Monday, March 28, 2011

Good grief

A curious thing about making movies is that you don't always know what influences are influencing you... at least not until after a film is completed.

Many of my filmmaking heroes don't, as best as I can tell, directly influence my writing and direction in a big way.

Well, there is perhaps a bit of Hitchcock about Castparty's comedy-thriller The Wife's Position and a little Kubrickian imagery in our psych-gore oddity, Denial.

However, I've gradually come to realize my biggest influence comes not from the world of film. Rather, it's from a steady childhood diet of Peanuts cartoons—both then-current strips from the '60s and beyond, and anthologized strips from before my time.

In project after project, I've found myself attracted to the intersection of the bitter and the sweet. The realm that Charlie Brown and company inhabit.

Since making the absurdist Telemarketing Orphan (from a script by Greg Hill), we've described many of our films as "sad, little comedies."

Some 40+ years after first reading Peanuts, the elegance of Charlie Brown's most famous utterance finally comes clear to me: "good grief." The comedy that comes from sadness, and the sadness that comes from comedy can be very, very good grief.

Beyond thematic resemblances, we've drawn up many characters in a Schulzian mode, especially numerous lovable poor schlubs played by Dennis Hurley, who in Inventory is guided by the domineering Greg much as Charlie often receives dubious and abusive tutelage from Lucy Van Pelt.

Jackie, too, with her bigmouthed aggression has more than a little Lucy about her.

Zoë shares many traits with Charlie's idiosyncratic beagle: quirky perches, imitating another character's gait, and riding on a fantasy surfboard. Perhaps the major difference is that Zoë is far more inclined to act like a canine.

I don't recall whether Zoë's Snoopyishness was ever something I verbalized in the course of shooting Inventory, or was even fully aware of, but there was something viscerally familiar about her playful inscrutability.

Then there's Eleanor, whose attachment to a humble armchair recalls Linus and his security blanket.

Further, the clerks mostly tune out authority figures, especially their immediate supervisor who barely says more words to them than the unintelligible adults do in Peanuts' classrooms and households.

Perhaps others who watch Inventory will find still-more resemblances, most all of which were unconscious, but which are indicative of how much I absorbed the tragicomic gospel according to Peanuts.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Kickstarter project to help "Inventory" song-score artist Cotton Mather release expanded "Kon Tiki" album

How great would it be to have a 2-CD deluxe edition of Cotton Mather's Kon Tiki, where Inventory soundtrack tune "Homefront Cameo" originated? Very great!

Please pitch in, if you'd like to see a lost-classic album re-released and expanded! Lots of nifty rewards available to contributors.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Mattysville Radio has high praise for "Inventory"

"This independent movie made in the Boston area took 2 years to complete and believe me it was worth the wait.... so funny I had tears coming out of my eyes... had to pause the movie so I could catch my breath.

The actors all had great chemistry.... The movie was full of laughs and actually... had a pretty touching and inspiring message woven throughout... a great movie."—Mattysville Radio

"Using Improv as a Screenwriting Tool" by Justin Fielding posted on

Mastering Film invited me to discuss takeaways from our use of scriptprov in creating Inventory, to help other filmmakers cultivate serendipitous creativity in their projects.

Please share the article with your friends and colleagues in filmmaking and improv!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Monday, March 14, 2011

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Soundtrack artist: The Sugarplastic

Over the last few years, the band I've listened to most is The Sugarplastic.

Given the chance, I'll play their entire catalog over and over again.

Most-often compared to XTC, they're almost always engagingly tuneful. But if Ben Eshbach, Kiara Geller, and company got the memo on conventional song structure, they tore it up... or more likely, they made whimsical origami out of it.

The two Sugarplastic tracks in Inventory are both instrumentals, so alas their witty lyrics aren't on display. However, as underscore in the first half of the film, they subtly set the stage for the many vocal songs to follow.

"Euripides the Jaguar" is an ambling, hypnotic guitar-based song, the first original the L.A.-based Sugarplastic ever recorded, and it perfectly suits the slacker clerks' lazy pace in the film's early going.

"Ben Takes a Walk to Lose Company and on the Way He Sees Some Ice Skaters," described by AllMusic as "just plain odd," slinks and scampers along like "Funeral March of a Marionette" re-imagined by Danny Elfman.

Ben, who wrote both songs, is also in a new band called Soviet League. They recently released a pleasingly eclectic self-titled debut that favorably recalls "Taking Tiger Mountain (by Strategy)"-era Brian Eno, which is to say awesomeness.

Soundtrack artist: Lolas

According to the Powerpopaholic blog, the Lolas' song "'Watch The Movie' has Weezer's innocent pop sweetness with Brian May styled guitar."

In our quest to fill Inventory with endorphin-eliciting tunes, one spin of this outrageously catchy song spelled love at first sound.

What filmmaker isn't tempted to say "just shut up, watch the movie" from time-to-time? Over one of our action montages, Alabama-based Tim Boykin sings it for us... so gorgeously, I can't see how anyone could mind.