Sunday, October 4, 2015

The last post on the blog...Forever

It's over. Done. Kaput! Finished!

The Up on the Roof LLC blog is no more.

Why?

I've moved to michaeldfield.com! Check it out. Bookmark it. Love it! Like it? Be okay with it?


Monday, August 31, 2015

You're Owed Nothing

You're not owed a damn thing.

This used to be the unspoken way. Not any more. Before you chalk this up to an old coot railing against the youth and their talented ways, just shut-up. You don't know any better. In fact, if you are a a young, talented person, I'm saving you from embarrassment. Because if you happen to create something and people notice, you'll immediately be shoved into the forefront full of opportunities. And maybe you'll succeed and good for you, if you do. But the odds are not in your favor. Most likely, you'll fail. Not the train-wreck type of failure we sometimes bear witness to, but rather the failure of mediocrity.

That kid of failure where you'll hear people say: "It was okay" or "could've been better." If you're curious, those are not considered glowing reviews. Nobody wants to hear that. Even the great Bill McNeal of WNYX knew mediocrity was nothing to write home about.

Sometimes, it's as simple as you're just not ready to tell a story. I wouldn't have been able to write a noir-adventure set in 1940s back when I was first starting out to write. Well, I would've written it. It would've been awful and full of clichés. Spielberg famously surmised that he waited ten years before making Schindler's List because he wasn't ready to tell that story.

We're on a tangent now. I was telling you how no one owes you damn thing in this world. You like to tell stories? Good for you. That means shit to a producer. You like to act? Awesome. That doesn't mean you get the lead. You have a fondness for painting a scene with light and shadows? Congrats. Now get to that c-stand and knuckle up that damn light.

Here comes some old man speak: We've developed a generation of people who think that just because they say it, it must mean it's true. I'm happy that you write and perform your own music, but you're still not good. You have to earn the right to play alongside the professionals. You have to do the shit gigs, play for no money, intern for some dirt-bag producer to learn the ropes of the business so that when you get your deserved chance, you know what to do with it.

We value and honor youth for no reason other than they are young and they did something that turned some heads. But it's not about turning heads. It's about having something meaningful to say. It's about being able to tell a competent story with a clear cut message and make every single person in that auditorium talk about your work after they leave the theater.

Now, I'm not implying that there's a specific way to earn this right. It differs for everyone. Whether you're mentored by a professional or simply worked your way up the ladder in your chosen field. It's all the same. Much like Private Ryan was tasked with earning his life after Captain Miller and his squad sacrificed theirs for his, you have to do the same. Earn it. Earn it for your parents patience. Earn it for your spouses support. Earn it for your friends that gave up their time so you can shoot a scene on top of a roof.

You're not owed a damn thing. Stop acting like the outcome you want is the outcome you should get, because whether you earn it or not, you're going to get what you deserve.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Rejection

Rejection sucks. Am I right? No one likes hearing "No." I know I don't.

In respect to submissions, I love getting the rejection letter from a festival or publisher where I'm extolled for being a writer and working hard on my project and then I'm dropped the "unfortunately" and I get another four sentences which should just be summed up with a  "Thanks, but no thanks." Honestly, I'd prefer the "Thanks, but no thanks."

I recently exchanged emails with a literary manager and while none of my scripts caught his fancy, he kept it short with his rejection. It was much appreciated. I don't need the pampering before the let down. I know some need that, but I don't.

Rejection is part of the business. A huge part of the business. Those two letters may only produce one word, but hearing "no" usually means different things.

Such as:

"Not really what we're looking for."
"We don't think it's a good match."
"Just not the right time."
"You suck."
"Quit."
"You have no talent."
"Boo!!!"

...and other variations.

I wish I could say that the last few aren't warranted, but honestly, some people are not good at this thing called storytelling for a variety of reasons that would turn this post into a novella. Yes, this is subjective world, but still...some people shouldn't be doing it. Am I one of those people? Maybe you think so. I don't. So there's that.

