Saturday, December 30, 2006


Damn this cold.

I cannot shake it.

Still - it's somewhat understandable. Doesn't matter how much airborne you jam down your throat. You still can't fight fate.

Here's what I know:

If you travel way too freaking much-
Change your sleep pattern from day to night-
every two weeks -
and then the other two weeks you mess with it by 3 hours a day -
and you continue to climb aboard flying cigar shaped germ carriers -
in the middle of winter -

you will probably get sick.

I am currently taking:

4 sudefeds
2 Tylenols
2 Mucenix
2 Amoxycilens
2 squirts of Afrin
1 can of full throttle

A Day.

And yet I still wonder why it is that I can't sleep or concentrate.

At least I'm going to the Y (2 days in a row) and still reading (finished Children of the Snowmen by Glen Hirshberg at 3:30AM last night) and still watching (season finale of 30 Rock - funny funny show)

And I did actually write a page last night.

Spent the morning in emails to China. Looks like we're narrowing down our choice for a big star... and by "big" I mean affordable.

Going to meet with Ryan to discuss our pages. His 9 vs my 6. Looks like he wins.

Hope to be back in the game soon.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Man... It smells like Up Dog in here...

What's up dog?
Not much. What's up with you?

Big media night last night. Jet lag extends my day way into the night.

Went to the library the other night to try to get the book from which the short story came from my Paramount Producer. That book wasn't in - but another one from the same author was. Started reading it yesterday and I'm hooked on his voice.

Watched back to back to back movies last night.

Monster House for the kids. Had a big fight with my sister in law this summer when she wanted us all to go see the film - but I had issues with taking my kids before I saw it. It was PG-13 - and people were talking about how intense it was. For my kids - who generally aren't scared at much - I still wanted to make it was OK before we went - hence the big fight. I rented it for them last night with the condition that if it was too intense, we would turn it off.

It did get a bit scary - and my son climbed up on the couch and laid in my arms while we watched - but it was also a lot of fun. Don't really buy the big premise of the film - which was some crazy cartoon logic - but the execution was fun. My kids stayed transfixed for the entire run of extras too - explaining the whole motion capture process.

Next was Friends with Money - for my wife. She had wanted to see the film - and I wasn't too excited. It had chatty cathy chick flick written all over it. Much to my surprise - I liked it better than her. While the problems in the movie would be nice problems to have - too much money and the problems it entails - the message of the film was great - that we need to learn to love each other despite our problems. The dialog and acting were about as perfect as can be - and I was just fascinated by the characters. Really enjoyed this one.

Next was the Proposition - for me. Really bloody and moody. Everyone was comparing it to Unforgiven - which is one of my favorite films - but it didn't come close to me. I love the actors in it - but the movie just didn't work for me. I was much more interested in the special features that talked about the climate of the outback in Australia in the 1800's and the problems they had then. There was an interesting film to be made there - and I know a lot of people loved this one - but not me.

I did get a bit more writing done last night. But just a bit.

Today I will get more. I promise. Cause I gots ideas...

Tired of being another fat lazy dog. At least I think I am....

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Ho's Ho's Ho's....

Happy Ho-lidays...

Finally read the short from my Paramount guy.

He sent me the story while I was in China. This guy won't give up on me yet.

He has more faith in me than my agents - who won't talk to me right now. I'm sure the second I have something going - or a wiff of something going - I'll be hearing from them weekly again. But for now they stay silent.

But the story was good. Real good.

A ghost story. Or ghost-like story. It has lots of interesting elements in it. Mostly things that work really well in a story but not in a movie. An interesting premise and a nice ending - although its one we've seen quite a bit of in the past couple years.

But its interesting to note that what sometimes takes place in a story just can't work in a film. Especially a horror - or type of horror - film. In a short story - you can get away with all sorts of vagueness and loose ends that never work in a film. People want A to B logic - and things that are set up - pay off.

In horror - we want to know that the guilty are punished - and the innocent survive. We want to know that even though at this minute - chaos in the universe is unleased - that there is a reason why this is happening - and if we can figure it out - things will return to normal. That when the film is over - we have escaped the terror - even if only momentarily.

The story inspires a lot of thoughts and ideas. But to make a film - the telling would have to stray far from the source material. I don't know if that's good or bad - but its the only way I would know to do it.

Still making notes and gaging reactions. Will have to see where those things lead me.

On a happier note - kicked out 5 pages yesterday. Even though it was at 2 in the morning - it felt nice. I'm trying to enjoy my last few days before all comes crashing down as I head back to the Bay City next week.

Till then - back to the corner for me. Gots to make my paper....

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The best show you've never seen


So I'm slow.

I've tried to watch it before - but just never found the time.

And there is something about this show that demands it be watched all together.

I watched the first 4 seasons of 24 on DVD - and loved it that way. I could always watch 4 or 5 episodes a night and not feel like I was left hanging week after week. But then last season I watched the show each week - and loved that too. Thinking about what was next really played mind games with me all week.

But the Wire is something else.

This is some complex stuff. And its not the visceral emotional grisly stuff you see in most shows about cops. This is intelligent, desensitized, desaturated reality. Its political - intricate - grey - hard hitting with questions that demand - but get no answers.

