Slackjaw Rises

September 16th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink


Zach here. I’m in La Grande, OR right now and just two days away from the finish line of of Ian Clark’s new movie – A MORNING LIGHT. I’m acting. It’s fun. I can’t think of a better way to follow up my own project than to sit around for eighteen days looking pretty, not worrying about shit, and eating for free. Thanks, Ian. [UPDATE: I’m not in La Grande anymore but the fact that it was fun still stands.]
By contrast, however, August was a month fraught with uncertainty, tension, last-minute saves, and occasional high leisure. I’m referring to the production of SLACKJAW – the mildly political bromantic superhero origin dramedy I made with usual suspects Nandan, Rob, Brad, and Jesse – along with the indispensable help of several fine local yokels that I’ll introduce shortly.

While the project began as a complex excuse to restore the blog to former glory, things quickly spiraled out of control and the movie took over. We’re arguably not kids anymore, and even just a scant 35 continuous days of someone’s time/energy is becoming a lot to ask. That’s why I decided to skip a process that we in the industry refer to as pre-production and launched into shooting almost totally unprepared. Turns out it was a fucked up decision. Anyway, my point is that while I would have loved to provide a daily breakdown of our progress complete with pretty stills and fun anecdotes, it just wasn’t possible. That’s why I’m here now – to save face with a general description of what it was all like, and to highlight some of the individuals involved.
That’s Rob Malone checking himself out after a makeup test in his dressing room. At least one of Rob’s appendages appears in every single scene of the movie. He was the first person on board since at least eighteen months ago. He underwent a full-on Raging Bull-style transformation for the role, exploring and embracing the chill NW lifestyle. Bless him.
This is clearly Nandan. From our very first collaboration he displayed an unparalleled talent for putting the camera on a tripod and finding focus. And that was back then. This is Nandan 2.0. Observe the muscles and the effortless personal style. Look at that motherfucking Steadicam. Can you imagine how cool this movie must look?
The man on the right is Brad, looking timeless in his money print button down with the letters U, S, and A shaved/painted into the side of his dome. Brad produced the movie, but he is seen here reviving his brief role from THE INTERNATIONAL SIGN FOR CHOKING, which he also produced. He is always down for a cocktail and/or a deep thought no matter the hour or circumstances. In the above photo he is enjoying both after we shot our big Fourth of July sequence. On the left we have Ian Clark (mentioned above). Let’s get a closer look at him.
Ian is directing the movie I’m working on right now. He drove up from Portland just to hang out that day and found himself playing a key role in a handful of important scenes. Look at the dedication at play here. All in the span of a day, Ian submitted himself to a gross hot dog eating contest, multiple beers poured over his head, roman candles fired at his car, and – best of all – the haircut pictured above.
Here we have a classic behind the scenes image, with the camera looking high tech as ever. The more dedicated Newhard fans will recognize Kym (from YOU MAKE ME FEEL SO YOUNG) on the left, followed by Johanna and Martine. The three of them showed up on short notice one day and crushed their cameos. They are great. Fourth from the left we have Blaise. She had one of the larger roles in the movie. As is my custom, I cast her without any sort of audition or prior knowledge of her acting abilities. She exceeded all expectations and tore the role to shreds. I must have a demon watching over me, because I surely do not deserve this level of excellence. Hail Satan.
And here we have MaryJane. She is a punk singer/general performative genius. She appeared in a handful of scenes and every time she came to set we felt like frauds to have someone so rad hanging out with us. Check out that switchblade earring. You can’t write that.
In this corner, representing the corporate bro lifestyle, we have the Jesses. On the left is Jesse Ruiz, the Slackjaw MVP of handsome and high charisma. On the right is Jesse Rudoy, star of Nandan’s THE MEN OF DODGE CITY. Like Rob, Rudoy went deep method with his role – never shedding his fresh teal polo or ceasing his stream of improvised frat-grade witticisms. Not pictured is Alex Rivera, my since-day-one homie and critical third member of the movie’s bro-trio.
Speaking of corporate, here’s a taste of the movie’s high production value as evidenced by this sick sign my dad is holding behind the scenes of his brief cameo as a stock photo model. Psyched about that. Not pictured above but entirely worthy of thanks are people like Kanako, Peru, Chask’e, Kyle, Chris, Justine, Steve, Jahla/Kenny (who performed this beautiful music in one of my favorite scenes), and everyone who came to our shoots and delivered a line or simply walked/skated by in the background. Also thanks to Seth the campus cop who rolled by on a Segway while we were shooting in the Evergreen basement at night without permission (me wearing nothing but a sheet) and simply said, “Carry on.”