Many times, people will hear the more negative meanings of "no" when they really should be hearing the more constructive side of "no." But rejection after rejection tends to bring even the strongest willed person to their knees. It's important to know that even though you're denied, it doesn't necessarily mean you should give up.

Even as I write this, I'm sure there's a rejection in the email heading my way. And maybe when I click on it, I'll curse it out and wonder why the hell I keep putting myself through this. I mean why do I keep getting rejected!? C'mon!

Where was I?

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Trans-Candidate Stills

You've seen the teaser, now see the stills! What do you mean you never saw the teaser?!

 


Okay, now that you've watched the teaser. Check out the stills below. 








Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Trans-Candidate Sneak Peek

By now you might already know that our short, The Trans-Candidate, is going to ITV Fest this coming September. We're all looking forward to it. For now, enjoy a small teaser of the short below.



Sunday, April 12, 2015

Stop Blaming Actors

Actors. I know, right? Just kidding.

Actors get a bad rap. I'm speaking mostly in the indie world. When you check out the indies that get into the festivals or those VOD movies that magically appear on Netflix and your In-Demand menu, you go into them knowing your journey for the next two hours could be a treacherous one fraught with plot holes, bad dialogue and incomprehensible motivations. The natural reaction when this happens is to ridicule what you see on screen, which is typically the actor or actress.

We've all done it and while there are times when the strength of the thespian on screen is an issue, it's unfair for them to catch the brunt of our disbelief and frustration with the failings of a movie. Actors only represent a culmination of the mistakes leading up to what's on the screen. They are not to blame.

In fact, I admire actors quite a bit. They are out there. Constantly facing rejection. Dealing with people who are not so kind and have no problem dismissing actors for their looks or style. It is a business, but it can be personal. And I know a tough skin is a necessity in this creative world, but you'd have to be a robot to not let it get to you at times. I salute actors for taking a chance on indie movies, web series, industrials, commercials, student films all for the experience and the hope of those roles leading to their goal. Unfortunately, if those projects are lacking in other aspects of the productions, the actors are the ones on the front line taking the heat for others failures. And that sucks.

You want someone to blame?

Blame the Writer
When I write characters, I definitely pour a lot of background into the character. That's the job of a writer.  Create a well-rounded character for the audience to either fall in love with, relate to, absolutely detest, etc. Writers are creating the blueprint to the story. I've talked about how the screenplay is the foundation to the house that is a movie. The writer(s) is responsible for that.

When a writer fails on that task, there's no one there to fix it. Unless another writer is brought in to correct those mistakes, that flawed script moves forward to the hands of the director and actor. Now, let's say this movie that's being made has a director at the helm who's more interested in the pretty images of the script. They're not going to focus on the characters. In comes the actor to make the most of a character that's saddled with bad dialogue, unclear motivations and actions that contradict major aspects of the plot. What's an actor to do? Even the best can only do so much.

So now our actor is on an island trying to fashion some kind of character from a papier-mâché like framework created by a terrible writer. I mean, come on! That's not fair in the slightest. And what you see on screen is an actor working with crap and creating something that's noticeably flawed. And the actor's reward for doing the best they could is ridicule. It's an audience who rips that actor for performing badly. I hate that. I hate watching a movie where I know the writing is inferior and having to watch an actor suffer for it. Shame on that writer. You failed your character and the actor.

Lorraine Cink and James Coker from "The Trans-Candidate" - These actors were awesome and they're great in this.
Blame Casting
A casting agent, a good one, should be finding the right fit for your script. There is a push for casting to become a category for an Academy Award and I say, why not? Yes, directors have the final say, but they're not out there discovering those diamonds in the rough. They're being handed diamonds in the rough on a platter for them to say yes or no. Congrats, egoists, you make decisions. Now get over yourself and give credit where credit is due.

A good casting agent gives you the strongest pieces for your characters. They know their actors. They know the strengths and weaknesses. A bad casting agent doesn't read the script. They just grab a sheet of actors listed by look, age, range, etc and send that off to an indie production. This isn't to say that the actors on that list are not great at their craft. Not at all. But they may not be the right fit for a role. They may not have the right tools for the character that they're up for and that's not fair to them. They're being set up to fail. Even before they meet the director and work on the role, they're behind the eight-ball. Sure, they may be able to get around that and provide a performance to remember, but the more likely scenario is that they come up lacking and wanting for a better outcome.