I don't know how to describe the show - other than I thank God for Jet lag and HBO on demand - cause I went through all of last seasons shows in the last 3 nights. And now I'm left hanging. What's next?

The writing.

Dear God. The show sounds like nothing else on TV. The scenes all feel as if they would be cut out of any other show. They are all inbetweens. The characters - wow. Unbelievable how good this is. And David Simon - only 44. He gathers up all these great novelist to write with him. And it shows.

I'm a convert. And now I gotta go backwards and get the rest - start over from the beginning. It's amazing. Go see it. Study it. And learn.

This show proves what can be done - setting the bar really stinking high.

And I cower beneath the pole.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

And then what?

This business is a fascinating thing.

My mom always comments on how we live a live in flux.

She was telling a friend last night at Christmas dinner how she was kinda sad - as this is the last Christmas my family would be spending here - since we would be moving to SF soon.

I told her not to be so hasty.

We're supposed to move in June. But 6 months is a long time. Lots of things happen in 6 months. Who knows what we will be doing by then. There is no gaurantee we will be going.

And that's how this life is lived.

It's not enough to write a script. Little Miss Sunshine did great this year - but it was written over 5 years ago - and was in active development all that time. It still took 5 years from then to get it done.

My film has been optioned three times. It was greenlit with a 10 million dollar budget. Had two big stars attached. Ready to be filmed in August. Then - nothing.

Now - maybe starting up again.

I was approached by New Regency with a short story. They hooked me up with a producer from Gold Circle. We tanked the story. But the producer still liked me and he tried to help me when the film fell apart. He tried hooking me up with money guys, with actors, with other producers.

Now he wants me to read a short story he wants to do with me. And I'm gonna read it this morning.

I'm 20 pages in on two different stories - and I'm ready to look at a third.

I'm still writing.

Can't seem to give it up.

When I look at the new year - all I see is fog. There is no future yet. I look at it as it is written - 3-5 feet ahead of me at a time - dragging my family kicking and screaming behind me.

While this does make things hard for planning - it's exciting too. What's next? Another year of failure? Or new little successes?

It's all the same. One little victory at a time. Celebrating it one day - and back to work the next. I just have to keep up the work. Not get too grumpy - and keep spitting out pages.

One at a time.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas

The orgy of materialism is abated - if only for a second.

This was just round one - we head over to the grandparents next.

Hard to believe this all started with a little kid in the middle east who couldn't even find a room in the hotel.

Amazing that we celebrate his humble beginnings with the craziness of the season.

And on that note:

Merry Christmas.

And God Bless us - everyone. Whether we deserve it or not.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Excited about Christmas?

Another day before Christmas.

Remember the old days?

Sneaking around the house - digging in closets, looking for traces of gifts to come? Grabbing wrapped boxes and shaking them - playing CSI and trying to figure out the contents?

Now I relive those moments through the kids.

They count the number of gifts and compare who is winning in the total number category. Doesn't matter the content - just who has more.

Each year that I spend in this business - even way out on the periphery - I am still constantly amazed how I have no idea where the year would have led me. From Discovery, to a Feature, to China. Now - possibly out to SF?

Each day I check the weather in three cities. Warsaw Indiana, San Francisco, and Beijing. Might be adding Seoul and Sydney next year.

Right now, I'm supposed to be working on a celebrity list for both China and for my film. I'm having a bit of a hard time wrapping my mind around either.

Sat with Ryan yesterday. Passed him some films - he returned some scripts. We spent some time talking about how he thought the scripts I gave him all had big problems. We talked about how great Little Miss Sunshine was and how the writer did over 100 drafts. Glanced back at the scripts and realized that one of them was by the same writer. And Ryan thought it sucked.

Goes to show we never know the whole story.

I went to my daughter's ballet recital yesterday at the Y. We are a small town here - as I've stated before - and here's a perfect example. We have a pretty famous former NY Ballerina teaching dance at the Y. There were two students in her class. I got to see my daughter dance with her one other student to Silent Night yesterday. Priceless.

My dad is home - thanks for asking. He is stiff - but looking so much healthier. Not sick with infection. Makes recovery much nicer.

Heading off to church. Trying to remember why it is we buy all this stuff in the first place.

God forgive my selfishness.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

From under the Rock

Thank God for jetlag.

My sleep is still in the crapper. Can't really figure the rhyme or reason for any of it. I didn't sleep at all Thursday night - then slept an hour in the afternoon yesterday - to stay up till 3 last night. Would have stayed up more - but Ivy forced me to turn off the TV.

But an added benefit of all that missed sleep is I saw a really great film.

About Midnight last night - I started digging through forgotten classics on Starz. Came across this film Tsotsi. This is one I've held in my hands many times at Blockbuster - and even held the pirated version in my hands in China as recently as a week ago. It's one I've been meaning to watch for a long time - but just haven't ever pulled the trigger.

Last night I did.

Tried to get the wife involved - but she opted out to make necklaces.

And what a powerful film this is. It shot to my top 5 of the year in one viewing.

There is a reason why this won BEST FOREIGN FILM last year.

Gavin Hood - the director - was a lawyer and an actor in South Africa before coming to LA to study screenwriting. He made a short and a Polish film before getting the job of adapting this story written about a young gang kid in the African Ghetto in the 60's - and updating it for today.

