Seen It (2011 Edition)

May 31st, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Zach here. I’ve been trying to steer clear of the bloglight for a couple of weeks now following a shameful morning-after second reading of my FSFSP liveblog. Still, I have no regrets.

If you’re a regular reader you’ll already know that almost an entire month has passed since I finished my first cut of The International Sign for Choking. At that point, I was too afraid to watch it. My activities since then are anybody’s guess. Some might speculate that I abandoned the project and disappeared into a cloud of smoke.

But I didn’t.

Not long after completing cut one I grew a pair and watched it. Since then I’ve been making a steady stream of changes based on my own thoughts as well as the feedback of a trusted inner circle of advisors. And Brad.

I think we all agree that it’s almost there.

But anyway, in the fine tradition of this blog I am obligated to record a summary of my thoughts upon now having seen what was once just a messy Word document and a sweet sketch of my face.

These tend to be woeful, introspective entries (see exhibit a and exhibit b). Depressing stuff. But this time not so much. Sure, my viewing included the all-too-familiar moments of cringing, disappointment, and helplessness. In general, however, I was not totally devastated. A welcome surprise.

One thing that I’ve found with all of our movies thus far is that a lot of the awesome, interesting ideas that are present upon conception are nowhere to be found once the edit is underway. It’s something that I’m learning to accept. That being said, this new movie seems to be less devoid of my initial intentions than my first movie was. Maybe I’m growing? Maybe a good filmmaker is just one who manages to not completely ruin concepts.

I’m not quite sure what I’m saying other than the fact that I don’t hate The International Sign for Choking and can even imagine people liking it. Maybe the past year has inflated my ego to a point where I can no longer recognize my own failures/shortcomings and am delusional. It’s also possible that I’m so afraid of this happening that I’ve begun to invent failures/shortcomings that don’t exist and am delusional. For me, this is always the most difficult period in the whole process because I don’t trust my own opinion and am anxious/terrified of knowing the opinions of others.

But the bottom line is that for whatever reason I’m feeling good.

Finally, miscellaneous news items related to the Newhard family: Nandan has at last gone public with the trailer for his new movie The Men of Dodge City. Check it out.

Also, Sophia’s excellent Green will be screening twice in New York this month, once on June 11 and again on June 22. If you’re in the area and respect yourself, please don’t miss this opportunity.


May 16th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Zach here. I received a real treat today via e-mail: a brand new 76 minute cut of Fresh Starts for Stale People. For those of you relative blog-rookies out there, the movie in question is one that I co-directed with Robert Malone alongside close collaborators Nandan Rao and Dusty Wickham in January 2010.

Since then, the project has been shrouded in mystery. Rob and I began the edit together at an undisclosed warehouse location here in the Pacific Northwest. Following a week or two of disappointingly feeble progress, Rob threw his hands in the air and retreated back to New York City. A short time later, facing even poorer luck on my own, I packed up the hard drive and shipped it to Rob. He’s been wrestling with it ever since then. While many are familiar with the existence of the movie and its fabled seven-city shoot, very few have actually laid eyes on any completed version of it.

Why such difficulty? Why such delays? To accurately define the problem would require me to accurately define the movie, which – if this past year and a half has taught me anything – cannot be done. It was an unconventional project and the results were a mixed bag. Some of the footage is inspiring. It’s a flaming white-hot meteorite of mindblow. But then there’s some of it that sucks. And then there’s also some of it that is just completely baffling. Understanding the nature of this movie and then channeling that understanding into an editing plan has proven beyond challenging, but today I have the privilege of judging for myself whether Rob has accomplished just that.

But I don’t feel right just ranting and raving about all of this while at the same time providing such little insight. It was with this sentiment in mind that I came up with the idea for what you’re about to read: THE FRESH STARTS FOR STALE PEOPLE LIVEBLOG.

Before we get started I’d just like to thank the sponsors of this liveblog, whose websites can be found here and here.

