Film

Imagination: The Theft of Fire

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The imagery that surrounds us today are all worn-out, played-out, out of touch. It feels the same every time—every visual, every texture, every sound—to the point that we don’t even blink anymore. We just go through the motions because we know exactly what to expect.

And we start loathing it and we stop caring.

Today whether you go to the movies, you listen to the radio, you turn on the TV, or turn to speak to the person next to you, it seems like they are all saying the same thing—the same stale and sterile, tried and tested, mass produced and mass consumed opinions.

Twenty-first century media might have brought light to the world, but it doesn’t bring fire. Cautious objectivity is the job of machines and scientists, but we are a different animal. Light may illuminate. It may even bring peace, clarity, enlightenment; but light doesn’t bring fire. Fire is different. Fire burns. Fire is passion. And just like the fate of the rebel Titan, Prometheus, fire is something that is forbidden and something you can get punished for. Simply put, fire is truth because fire is risk. (more…)

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Creativity: Interludes of Madness

tuesday-madness-03You look out the window. It’s not yet the end of the world but you can see it from there. You know you’re all alone and no one’s around. Your eyes gleam lunar wild and you lock the door because you start to hear the gremlins and goblins come out. Suddenly you notice that the rug is actually made out of Ewok fur and you hear the cat outside, plotting your demise because you haven’t fed it for two days straight. You feel the rush of natural morphine, seeping and swelling in your veins. You feel the circuitry in your brain sparking and glitching. Soon you begin talking to yourself, arguing and changing sides. You’re sampling again, medicating in darkness, invoking secret passions and fears, and becoming conscious of the level of sex and rage you’ve tried so hard to lock in. But despite all of this you feel safe in the danger because you know that it’s all yours. In fact you think it’s wonderful, freeing and necessary. You hiss and fret and laugh, and soon you’re happily greeting the madness with bared teeth until someone knocks on the door and the shadows slip away. (more…)

The Tarantino Effect: Don’t Leave It To The Judges

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The question came for Robert Rodriguez.

“Do you think it’s still possible for an upcoming filmmaker to go the route you guys went and still be successful?” An aspiring filmmaker asked. It was Comic Con 2006 and “you guys” meant the panel of Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, Guillermo Del Toro, and Sam Raimi to name a few—all of whom were once broke, undistinguished, Indie filmmakers.

“That’s a good question,” Robert answered, obviously at a loss for delivering some sort of hopeful advice. “Times have changed.”

But then, Tarantino, who was sitting right next to him, butted in and said, “Uh, make Reservoir Dogs!” Quentin laughed at his own comment and so did Robert. “Actually,” Tarantino added, “I’m not even being a smart ass… you make a goddamn kickass movie, and you can take it all over the fuckin planet earth and everyone’ll know it!”

The audience cheered and applauded.

Robert then defended his stance, stating that things are harder today because there’s just more competition. “Everybody’s got a camera, and everybody can edit, it’s just tough.”

“Yeah, but you know,” Tarantino cut in again. “There’s a lot more competition, but those crappy movies aren’t competition.”

I never forgot that interview. And through the years I’ve heard mixed reactions about what was said at the panel. Some say Tarantino is full of it, that he’s arrogant and vain and he’s really not a good filmmaker. Some even went as far as to say that, the only way to make it in Hollywood is to “suck up to some rich Jews who control the system” etc, etc. I consider such comments weak and insecure, and those who advocate them deserves to be scheduled for a session of chemical castration. I mean these goofballs would have you believe that Tarantino just got lucky, and that luck replaced the daily blood-drip of hard work and dedication. Never mind the fact that the guy once spent three years shooting an independent feature over the weekends by funding it through working in a video store; never mind the fact that he had consistently written and networked and shot with nothing working out for him for ten straight years, and still kept at it; and never mind the fact that he has earned both wealth and acclaim by starting out with no money, no guarantees and no complaints. Furthermore, as for throwing the word “arrogant” around, keep in mind that “arrogance” comes from superficial self-importance and ignorance. If you’re familiar with the indie film scene, you know that this industry is plagued with people who start projects and never follow through. I think we can all agree that Quentin can walk his talk. He knows how to drive that sword to the hilt. Besides, “modesty” might go a long way but let’s not forget that it is also a pretext for insecurity, for fear of backing up what you say you’ll do, and for diffidence in standing by your principles without the support of a crowd, group or organization. But such is the ideology of the hopeful nonparticipant, which goes like this: “As long as the system is corrupt and the people that are in it are also corrupt, then I am not a total failure.” Because at the end of the day, only those who show up and finish what they started get to feast; the rest can hate, complain and fight over the leftovers.