It is simply amazing. A powerful story of redemption that took turns I didn't see coming - and plenty I did - but in the most satisfying and honest way possible. All with a cast of complete unknowns.

Sure there are subtitles. But there isn't a whole heck of a lot of talking. Just very simple and clean storytelling unlike most of what I'm capable of.

My wife left her work and got sucked in. She ended the film in tears.

Not me. It takes a lot to melt this heart of ice.

But what a damn fine film. If you haven't seen this - do yourself a favor and go out and get it.

And aspire to more.

Friday, December 22, 2006


You ever watch this show? On the Sundance Channel?

It's supposed to offer up two great artists - interviewing each other about their lives and their art. Paul Newman and Robert Redford. Sam Jackson and Bill Russell.

Fionna Apple and Quentin Tarantino.

Since I have my jetlag back in full effect - I tuned in with great anticipation - seeing as how I love me some Fiona - and really enjoyed Quentin's first two films.

Hell - anyone in film school or into indy film back in the late 80's had no choice but to idolize this crazy kid who came from a video store to do back to back great films.

But what the heck happened?

Watching him in an interview is like watching a train wreck. First of all - they're supposed to be fans of each other and talking to each other - but for the first 35 minutes - Quentin acts like its a show about him - where all he does is talk about himself and what a genius he is and how the world owes him and how nobody tells him what to do - he tells the world what to do.


Fiona did all she could to get a word in edgewise.

They would eventually cut to her talking to an off camera person - pretending it was Quentin - but you know he wasn't in the room or she wouldn't get a chance to talk in the first place.

Quentin talks about how he feels like a fraud because writing dialog is just so easy for him. Its like he has an antenna straight to God - and all he has to do is write.

Wouldn't it be nice.

He said that he knew he would never die living in LA in an earthquake or a car crash because he knew he was put on Earth to make films and God wouldn't kill him before he was able to accomplish that.

Must be nice to be him.

I'm surprised Fiona was able to fit in the room with Quentin's ego...

It's really sad - because I love his films. At least the first two. And now - he just looks like a really freaky coke head uncle that comes to stay for a couple nights and never leaves. He's really fun for the first day - but every day after that is like fingernails on a chalkboard.

Ivy kicked me out of the room to come downstairs cause she couldn't stand listening to him talk anymore. The sound of his voice... Go figure...

I guess this could all sound like petty jealousy - but it is kinda heartbreaking. I want another pulp fiction. I want inglorious bastards. I just don't want to hear him talk about it.

Iconoclast my ass.


Dad came through surgery just fine. Doctor said in all his years of operating - it was one of the worst knees he has ever seen. He was walking in the hall today with a walker.

Miracles of modern science.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Hangin with the Homeboys

Nice to be home.

Last night at 2am I took some NyQuil.

Woke up at noon.


I haven't slept more than 6 hours in at least 3 months.


Trying to get back into the swing of things - but it's happening very slowly.

My dad is in Ft Wayne today - getting knee replacement surgery. I'm off to the hospital with the kids in a few minutes. Haven't yet heard how things turned out - but I pray for the best. He blew his knee out in High School, ran 5 marathons on it - and when he turned 60+ it went out again.

Now he gets a new one. Merry Christmas!

I've got a lot to do. Gonna be rough editing the show for China - and start searching for a big celebrity again. Lots to do and not enough time to do it in.

Still have to read the short story from the Paramount guy. He sent it in Adobe - but it was all sideways - so it makes it hard to read on the computer. Need to print it out.

Also gotta make a new celebrity suggestion list for my film for the Paradigm guys. Apparently, they really love it and wanna jump on it for a possible summer shoot. I figure - who knows. Not near as excited or anxious about it yet - but inside - it seems pretty neato. Not gonna get all worked up till I see some action.

John - my producer - is in the islands for the holidays. He called me in Chicago with the movie news after having dinner with Werner Hertzog. Kinda cool... :)


I'm chilling with the wife. Barely awake enough to do more than chill - but we did laugh a lot today - and for me - that's better than any Christmas present.

Say a prayer for my dad... more later.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Home again Home again

Jiggidy Jig...

In honor of the occassion - Dr Rockso... Just for those who love rock and roll clowns...

Finished off the shoot in style - at a club. The morning shoot at the restaurant went well enough - but I was unhappy with the look. I think in the end it will be fine. The club worked a lot better - but I felt really tired. It was quite a stretch to get to the end - but it sure felt better than the last shoot.

Bill John and I remarked that 7 years ago it sure wasn't like this. Everyday was a fight. This time - everyone was on our side - hoping it turned out good. And it did. I got DVD copies of all the footage - and there's some really nice work in there. All in all - I'm pretty pleased.

Took the boys back to Ya Show yesterday morning - just enough time to fill our suitcases with Santa's Chinese junk before heading back home.

Flight went well enough. Read the latest Lee Child book. Watched the mini finale of Heroes and a Battlestar Galatica episode.

Made it to Chicago - and got a call from my old producer. Seems that my agency is very interested in financing the film - and wants another list of names to go out with. The guy I really want for the lead is unavailible because -

Get this -

He's going to China to direct his first film.

Go figure.

