . and I have to wait. Right now I'm only rendering the last five or six shots, so it's only a 20 minute wait. If I wanted to render the whole thing, I'd be looking at a 2 hour wait.


I guess I shouldn't complain. This render time is letting me blog and the rest-of-the-episode render will met get caught up on Glee. So at least there's that.


First part of this blog was posted at 9:25. It is now 10:53. I just finished editing the final sequence, as well as putting together a rough closing credits. It's pretty sweet. Watching it brings a smile to my face every time. I hope everyone responds to it the way I do (with a cruel chuckle). It is now 10:54 and the rendering for the rest of the episode begins. Status bar says it'll take 5 hours.

I say again: Oy.

episode 2, part 1

Part 1 of episode 2 of The Ruffians has been filmed. It was a fun night made a little more stressful when I accidentally formatted the camera card after an hour of filming. Yeeeeeah . . .

Friday, March 11, 2011


Episode 2 of The Ruffians is not going to be pleasant. It's going to be intriguing, but it's not going to be pleasant. It has a couple glimmers of comedy, but overall, it's kind of an icky thing -- which is exactly what I was going for when I wrote it. I wanted to confront the reality of a bad day at work for two hitmen. I wanted to challenge the audience's fondness for Alexander and Charlie. Just because they're the focus of the show doesn't mean you should be rooting for them -- or does it?

I came home from rehearsal on Wednesday night in a bit of a funk. Rehearsal went really well, so well, in fact, I actually found myself affected by what we were doing. I left feeling like Alexander and Charlie were awful, awful people.

And to get out of that funk I sat down and put a final (for now) polish on the first chapter of my young adult book. It doesn't have a title yet, but it comes from a short story that I've been on-again off-again with for the past year. It's about young Arlyn Walsh, a traveller and general adventurer of the Multiverse. I'm quite fond of this little guy already, and I'm only a chapter into his story. I hope this book allows me to write a series of books detailing his adventures, but I can only take it one chapter at a time. And his pluck, wit, and lightheartedness contrasted perfectly with the grey-to-dark matter that Ruffians was. Thanks to him, I slept well Wednesday night.

We film the meat of episode 2 tomorrow night and, quite frankly, I'll be glad to have it behind me. It's a fascinating story to watch, but . . . as I've said . . . not a pleasant one.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

oh yes

can't wait.
can't wait..
can't wait...

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Monday, February 21, 2011

BORING DVD ART: Mr and Mrs Smith

It's not so much as boring DVD art as bad DVD art design. Every time I see it, I chuckle. They're so proud that this is the unrated version of Mr and Mrs Smith, they inadvertently created Unrated, starring Mr and Mrs Smith (as played by Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie).

Sunday, February 20, 2011

BORING DVD ART: The Matrix Revolutions

All the Matrix movies had amazing art campaigns. I was especially fond of The Matrix Reloaded poster series that displayed all the new and returning characters predominately on a white background while cutting off the character's head. There was something really eye-catching about those. It made you want to see more. The Matrix Revolutions poster art wasn't as daring as Reloaded's, but they definitely foreshadowed the epic nature of the trilogy's conclusion.

But then it came time for the DVD art and . . . it was as if they just stopped caring. While the two original movies displayed the three heroes predominately, the third DVD just slapped four of the posters together. And while this does reflect the splintered hodge-podge mess that is the third movie, is this the laziness you want representing your movie? I'd like to call it artistic schizophrenia, but it's really just lazy.

Friday, February 18, 2011


This might have been the movie that made me first ask, "why would you trade this for that?"

The adorable poster art:

The freshman-art-student-who-just-learned-PhotoShop DVD cover:


Thursday, February 17, 2011

what's in a name?

If there's one thing that will stop me cold, it's a name. I need a character's name before I can give them things to do or say. Even if I know what they're going to say and/or do in that scene, I can't write it until I know that character's name. It's the closest thing to writer's block I really struggle with. Names are important to me -- especially if it's a name of a main character. If, what I'm writing becomes something people talk about, who do I want them discussing? Clark and Lois? Han and Leia? Christian and Satine? Also, while I'm writing this, these characters are going to be taking up a lot of time and space in my brain. Do I really want to be spending the next month, months, or year with Craig?