David Ian Lee from "Scenes from the Movies" - Great actor.
Blame the Director
An actor needs direction. Even the greatest. A good director doesn't stand on a stool, with a mega-phone, and instruct his actors how to emote. A good director works with an actor to find the role. They help guide their actor to a space where the character represents what both participants are looking for in the role. A bad director pays no attention to these things. They say things like "Make it your own" and then retreat to hit on an extra. They tell the actors that their performances are "fine" and "good" and then run behind the monitor to see how great their shot looks. (Any actors I've worked with in the past are reading this going, Is that why he always apologizes for saying "fine"? Yes. Yes, it is.)

Directors are not just the people that put their hands and fingers up in a giant "U" to show everyone that they're directing. Yeah, that's great. Your image is going to be framed real well. How about the people inside the image?! Some directors are more focused on what's on screen rather than what's being performed on screen to the detriment of their story. Honestly, it's not the death knell for their movie because we're always enamored with image over performance. But that's a conversation for another time.

As I mentioned briefly before, it's a director's job to guide an actor. As a director, it's your job to help shape the character along with the actor. That's why you hired the actor, is it not? You're not Hitchcock. Actors are not cattle. And even though Hitchcock is the master of suspense, his thoughts on actors are wrong. I don't want an actor to not have any questions about a role. They should be pushing to find something that maybe I missed. The actor needs to make the character their own. Even if we're tackling a real-life person, there's always an aspect to the role that needs to come from the experiences of an actor. Without a piece of that actor in the role, that role becomes just a copy. It's just emotion from the page and not from a person.

This isn't to say that sometimes I have to just say "no" to an idea brought forth by an actor. Not at all. At the end of the day, I have a vision for the piece. It may not be clear for everyone, so even if it the idea from the actor is a good one, it might not fit what we're trying to do with the story. And usually, I'll explain that. Being transparent about the focus of the story is effective for the working relationship between actor and director. And sometimes, an idea from an actor may come from a place to make the actor comfortable in the scene like if they wanted to be eating a cookie or reading a newspaper. And that's completely fine with me. Unless it's a Macadamia Nut cookie. I HATE those! :)

Blame the Producer
Why not? We're blaming everyone else.


*     *     *

I'm sorry, actors. You work too hard to have to deal with the failings of others. Shame on them. Am I saying that everything I've ever done in my indie career has been fantastic and the equivalent of rainbows shooting out of a unicorn's ass? No. Trust me. No way. I know this business is tough. I know this business is full of shysters and selfish people who only care about their own careers. I get that. And while we all accept that as a fact of this business, that doesn't mean any of us should accept it as the norm of the business. Because it's not.

Just remember auteurs, you make mistakes, like all of us. And when your mistakes are on-screen for the world to see and people start ripping into your actors, you might want to say your sorry to your actors for not being strong enough help them succeed at bringing your characters to life.

Actors, you guys and gals are okay in my book. Always.

Friday, February 6, 2015

A Reminder From Thomas

My 3 year old son loves Thomas the Tank Engine and all his buddies on the Island of Sodor. Gordon, Percy, Lady and the gang are all striving to be useful engines for Sir Topham Hatt, which strikes me as odd since Sir Topham Hatt is not the mayor, but he wields this mighty power around over the entire island like a Bond villain. But I digress...

Here's a song that I hear constantly on the homstead. Just a reminder that you should never stop pursuing your dream. Be committed. Keep your hard work ethic. I don't buy into the notion of once you get older, you should quit dreaming and start getting on with you life. Honestly, whoever gives you that advice is looking for validation in their own attempt at a dream. One that they quit on.

We were all meant to be creative and dream big. Our teachers told us this. We tell our children this. Why turn your back on it.? Never, Never Give Up. Right, Thomas?