My dog almost killed my daughter trying to get to me last night. Today - all is well. Gonna see my parents for breakfast - and just got done cooking breakfast for my kids.

I have to say it was a good day.

PS - thankfully - Blogger is back in English. No more excuses about really bad typos. Thanks to the three of you who bore with me the last month....

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Pumped up

Little after 4am.

Last two days have actually been very impressive. The locations have worked out - the actors have been great - and with the exception of one scene - I feel as if we have done a really good job.

We have a crack lighting team. Nothing they can't do - and do quickly.

John has been smiling for much of the shoot - just happy that things are going well. He did have a minor breakdown because he lights video off the monitor - and we have three monitors on set. All of them are different. He doesn't know which one is right.

One of the monitors went out on Friday - in the middle of an important shot - and he was running around all upset - going " How do you say "termination" in Chinese?" and his assistant was like - Termination? and John has five cables in his hands - looking around trying to get someone to understand him.

I thought it was kinda funny... :)

Bill has been the most relaxed I've ever seen him on a shoot - and it's not cause he's drunk. He's had a rough time. The night before we began - his grandma passed away - so his thoughts drift to death and life's purpose - which Bill think's a lot about anyways. He's a great guy and my heart goes out to him. In the midst of that - he still has kicked ass.

And besides my cold - where I produce at least 30-40 pieces of wadded up toliet paper a day - I have really enjoyed myself. Sure I flew off the handle a couple times - and made Ting - our assistant cry once - everything has been great. The footage is incredible and I couldn't be happier.

So there.

Off to the last day of shooting. And then off to America and my wife and kids.

I'm feeling very pumped...

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Trust me, I'm fine

Series of meetings yesterday.

Mostly business - and the future shoots for this show. Between the time I got the gig and now - there is a whole new office in Shanghai that is set up to run the business here in China. They brought in a guy from Germany who has lived here a long time to take care of things - but he was brought in a only a month ago - so yesterday we had the "why did you do things this way because we think that's a really bad idea" meeting. Those meetings are my favorite because with hindsight - everything looks a lot different and all of my brilliant decisions can be rendered as idiotic.

Thank you so much for that - yes... I was so stupid and didn't realize it until you were here to point it out to me.

So after a four hour beating - we finally came to some conclusions - mostly that we did what we had to do to get the ball rolling - and moved forward. To somewhat great sucess - I think. We shall see.

Went to the studio and saw our 6 half build sets. They should be really cool. Lots of pretty colors. Might even try to post some shots if I can.

One the way back to Beijing from the studio - its about an hour outside the city - one of the girls from the office in Shanghai told me the number two guy would like to meet me tonight after the shoot for drinks.

I told her I don't really go for drinks - even with my friends.

She said - he just wants to talk.

I said - since we're starting at 6am today - I'll be very tired and still have a lot to get done before tomorrow.

She finally said - he wants to talk about what you're shooting. The script. On Friday night. Before we start shooting on Saturday.


I told her it was a little late for that.

But I do love the fact that there is bureaucracy all around the world.

So today should be great. I think. I hope. I pray. Freaking cold - combined with what I'm sure is the tiniest bit of "healthy" stress - kept me awake most of the night. So I'm facing the day in the happiest of ways...

Back to my life of danger - narrowly avoiding car crashes and well meaning clients...

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Beijing Workout

Don't make me get all Smith and Wesson on your ass. Cause I will. These rocks can hurt when they're coming your way - so don't make me angry. I'll go all crane style on you.

I'm getting sick.

It's coming - like a storm on the horizon. I can taste it in my mouth - feel it at the back of my throat. No sleep and stress don't combine to make Greg a happy boy. Combine it with a lot of small crowded rooms fill with people smoking - and you have a recipe for disaster.

On the positive tip - the scout went well yesterday. Three out of four locations kick butt. The forth with be OK - but we have to drive a long way to get there and it really is just not big enough. But who am I to complain - 75% is a pretty good average.

Today I meet with the Shanghai group to discuss Celebrities more. They have certain feelings - and while some of them are valid - they have no idea how production is done - so this can create a lot of misunderstandings.

While I get to sit in a little room filled with smoke - I'm sending Bill and John to the Great Wall. Last trip here for them 7 years ago - I worked them straight for three months and they didn't get to see anything - so I feel as if I owe them at least a bit of break - even if it is to see a completely reconstructed piece of the wall at the biggest tourist drop in freezing tempatures.

I remember going to shoot in Buffalo NY - one of the worst places I have ever been - in the middle of February. I had never seen Niagra up close - so we drove out there. When we arrived in the parking lot - I left the car running - walked to the edge - looked down - got back in the car and headed to the hotel.

But hey - I saw Niagra Falls...

Tonight- we hit the studio and make sure the sets are what we want them to be. They prelight - overnight I guess - and tomorrow we jump in.

On the writing tip - one of my big supporters at Paramount wrote me yesterday to let me know that Dreamworks is looking for an idea on a certain thing and he wants to work with me on it. So I'm trying to wrap my head around this tired old concept and see if I can squeeze any new life into it...

On the homefront - I am homesick real bad. Nothing I want more than to play Transformers or Lego Star Wars with my son. Sit and draw with Jade. Hang out and laugh with Ivy. Sigh. Enough of that.