Once a name clicks, I understand the character a little bit better. It's my experience that people not only define their names, but are also defined by them. For example, I have found every Scott I've ever met to be a little weird and I've never gotten along with a Scott*.

But if I was writing a slightly odd character, a sincere fellow with quirky asides, I might consider the name Scott. In lieu of that, as to not appear vain, I'll name him Sean, as it is as close to Scott as I can get without actually using "Scott." The name "Sean" conjures up in my mind, someone who could just as easily be a "Scott." And once I name him Sean, I know how he's going to talk and what's going to offend him. Or, to get away from all this Scott Talk, Rose would deliver a line very differently than Donna would.

So it's all about finding a name. A name that fits my story and the character I have in my head. Once I find that name, then I can move forward. But until then, everything comes to a grinding halt.

Which, maybe, explains why I'm blogging instead of writing.

* I am Scott. You are not Scott. Sod off, Fake Scott.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

cracking the code

I think I just figured out my children's book. It's not a children's book at all. It's a children's book series. I have this twenty-page first draft (outline?) sitting on my computer. I love it to death but have had no idea what to do with it. Then . . . I don't know how to describe it . . . something clicked. I realized what the book was: An introduction. It's an introduction to a character, to a world, and to a growing list of story possibilities.

As soon as it clicked, I knew who the narrator was. I knew what voice the books needed to have. And I like it. And I can't wait to share it with you.


I'm very curious as to how studios view DVD cover art and how that view is different from how they view poster art. I've often seen absolutely spectacular movie posters and then very boring DVD cover art follow it up. Why the change?

Why would you choose to go from something moving and evocative . . .

. . . to something boring and utterly forgettable?

Friday, February 11, 2011

BOOK REPORT: Decision Points

Just finished reading President Bush's memoir, Decision Points. I've read Bob Woodward's four books on Bush's time in office (Bush at War, Plan of Attack, State of Denial, and The War Within) and it is those books that form the foundation of my opinion on our 43rd president. But we must recognize that even the best book -- no matter how well-researched or even-handed -- is one man's interpretation of the facts. It was with that in mind that I picked up Decision Points. I wanted to know what President Bush really thought on certain subjects. I knew what the pundits had said, I remember how I felt on certain topics, but what actually led the president to make the decisions he made?

This memoir is (refreshingly) not written chronologically. Instead, each chapter is dedicated to a particular topic or "decision point." He then explores the subject, what led to it, what decision he made, and what the ramifications of that decision was.

The book is incredibly well-written and is at times thrilling. The chapter in which the president recounts September 11th reads better than any fiction you might pick up. I sped through that chapter, unable to put it down. There were always (and will always) be certain gaps in the timeline of events from that day, but to read where he was, what he did, and what thoughts were flying through his head, all while the fog of war crept in, was -- as I said -- absolutely thrilling.

His chapter on stem cell research was especially poignant. Bush became such a whipping boy by the media that it was refreshing and touching to see how incredibly sensitive he was on the topic. As I read it, I couldn't help but think of The Skin Gun and the man recently cured of AIDS. Stem cell research is clearly effecting and changing medical science and I appreciated the steps the president took in furthering research. While I would be okay with an even more open door policy on the subject, I appreciated that he didn't put the kibosh on it as some would have had him do.

If you've ever listened to him speak, it should come as no surprise that he bases many of his decisions on, as he puts it, "his gut." Throughout the book, we see that his initial gut instinct ends up being the final decision he makes. It was because of his gut we invaded Iraq without first completing our mission in Afghanistan. Sometimes, as he discusses this, he comes off a little defensive, but ultimately, he stands by every decision he made.

What I found most interesting about this book is that it meshes completely with Bob Woodward's account. There is no dissonance. This book works wonderfully as an unofficial epilogue to those books. And I would recommend anyone who's even slightly interested on the topic to make it a point to read these five books. They are good, easy reads that will challenge your view on American politics.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Audition Rehearsal

Just tried something new tonight.