So that’s SLACKJAW. It’s a weird bird to be sure. I still don’t know how it’ll turn out in the end, but I needed to venture into strange territory and I thank all of the friends new/old who came with me. It was rarely easy and a few times it wasn’t even fun, but in accordance with Newhard law, we ended on a high note…
Screenshot 2014-08-25 15.59.15
The edit is well underway and I’ll probably serve up a teaser sooner or later just to keep myself pumped. [UPDATE: The edit is even more well underway and I made a silly teaser…]

Meanwhile, you can check out my previous movies on Fandor. I’m really excited about that. Also, if you’re in Seattle on Monday, Sept. 29, Brian Perkins’ movie SPEED OF SOUND will be playing Local Sightings at the NW Film Forum at 7pm. I acted in it and Brian is great. See you there or else see you here with future updates. [UPDATE: The screening happened and the movie was awesome. Look out for it.]

LOCAL SIGHTINGS + bonus gratitude

September 9th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Zach here, bringing you part one of a three part series entitled “news that I’ve been promising but not delivering on, finally delivered upon.”

Local Sightings, Northwest Film Forum’s annual festival of regional flix, will be screening Bummer Summer as their opening night film this year! Here are the details:

Friday, Oct. 1
1515 12th Ave. (Seattle)
$??? (couldn’t be that much)

NWFF is the undeniable heart of the Northwestern film community. And it’s a community that I’ve never really gotten to be a part of, so this is one hell of an exciting initiation rite. I remember reading last September that The Mountain, the River and the Road was to hold the same honor, a star-studded film I was well aware of and whose progress I had been following for some time. It’s a trip to be there myself just one year later.

So there’s that. Two more news items remain for now. They’re both more exciting than this one. Imagine the possibilities.

And lastly but far from leastly, a bonus backer photo:

It’s Cindy Rae, taking the “international sign for choking” motif to carnivalesque new heights. THANK YOU CINDY!

Back 2 School

June 3rd, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Zach here. At eight o’clock this morning I walked the halls of Capital High School, sheepishly avoiding eye contact like I did my first time…nine years ago. And teenagers still seem as callous as they ever did. In fact, I’m sure I would’ve been stuffed into a locker had it not been for my intimidating mustache.

I was relieved to find Ms. Samson’s classroom and duck inside. She’d called me a couple of nights ago to ask if I’d come talk to her film class as a guest speaker. I said that of course I would, and then naturally neglected to prepare anything at all. Well, I prepared a little. I brought a copy of Bummer Summer and the little booklet Nandan and I had put together to promote my next film, The International Sign for Choking. Other than that though, I figured I knew my own story pretty well and thus wouldn’t need to rehearse it.

So after the bell rang and Ms. Samson took attendance, I sat down on a stool in the front of the room and just started talking. Aimlessly. Just a couple months ago I addressed a three hundred person, stadium style audience. In Spanish. And that was a breeze compared to this handful of kids. There’s nothing like the overwhelming apathy in a roomful of sleepy-eyed high school students to make a guy uncomfortable. It was like playing tennis with a brick wall, only there was no brick wall even. Just a deep, uncaring void of nothingness.

But I’m being dramatic, it was actually a pretty decent time. My talk could have used some structure though, that’s certain. Aside from showing the first five minutes of the movie and pulling up the fundraising trailer on YouTube, I filled the entire fifty minute period with my rambling and didn’t even get around to discussing my actual filmmaking method or advertising the upcoming screening (one month from today!).

So as of tomorrow morning I’m going into hiding. And what better place to do so than the Brooklyn Film Festival? I’m very excited. You can still order tickets if you haven’t yet.

See you there.


April 29th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Zach here. We just got our first review by a major US publication, and what a publication it was. See the title of this post for a subtle hint. You can read it here.

As you can see, it’s somewhat mixed, although the general vibe is definitely positive. Review-wise, we’ve gotten much better, as well as much worse. Before ever having made a movie, I sometimes wondered how I’d react to reading this stuff. Now I know: kind of apathetically. I don’t believe that movies themselves are “good” or “bad”, only the impressions that they leave on each individual viewer. When someone hates my movie, fine, that’s just one out of however many billion potential impressions. I feel the same way when someone loves it: so what? Admittedly, I’m human and I can’t help hoping that people approve of what I did, but I don’t get angry or defensive in the face of criticism. Except when it’s personal. The film and the filmmaker are separate entities, I can’t stand when people don’t seem to understand that.

But if I really believe all of what I said before, then why am I writing now after having been reviewed by someone “important”? Well, not everyone shares my weird, noncommittal views regarding movie qualification. Variety is a sort of a giant, and so I guess that what makes me anxious about the review is the thought of people taking it as an “official verdict”. Plenty of people make up their minds whether to see a movie based on reviews. Myself, I’m more of a trailer man. But then again, even our trailer has proven polarizing. Whatever, Bummer Summer is no longer my baby. It’s my chubby toddler that won’t stop crying at Red Robin. And I’m pregnant with another, god help me.