Hope your countdown to the holidays is treating you well.

Don't make me come over there and knock the snot out of you... cause I will.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

I apologize in advance

But I can't help myself.
I've been alone for 18 days and all I have left is my manatee...

Shot lists are done.

Tried to watch a pirated Borat last night - and it serves me right - the whole movie was in Russian.

No English.

What was really kind of interesting was that there actually was English Subtitles - that on a whole other "meta" level were not at all accurate - but even more outrageous that the original dialog...

Big scout today.

We hit the ground running - seeing every location in the order of shooting - and then heading back to the production office to bring in all the actors and get them made up and in wardrobe for final approvals.

Should be interesting to see everyone together.

And to see what they did to my scripts. I wrote everything in English - had it translated by Ting - our assistant. She said that I would be very proud of her translations as they were great. But not so - according to our Chinese partner. They are translating it further so that it sounds more like how they would talk.

So today should be interesting to see how they would say some of the slangy things that I wrote would sound in Chinese. Kinda meta too - probably exactly like Borat's shaky English being translated into Russian and back again into English...

Should make for some exciting miscommunication and comedy.

On an extremely different tip - Bill and I had a discussion about Comedy yesterday and its place in theology. What does God think of laughter? What is the point of laughter? Is it the best medicine? Or does it serve the same purpose as drugs?

Is there vicimless humor - because I contend that all comedy derives at someones expense...

If that hurts your brain too much - as it did mine...

Let him who is without sin....

Monday, December 11, 2006

Now why would I do that?

Do you like to be beat up?

Sometimes I feel like the guys on Survivor or the Amazing Race. In same ways - those show are great analogies for production. You are begging for a chance to put yourself in a situation where you basically get killed and beat up physically and emotionally on a daily basis.

And you love it. You beg for more. Because if it was easy - you wouldn't do it. If it was easy - it wouldn't be as fun.

If it were easy - there wouldn't be an stories afterwards...

Yesterday was a somewhat relaxing day. John and I shot listed the school story. Went through the other three and did the basic coverage - but waited till we went to the locations last night to really lock things in.

We went to both the club and the restaurant last night. The club will work out great - I think... but could be a bit tricky... mixing our lights with theirs - getting in and out under 6 hours... same drill... but there is a good amount of space and everything seems to be ok.

The restaurant is the same thing.

I can see why it was so expensive - no one goes. And the food is expensive. Not for back home - but definately for China. It does look great and I think it will be really nice on film. So I hope, in the end - it was a good choice.

I went to the bank to trade about 5 grand yesterday. The biggest Chinese currency is 100 RMB - about 10 bucks - so they handed me huge war and peace size stacks of bills. As I turn to leave the crowded bank - I have this huge amount of cash with me - and all these people starring at me as I try to jam it in my pockets.

I prayed all the way back to the hotel no one was following me.

Today we finish up the shot list. Everything is looking good. Still waiting on a couple Fed Ex packages to arrive and that could throw things for a loop - but hopefully we will be fine.

Otherwise - the train keeps moving. The army has left the country - and war is rumbling in the distance. Just gotta try to bring everyone back in one piece for Christmas.

And not do anything stupid...

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Show me your happy face!

Why do we do it?

It's not like things aren't hard enough in your own country. You gotta go overseas and bear the weight and responsibility of shooting somewhere else in a different language and culture.


Yesterday was a bit trying.

You might say everything is a positive step in the right direction - or you might say that each step you've landing in a big pile of dung. Either way we are now four days from shooting and there is still a lot to do and we don't have the money to do it all. While we are covered for everything now - we are most likely shooting ourselves in the foot for post.

Like shoots everywhere - you go in with one budget and get that budget approved. But as things start to get a little more out of control - the budget goes up. And I haven't ever really come in over budget. I am fanatical about being percise and not spending more than I'm given. Of course now I work at a company that overspends every shoot. Not just to do it - but because they constantly want to make a better project. And the end result justifies it.

I really hope the same can be said for China.

So much of the future will be judged on this set of shooting - so we really have to do a goood job. And what we're doing is so radically different from what they do in the States - who knows what they'll think.

At yestereday's meeting we found out we were going over. Mostly on locations. Some on actors. I ended up eating the location fees for the restaurant and club - and the actors fees should be working out. We shall see.

I spent the morning telling John, our newly arrived DP - just off the plane at 5:30 am - that things were great, that the partners were great, that it would be nothing like our last shooting here - when we hit the meeting and find out that we're already over budget and we haven't even started shooting yet.

I think we took care of the big problems. Now its just the typical little problems.

In the States - we always say to the client - yes. You can have that. But it wasn't budgeted for - so it will be more expensive. So they know their choices. Here - they don't say that. They say - Whatever you want. It's all good. And then tell you later - after you choose - that you went way over the budgeted amount.


Well. On one hand we're learning. On the other - it can get frustrating. And yet - I'm still excited about the shoot. The locations we paid through the nose for - even by US standards - like US $1000/hour - are beautiful. I hope they look great on camera.

We finished casting today. For anyone who thought Chinese men were small - we saw at least 6 guys today who were all over 6'5. Giants. They could barely fit in the room and the wide angle lens couldnt fit them into the frame.