I've never liked auditions. While they are initially exciting, they quickly devolve into boring, unhelpful tedium. I've tried various approaches to auditions, but I've never felt like any of them are terribly helpful. The attributes and talents that make for a good audition aren't necessarily the ones that will make for a good working environment. So I had an idea. I call it The Audition Rehearsal.

The Audition Rehearsal is an audition that is treated like a rehearsal. The actor comes in, is given their script (if they don't have it already), and then, with the other actors, we dive into the scene. We run lines, we collaborate, we explore the characters and their motivations. We flesh everything out. You spend as much time with it as you want.

You don't just "get a sense" for what it would be like to work with the person, you actually work with the person. If the experience is good, and the actor is the right one for the job, you've just had your first rehearsal and are ahead of the game. If the experience is less than good, you dismiss the actor and move on -- and even in that less-than-favorable situation, you still got to hear your script out loud -- you still got to explore the characters. Far less time is wasted.

Granted, it's a process that doesn't lend itself well to a tight schedule. It's something you might want to reserve for the final two actors, or your top pick or . . . whatever works for you. ;)

The audition tonight turned out to be a rehearsal. Episode 2 of The Ruffians is officially underway!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

rockin' episode 3

awesome episode 3.

chilling, creepy, awesome, hilarious episode 3.

oh, episode 3 how I love thee.

Friday, February 4, 2011

stupid episode 3

stupid episode 3.

stupid, stupid, stupid episode 3.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

episode 3, draft 2

Finished draft 1 of Episode 3 last night and realized today that it has maybe one of the worst endings I've ever written. The whole episode is build-up . . . to nothing, apparently. I didn't realize this until tonight as I was re-playing Mass Effect 2. I'm not sure where the realization came from. I was just sitting there and suddenly realized, "that script desperately needs a new ending -- and here it is!"

So I'm off to do that now. Ta.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

wrestling episode 3 into submission

Episode 3 has a name. It is Personification.

Discovering the episode's title made everything about the episode finally come together in my brain. I've always known what was (more or less) going to happen, but cracking that little bit of the code revealed to me how it was going to happen.

Episode 3 is the hinge on which the entire first season pivots. It is my response to every killer-with-a-conscience movies I've had to sit through. It is the heart and soul of the show -- okay, that might be a bit of hyperbole, especially as I consider my plans for Episode 6.

This might be the most work I've ever put into the first draft of any episode -- but I think it'll show. This episode, more than any other we've done, has the potential to be the most memorable and most impressive.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

writing episode 3

It hasn't even been a week and I'm already putting into practice that which I learned from the last episode. Episode 3, which does not have a name yet, begins with an opening sequence that is a bit unattached from the main story -- not unlike episode 1.

I was ready to move on from the opening sequence, type in "TITLE CARD," and move on to the meat of the episode, when I realized I could milk sequence just a little bit more. I could spend just a little bit more time with Alexander and really drive home the point I'm trying to make. One more scene and the audience will truly understand what's going on.

So I did. I spent a little extra time, caressed the sequence, and made it something special. I am now really excited to shoot it and fully understand the beginning, the middle, and the end. It'll be a great sequence and I can't wait to share it with you.

Just . . . not . . . yet.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

New Fogg Blogg

And for my 100th blog post . . .

Kelly and I have decided to start a blog that is dedicated to our pursuit of parenthood. It is called The Next Chapter and I would like to invite all of you who follow me here to follow us there as well.

After much thought, contemplation, and prayer, we've decided to pursue adoption. We'll chronicle all the ins and outs of the process there. If you have any questions about the process, you can ask us there. If you think you can help us, The Next Chapter is the place for you to go to find out what we need. At some point, I'm sure the blog will transform from an adoption blog to a parenting blog, so why not join here at the beginning?

Anyway. It's there and I'd love for you to join us on this next scary, exciting chapter of our lives.