Now I’m far from a Tarantino fanboy (though I regard him as a legitimate, modern great), but his statement assures me. It assures me that the system works and we, as indie creators, still have a chance. Despite all the marketing and the committees and the compromises, I still like to think that the craft, in its most basic state, is still pure. Because to me, a good piece of work is like a knockout.

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A knockout is independent of the referee’s arbitration, score-cards or panel judges. There’s no trial, objections or debate. Irrespective of previous dispositions, biases or whatever, everybody who saw it cannot dispute what just happened. In the same vein, a good film doesn’t need big-budget special effects, a star-studded cast, or film awards; it just needs to be undisputed. It just needs to be good.

As a hungry neophyte coming up, I believe that breaking the difference and passing through the trials from amateur to pro must be the young filmmaker’s priority. Should one attain this in their technique and work ethic, the rest should be promotion.

Don’t hope. Make sure.

 

Learning to Unlisten

sweetmadness2We live in a noisy world and a noisy time. Even the silent moments of today are filled with noise—filled with a stream of videos, podcasts, blog entries, updates, tweets and texts. Most of our everyday lives are guided by councilors, classes, and curriculum. Our outlooks are influenced by forums, workshops, groups, guides and gurus. Our decisions are ruled by opinions, options, suggestions, and education. There’s all sorts of schooling, training and guidance out there. In fact, there’s an instruction manual for everything even on how to live your own life.

The only problem is: it is written by someone else. (more…)

The Danger of Holding Back

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There was a flash of leather in my face and suddenly I was looking at the ceiling. When I looked back down, the bastard was already moving to my right. And when I turned to follow him, he just stabbed me again with another jab to the face. I felt something burst behind my front teeth and then something warm leaked down my nose and into my mouth. Ten seconds into my first fight at King’s Boxing Gym in Oakland, CA and I was already on the rag.

Served me right.

Two weeks after joining the gym and I was already salty. I wanted some action. But the coach wasn’t letting any newbies spar. Nevertheless I insisted. In my arrogance I figured, “hey I fought for my high school’s karate team and I didn’t do no pussy kata’s either (the display of posture, patterns and movements), I did kumite (competitive fighting)!” But this was not karate where fights lasted in two to five second blitzes; this was boxing, a three-minute, all-out, fast-paced hell with just you, your opponent, and your inadequacies. Needles to say, I wasn’t ready. I lasted two rounds because my opponent (this “white boy” I thought I could bully) bestowed mercy upon me.

Sitting in the corner—heaving and humbled—this little black girl came and began wiping the blood off my face. “You did good,” she consoled me. She was probably one of the gym residents because she obviously knew what she was doing. And she knew what I was—a beginner, an amateur. At the time all I had was ego, not pride. And there’s a difference. Pride is earned, ego is for free. (more…)

Generation-R(onin)

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Gone is the age of Kings, of Royalty and Executives. Gone are the days of being tapped on the shoulder and becoming “discovered.” Gone are the studios, the record labels, and the idea of Hope because now man can lay claim on his destiny once more.

Free of institutions, titles, and guidelines, the ronin wanders as a rebel and a vagrant. A vagabond in the eyes of many, he has long ago thrown away the dagger and the plate, and now carries with him the strategies and tactics he has acquired from his former academic lords. Masterless and socially adrift, he climbs heavenward into the clouds on the back of the serpent—the ancient star-spangled snake.

Hurled into the centrifugal force of Wall Street and cyber space, he is instantly met by a stream of dedicated non-thinkers on TV: the depraved and debased cynics, the bile-faced despisers, the castrating thundercunts, and the love anorexics who sell confidence-boosting suppositories to the masses of the walking dead. (more…)

21st Century Censorship: Designing Decent Men

censored__by_khos_prinzAndy Schneider was a decent man, a swell guy. Yeah he had some alcohol problems back then, but so what? I mean he ain’t no Christian at the time but he was certainly into guilt, which made things much easier. Whether it was a stroke of luck or a twist of fate (so to speak), Andy eventually met Jesus at the bottom of a Cutty Sark bottle and married a meek Asian woman named Susan Cho—a good woman. Why, the first time I saw her she kinda reminded me of that song—your mama don’t dance and your daddy don’t rock n roll—which was a good thing of course. There’s a lot to be said about a woman’s clothing in relation to her respectability after all. Not to mention, Susan was very progressive—she buys coffee beans above their market value, observes “No Meat Mondays,” and bags her groceries using recycled materials.

Andy was indeed a very lucky guy. (more…)