In other news, the movie had its most recent festival screening just last night in Athens, OH. Nandan was there in attendance, and from what he tells me it seems to have been our most lackluster screening to date. But I’ll reserve judgment until I read his detailed blog-report, which I’m sure will come any day now. I’m exponentially more excited for our next festival, but I’m not sure that I’m supposed to say what it is yet. Whatever, check back regularly because I’m sure I’ll crack soon enough.

I know it’s not even May yet, but get excited for June as it will include a screening at this festival in question, an article in another major publication, the launch of our fundraising campaign for The International Sign for Choking, and Bummer Summer‘s hometown premiere. Details in the coming weeks.


December 20th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

Zach here. It’s tough times.

I’m fresh back from an overnight trip to rural New Jersey where the idea was to record some missing sound effects for the movie’s sound design. Naturally, a blizzard rendered this task impossible. I’m getting a lot of anxiety about finishing everything on time, because although there’s plenty to be done, all of it is out of my hands. People are on it, and while they’re all people that I trust and have confidence in, it’s not easy to just sit by with my fingers crossed that nothing goes wrong.

So how do I deal with it? I sit around, I stress, I go to work, I make nervous phone calls, and most entertainingly, I browse my hard drive for amusing photos or video to post on the internet. Enjoy.

This movie will be done in less than two weeks.


November 8th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

Zach here. I’d like to open this entry with an excerpt from a previous entry.

“Zach here. Nandan and I are at the ‘office’ right now slaving away on our personal bios to put in the prospectus so that people will give us money. And we’re doing a terrible job. I don’t like writing about myself in this way, it makes me feel slimy all over. So slimy. Worst of all is how far removed this is from the actual film itself on a creative level. So even though technically we’re working towards getting the film made, I can’t manage to feel like it’s worthwhile.”

That was ten and a half months ago, but it’s starting to sound wincingly familiar. Between the submission process, putting together a new website, and working with sound man/graphic wizard Dusty to design a poster, I’m beginning to feel all of that old self-promotion slime oozing back to me. But this time it’s worse.

Like I said back in January, we were working towards getting the film made. But how do I rationalize this shit now? I could claim that we’re working towards getting the film seen. But I don’t know. I don’t think that anyone needs to see this. That’s arrogant. It’s been made, it’s done, and it is what it is: a solid first attempt with some great moments and a lot of rough edges. I know that it’s important to meditate on and be proud of the accomplishment, but then I’d like to very promptly leave it behind and try another.

Actually I just realized that the success of this first effort could probably make the second one exponentially easier to get off the ground. I had a lot more griping to do, but I guess I’ve found my rationalization. Thanks, blog, for helping me arrive here.

My original complaint still stands, however. This work we’re doing isn’t any fun. Seeing Dusty’s poster designs is actually pretty cool. But the rest of it…no, thank you.

In other news, for family and friends, I’ve been very sick but I’m better now, and today was the first day of my brand new and soon-to-be-very-grueling retail job.

And to thank everyone for putting up with me in this post, I’ll end on something kind of interesting. Kind of.

Picture 1

That is a still from one of our rehearsals. It was, in my opinion, far and away our worst rehearsal. No one was taking it seriously, and the shit we were coming up with was seriously stupid. You can see that Julia and Mackinley are having a good time, while my face says otherwise. It was early on in the process and a definite low point.

Picture 1A

That is a still from the very same scene as it appears in the movie. You may expect me to talk about how much I love the scene now and how rewarding it is to see in light of that bad rehearsal. Well, it’s actually one of my least favorite scenes. It’s not bad, I just don’t like it all that much. But the point is that I get a kick out of seeing the two stills next to one another and I hope you do to.

Submit to Me Now

October 21st, 2009 § 1 comment § permalink

Zach here. It’s never anyone else anymore. I wish Nandan would post something.

Last thing I wrote was about our weird screening. That was cut one. On Sunday night we screened cut three to a diverse crowd composed partially of non-ex-film students (the common man, if you will), and partially of formidably opinionated ex-film students. The general reaction was positive. There was a lot of interesting discussion about the unlikeability of characters and whether or not it necessarily meant an unlikeable movie. Luckily for me, I think we came to the consensus that it didn’t. I’m excited to see what a larger audience thinks of it, for better or worse, because I think I’ll be able to derive a lot about the nature of movies and how people perceive them. It that sense, this entire process has been experimental.