The two styles of acting - Chinese and American - couldn't be more different. We like an understated, natural delivery. Here - they can't tell that's acting. They want big, broad, over the top - show me your happy face - type stuff. It hurts my heart to watch it. But watch it I must - and contextualize it I must. And cry myself to sleep at night I must...

Today all locations are locked. I'm doing the shot list - John's going to the camera place to pick his lights and his lenses - and Bill is working with the art director on the final sketches. Friday we put on the big show...

Might actually get some writing done later if I'm a good boy and buckle down on what I'm supposed to do now.

We'll see... :)

Till then... Here's my Segal Happy face.


Saturday, December 09, 2006

Happy Dance

Feeling good today.

Maybe it has to do with the fact that I'm actually getting a bit of sleep.

Instead of the customary 4-5 hours a night I had for the first week - I suddenly passed the 6 hour mark and even slept 7 hours on Friday night.

Woke up at 5:30 today - but it was a good feeling. At least it wasn't 3...

Went to the lobby and met John - my intrepid DP who flew in all night from LA. He told me that George Clooney and Don Cheadle were on his flight and he saw them hanging out at the baggage claim. What the heck are they doing here?

We did a bit of location scouting yesterday.
We saw 4 office spaces to shoot in. The most of any location we asked to see. And this after the art director here told us the first choice we saw was the only one. And it sucked pretty bad.

Jade made a call and suddenly we were in an architectural firm and the place looked great. Easy choice.

Today we sit and lock in the four locations, look at the set designs, lock in lights and lenses, narrow down the actors, and get ready to jump in on Friday. It's always a race that runs down to the last second in production - but with Bill and John here and my crack team of Chinese experts - I feel as if I have plenty of arrows in my quiver. Just can't really see the target yet....

Did I mention that I love China? This is a great place and the people are amazing. Each day, my Chinese comes back a bit more and I feel really good. I like it here - the only thing I don't like is that I'm not with my family. That really breaks my heart.

Been too busy for any writing or movie watching - but I hope to remedy that.

Really. I'm not kidding.

Till then - I'm smiling. And doing my happy dance.

Next time I promise to wear pants.

Thursday, December 07, 2006


...And how.

Let's put a couple things on the table.

I grew up in Taiwan.

I speak Chinese.

I am white.

And one more.

China is not Taiwan.

Yesterday was a really long day. Met with the new guys from Shanghai that are taking over the business in China. While I don't answer to them - I do answer to them. Now there are three opinions as to what we should do in China coming from China. And then two more groups back in the States - not to mention my Chinese production partners.

I start to feel like taffy.

As a director - one of your best characteristics is decisiveness. You tell others what looks good - what you want - the quicker the better. Here - it's not to be.

While a part of my insides belong to China - I am still 98% a white guy who has spent a lot of time in Asia. My ideas of color and beauty and everything are not the same. To do a commercial here for Chinese audiences is not the same. So I spend a lot of my day taking what I like and throwing it out for what they like.

In the end we will hopefully have a product that no one likes... :)


Yesterday we held auditions. This is for Models - who are required to do some acting. The ones I thought were beautiful - they thought were ok. The ones that they thought were beautiful - wouldn't warrant a second glance in the States. The ones that could act usually had bad skin, the ones that had great skin couldn't act, and the pretty ones usually couldn't do much but smile.

One the the assistant directors were running the audition. Every time an actress would come in and do a really clean, relaxed and natural reading - he would direct them to over act and act cute.

This is what the Chinese want - or are used to. It makes me wanna puke.

But who is this for? It sure as hell ain't for me. And the guys from Shanghai want to go even further. Sillier and more emotional.

It's kinda like taking everything you love and subverting it to what you consider bad. But in reality it isn't bad - its what works for another culture. So it's not that its wrong or bad - its just different.

So all day every day - besides questioning every creative decision - I'm also working in two languages - and to top it all off, I can't sleep.

This is starting to feel like a Chris Nolan movie.

Still waiting for the big ironic twist...

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Smart Ass

Last night was quiz night in Beijing.

Let me step back by saying - as you get older - and you have kids - your social life evolves.

That means a desparate race takes place each school night where you attempt to get the kids to their various activities, get them home, get their homework done and checked, practice their various instruments, watch a couple cartoons, read them a story, and try to get them to bed.

Usually by the time they go down - you're ready to go down. Because you're that tired.


In Beijing - I have no kids. The wife is doing that duty. And - I CAN'T SLEEP. So I have added to my normal routine here of work work work two social activites. One is basketball on Friday nights. The other is Quiz Night at the Bar Blu.

Jade, my project coordinator here in Beijing - loves quiz night. Not just because you get a big bottle of booze when you win - but because... Ah Hell - she loves the booze. And she also loves that I don't drink any.

I have to say that I have a ton of room in my head for lots of useless information. Most of it involving music and movies. I do pretty good at most trivia - although not on the uber geek level required for the World Series of Trivia - as shown in my earlier posts...Where my team and I quickly washed out in the audition round.

But here in Beijing - I do OK.

The first time I went to join the "team" there were about 20 of us. And there were three other teams. We had the biggest team by about 12. And some of the guys bring their girlfriends who speak no English. So out of 20 - only about four of us did the heavy lifting.