So now that the movie’s almost done (cut four is already complete), what’s next? My friend Nick, who was generous enough to host the screening I just wrote about, has since been hounding me relentlessly to submit to festivals immediately, considering the volume of important deadlines in November. This has generally come in the form of a text message every three hours or so. “u submit yet???” But the sound is a shit-show. Well actually, for being completely unmixed, the sound is awesome (thanks Dusty and Luc, seriously). But the last scene is garbled and the dialogue is completely inaudible. My friend and current generous host Katie worked with the clip for two hours last night before deeming it unsalvageable. We’re now scrambling to complete a full ADR/foley reconstruction of the scene, which includes recording dialogue from actors in three different cities. Meanwhile, the deadlines are too fast approaching. Nick insists that I submit the movie incomplete as a work in progress. Last night I exported a version with the last scene silenced and subtitled. It’s kind of artsy, actually. I’m waiting for the DVD to burn right now.

With the movie being so close to the end and all, I figured it’d be fun to post a photo from when the movie was so close to the beginning.

Photo 28

This is me, embarrassingly enough, outlining the plot of the movie on the chalkboard that Nandan painted onto the wall of our Brooklyn apartment. It was taken on September 22, 2008. Pretty wild.

Act One Done

September 30th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

Zach here. Editing has been a slow process, but it’s definitely happening. Yesterday was particularly productive, and equally grueling. I’m starting to uncover all of the mistakes that I made as director, and it stings when there’s nothing to be done about them. We looked at twenty-three takes of a single scene yesterday and none of them were right because I hadn’t realized or been willing to confront what wasn’t working. And now we’ve got to salvage what we can. Feature films are huge and there are so many different ways to blow it. It’s hard not to lose confidence in the entire machine when one of its parts isn’t working. We’ve pieced together the first thirty minutes, and will hopefully have finished much more by the end of this week. I’m sorry that editing isn’t such a photogenic process as shooting. This blog is starting to lag on the pretty picture front.

I’m going to dedicate a reflection to Nandan, because he’s been studying very hard and doing lots of homework. Also because his mug doesn’t show up too often on the blog.


This photo really captures my favorite side of Nandan: the miserable side. That particular afternoon we were on one of our signature leisurely location scouts, in search of a country swimming hole. I had already modeled a nice, miniature cliff jump for the camera, but we wanted to see someone using the ropeswing farther downstream. The water was freezing, and I didn’t want to swim out to it, so Nandan stepped up to the plate. I started rolling and he – in classic, country-bred form – went for a dive in lieu of the standard swing-to-drop. And he must have been rusty, because in failing to get his hands out on time he took the unbroken surface of the water straight to the face. Lucky for us I was standing by giddily to photograph the result in beautiful black and white.

It Begins

September 22nd, 2009 § 1 comment § permalink

Zach here. With exciting news. When I got out of bed this morning (out of couch, to be accurate), all of the footage had finally finished compressing and was ready and waiting in editable form. Jesse and I began reviewing takes this afternoon and have started charting out the film’s course on paper. He even got started on the opening sequence as I ate burritos over his shoulder. It won’t be long at all until our first cut is finished. Get psyched.

Picture 1

Meanwhile, a reflection. Strolling down Bedford this afternoon, a passing SUV gave all of us pedestrians a treat: “Boom Boom Pow” by the Black Eyed Peas bumping from the stereo and out through the tinted windows. Suddenly, memories. Memories of Skateland, where they would play that song at least twice per session. Back west we used to go every Wednesday night…religiously. Once shooting got underway, however, we were either too busy or too tired to ever make it there again. In fact, our very last trip out there was after our very first day of shooting. That’s when I took this photo:


This is the kid that works the skate rental window. I think his name might be Hunter,  but I wouldn’t bet on it. Anyway, he was and undoubtedly still is consistently there to dish out skates begrudgingly…always with a side of sarcasm. Seeing this photo of him makes me smile, especially on account of what a kook he looks like in it. Here’s to you, Hunter. Or whatever your name might be.

New York

September 19th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

Zach here. I made it on the Greyhound. It was a pretty grueling trip and mostly uneventful. When I first sat down on the bus in Olympia, I noticed that someone had written in marker on the back of the seat in front of me. “Welcome to hell.” That about sums it up.

But now I’m in New York, and it feels nice to be back. Here’s the view from Jesse the editor’s Brooklyn rooftop:


Everyone is excited to start putting the movie together. Frustratingly, there are a few days of tedious file compression that are going to have to take place before we’re ready to edit, which we started this afternoon. I’ll let you know once we’ve gotten underway with the real snipping.

Meanwhile, here’s another reflection.


I always thought this photo was hilarious but for some reason it would never upload to the blog back when it was taken. We needed to create the effect of a smoking engine for our roadside breakdown scene. For lord-knows-what reason, Dusty had packed a smoke bomb and wound up saving the day as he had before and would certainly do again. Anyway, there was all sorts of debate about whether it was safe to light a smoke bomb on top of the engine of my car. I was hesitant, and Julia was downright against it, but everyone else seemed to have a shoulder-shruggy, “let’s see what happens” sort of attitude so we went ahead with it. Anyway, I really like this photo. I think it serves as a nice visual metaphor for our filmmaking process.

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