This is an international affair - as the Quizmaster is Brittish - as so the questions don't all apply to the US - which makes little sense to me as I can't understand what important happens outside of our shores.

They started with a world maps round, followed by a movie round, a music round, a current events round, and wrapped up with a general knowledge round.

That night we took first place - a big bottle of vodka. As it came, I left.

Last night was the first in a month that our team went back. They are happy I'm here - cause I do well with the movies. But sometime between then and now - the whole quiz night thing has blown up - including a recent cover story on the English magazine here in China.

When we arrived - they had to set a special table far away from the booths that normally host the game - because there were so many people. Instead of four teams - there were 10. And the place was packed.

Even worse.

Jade's sister - who works for a news service - had just played in a charity quiz event where they took last place - saw the team that had won that night. They were here.

The only saving grace was that tonight was a theme night.

ALL 80's.

First round - we breezed through. 10 out of ten. It was pictures of 80's stars. My biggest contribution -


Seems that knowledge of rap and rap stars is scant in Beijing. Later in the music round - I correctly identified Slick Rick - which no one else had heard of.

The movie round was tough. We did great though - naming all the Heathers in Heathers, coming up with the fictional town in Illinois that John Hughes uses in all his movies, and the director of Big. We failed to find the actor that ties Matrix to the Goonies.


The music round was tough. Most of it was name the next line in the verse of different songs - and even though we knew all the songs - the lyrics are not the bright spot of 80's music.

We were tied for the first two rounds in first place.

After music - we were one point back - but three ahead of third place.

Going into the last round - we were down a point. And it was to the team that won earlier in the week.

Once it was all said and done - we found out we were tied. And there was to be a tie breaker. And for the tie breaker only one team member can participate. And it had to be a female. And it was to be a drinking game.

Jade's sister jumped at the chance. Watching her all evening - I figured it was in the bag. Unfortunately - it was over before it began - as the other team not only was smart - they had a girl who should have been in the movie Beerfest.

She literally put down a pint of beer in under 5 seconds. Jade's sister didn't even get the top four inches of her drink down before it was over.

So we lost in the tiebreaker. And instead of a bottle of vodka - we get two bottles of wine. But they love us all the more - because Bill and I took our leave before the wine arrived - giving them all an even bigger cut.

Wow. So this is what I've been missing with kids... :)

Anyways. It was fun. And there's always next week.


Sad to say - even going to bed at Midnight last night - I was up at 4:30 this morning. And yesterday - after sleeping the most I have in a week - I was druggy all morning. My brain couldn't function that well - which is even harder when you have to translate Chinese all day.

Hopefully today will be better. We auditions our actors today - and I meet with the business guys from Shanghai.


I miss my family.

What I wouldn't give for one crazy night of towing the kids to their various activities, doing their homework with them, watching some Avatar and Spongebob, and reading them a story before tucking them in bed.

The return home countdown begins: 11 more days.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

I poop toast

What's your superpower?

Thanks for all the suggestions on how to sleep. Although the drugs are no longer working - and Emily's thoughts about hiring a big man with muscles to clobber me each time I woke up - were very kind - and even though I did wake up at 3:30 this morning - I actually fell back asleep until an entirely respectable 6 am today.


It was nice! High Five!

And the quagmire was broken. Had a really nice talk with the powers that be and they were fully supportive and actually excited about our ideas and were interested in seeing how they were being carried out.

So we're back in business.

Location scouted most of the day yesterday. Although we did start out with a little trip to buy a new camera. Director Hu has brough 8 of his friends to a little out of the way camera shop to purchase a new Panasonic Digital Camera called the Lumix LX2. Very nice little piece that I added to my arsenal. Thank you perdiem... :)

We went to three or four Chinese dance clubs and a few restaurants searching for the right ones to shoot in. Don't think we've found them yet... but I feel as if we're getting closer.

Today is a big meeting with everyone - including wardrobe and make-up - to make sure we're on the same page and getting ready for next weekend. I turned in the last script for the shoot - and we are moving on all fronts. Just not sure where yet... but moving nonetheless.

Evening ended here at the Executive Level Happy hour with Bill downing a couple glasses of wine, Jade knocking back two or three Absolut Citrons on the rocks, Ting cleaning up three plates of appetizers and me drinking orange juice and telling stories of our first TV series here in China.

A fun time was had by all.

On the DVD front:

Almost finished with Season Two of the Office. Very Nice. A bit uncomfortable - but great. Watched Todd Field's Little Children. Not a fun movie - but WOW. This guy is a filmmaker. You don't have that happy feeling in your stomach when its over - but it is a great film.

On the Movie front:

Rising once again like a Phoenix from the ashes:

My film is back out again. Agents actually talking to me again. And it's going to my top choice of an actor. For the first time. It'll be interesting to see what happens as a result of this... but for now - I couldn't be more happy. I've seen it grow, get green lit, have a start date and all come crashing down - but there is still a little hope left in me - and seeing it start up again makes me smile.

SO - now its time for breakfast. Right after I pinch this loaf....

Monday, December 04, 2006


Do you love bureaucracy?

If you do - you'll love production. It's so full of it. And by it - I mean

There is many reasons why I've worked as much freelance as I have through the years. I usually don't work for the money - and I try not to take full time jobs as that makes you beholden to the money and the whims of management.

The bigger the company - the bigger the bureaucracy.

And it's entirely understandable - because the bigger you are, the more you have to lose....and so there must be systems in place to protect you and to CYA as much as possible.

And so the interesting situation that you often find yourself in - especially in commercial work because there is so many opinions to be found - is that things are constantly in a state of change because of the difficulty of getting the key decision makers to make a decision.

This also applies to film and TV - but money can be more of a factor there.

I came here last Thursday to start this shoot. I was told on Saturday that the only shoot that I went on in the states to use as a model for what we're shooting here - might not have been the best shoot to use as an example. They wanted to set up a meeting with me on the phone to discuss why I shouldn't do things that way - but they couldn't do it till Monday.

Then Monday became Tuesday.

Then Tuesday - Wednesday.

And we are in the middle of preproduction and location scouting and casting.

So the machine is in motion. But the machine can always be stopped.

(see above picture.)

I think I might feel different if I could sleep. Every night to sleep and no matter what time I go down - 1am, 8:30pm or 11pm - I still wake up at 3:30 am and can't go back to sleep.

Thankfully - I have the pirated version of the American version of the Office to keep me sane.

Laughter can be the best medicine.

Just fake it one day at time...

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Form of.... Loser!


Even though it's a little after 3am-

And I can't sleep another wink -

And I am simultaneously watching Val Kilmer in the Saint on HBO Asia

And following the feed of the Indianapolis Colts game on AOL -

I swear I am not an uber-geek.

Time to Man Up and face the day.

WonderTwin Powers Activate!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

the losing fight against technology

Bill arrived last night.

I find that when I am on the road anymore, I tend to gravitate to my hotel room. I'll get a couple movies, write, and basically stay out of trouble. Expecially when its cold. When it's warm - I love to walk around the city. 4-5 miles a day. But now - its too freaking cold out to do much... so I stay indoors and lock myself away.

So it's nice to have a freindly face here to force me out of my little shell.

Bill and I haven't been in Beijing since 99 when we did our TV series here. Next week, John, my DP comes back. And Shawn - now a big wig International Project Manager, has a trip planned to New Zealand and might stop by here on his way back.

Reunited and it feels so good...

This city is amazing and I feel as if even when I'm gone for two weeks, the whole place changes.

We are going to meet with the Assistant Director and the Art Director today. The assistant director in China is responsible for all the casting. This is obviously different than at home where we actually have a casting director - but so be it. Here - the art director is also in charge of locations - which in the states we actually use a location manager for - but it seems to work here.

Bill has been my art director for over 10 years. He is incredible - when he's not busy being an ass - although he would probably say the same thing about me... well -maybe not the incredible part...But it will be fun to see how he works with the art director here. Our experience last time was such a nightmare that I'm really curious to see if its better now. It seems like it will be and I can't imaging anything ever being worse than that first shoot.

Bill and I went out for Indian food last night. Had a huge meal - more than we could eat between us - and then went over to the local DVD store - where between us - we bought 29 DVD's. Pitful huh? I got a copy of Children of Men - which I almost went to the West Coast Premiere of when I was in LA a couple weeks ago.

After spending 15 minutes trying to change the default audio track from Russian to English - I got to see a really enjoyable film. Clive Owen is really great - and the film has some amazing stuff in it. I wouldn't go as far as Jeffery Wells and claim it to be the movie of the year - but it was really good.

And then I slept through most of the night. Still only about 5 hours sleep - but it was at the right time. Go figure.

Woke this morning to start writing when I got a call from Bill.

His computer is down. With all the pics of stuff to show the Art Director. And the strangest part - HE HAS A MAC. So its off to try to find the new Apple store here in Beijing. And see if we can get his computer fixed.

Then off to the meetings.

(for the typos in this post - forgive me. Blogger for some reason came up in German here today - and it recognizes every English word as a typo. Perfect!)

Friday, December 01, 2006

Hungry much?

Took my sleeping pills last night - but they only worked part way.

Woke up at 3. Wanted to sleep again - but my brain started racing around the ideas I'm working on and wouldn't let me settle down.

So here I am.

Arrived at 4 yesterday. Uneventful trip - just narrowly escaped Chicago before the snow storm. Slept most of the way - but did have time to watch one movie - INVINCIBLE - on the plane. WOW! I am a sucker for emotional films - especially when away from the family - and I found myself getting a bit teary during a couple scenes. Great movie - and it's just barely about football. Can't wait to watch it again...

Wow. Can't believe I said that... :)

Also watched the Matador yesterday during my 5 hour layover in Chicago. Fun film. Weirdly structured - but great performances from Pierce and Greg.

I was going to join the Director as soon as I hit the ground for the annual Friday night Basketball game - but it didn't work out. I got dressed and went for a cab - but there was some sort of big wig shindig here at the hotel and the cab line was long. I waited for 20 minutes - and froze to death. Dang it's cold here. The wind comes down off the Gobi dessert from Siberia and freezes everything in its path.

Me included. I just went back to the room and fell asleep.

Today we have a morning meeting on the state of the shoot. Bill comes in tonight and I get him to hook up with the Chinese Art Director and we'll see how things work.

In the mean time - I've been writing again. And I'm going back to it now.

More from China later....