0:00 – Alright, so before I press play I’m going to give you guys a little context for this particular viewing. My roommates are in the basement rehearsing with their band. This is how the ambience of my room sounds right now: Bedroom Ambience – 5/16/11

0:30 – Begins with a media-poem using abstract colors and tones. Very intriguing. The sound crescendos. I am immersed.

1:00 – I’m making out with a Brooke Bundy now. In the movie, but still pretty stoked. This is the last remotely romantic/sexual moment in the entire movie.

Maybe that’s why it’s in black and white?

In any case, the audience had better enjoy this because it’s going to be pure dickwaving testosterone from this moment forth.

0:05:00 – This opening morning scene is very tense. The dramatic lighting, the prolonged silences. Rob delivers one of the classic on the phone with dead air performances of recent memory.

0:06:30 – Dusty’s entrance is loud and abrasive, much like the man himself. This domestic violence scene is so upsetting that I turn the volume down to avoid a panic attack.

0:07:40 – Hello! This extreme close-up of my penis always comes as a surprise now matter how many times I watch the movie.

0:11:00 – David Ferino is a trooper. It’s really inspiring how he put his life in our hands when we duct-taped him to a chair and threw him into his own Hollywood swimming pool.

0:12:00 – TV’s Zander Eckhouse has potentially the movie’s greatest entrance. And there are a lot of characters. And they all have great entrances.

0:12:30 – Finally, the opening titles! These are looking really polished. Oh, and there’s a little bit of weirdness that I’m liking. Wow, these titles are really indie. The homegrown ukulele tune performed by Rob and I could be to blame.

0:14:50 – Out of New York and into Yardley, PA. Rob’s real-life father confronts him about financial issues. This was the most raw, chilling duo-performance I’ve ever had the privilege of seeing live before my own two eyes. And I saw Moon for the Misbegotten with Kevin Spacey.

0:16:00 – Superbowl party. I don’t remember what teams were playing, but I’ll never forget those tasty little colby jack cheese cubes.

I pause the movie to go get cheese from the kitchen.

0:17:00 – It may have been crawling around in the snow at midnight with very little clothes on that caused me to get sick right as shooting started.

0:17:45 – Shakiest shot of the movie. Rob admits that seeing the Captain EO 3D movie at DisneyLand was the last time he felt happy. Almost positive he’s not acting.

0:18:50 – “I know you feel trapped right now, and I know you feel like we need to stay in New York, but I promise there’s good things for us in California and if you decide to come with me you won’t regret it.”

0:20:00 – Car heist. The movie’s first true action sequence and in my opinion one of its finest.

0:23:00 – And, it’s now officially a road movie. Delightful music cue. We set off to the soothing sounds of Ernesto Carcamo’s imaginative score.

0:24:30 – Pittsburgh. Enter Ben Rickles, a completely un-tamable wild stallion of an actor. Met him gallivanting around South America back in 2008. “Take a deep breath or some shit.” He instructs Rob on how to use a stethoscope.

0:26:40 – Dusty’s first interaction with our characters. He delivers one of most oft-quoted lines of the shoot: “I have to poop.”

0:28:15 – “Can I offer anyone…some…marijuana?”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

0:29:00 – These intense flashbacks are new. An effective and concise way to convey Dusty’s frame of mind. I’m impressed.

And about a minute later – excellent use of the freeze frame/digital zoom-in technique!

Using computers to fill in the gaps we couldn’t fill ourselves. I love it!

0:30:00 – I remember not seeing any point in shooting this bizarre fever-dream of an impromptu jazz session. Now whenever I see it I wonder what I was thinking because it came out great. That’s right, I wasn’t thinking.

Now Rob is actually peeing on camera, just angled slightly away. Unfortunately, this is as close as we will come to seeing his penis.

0:32:00 – Rickles is now using an actual power tool to trim his new bar of soap so that it will fit in his soap travel companion case. You cannot write these things, so you’d better be ready to shoot them when they happen.

0:33:00 – Rob throws a ball of ice that actually hits me off-screen. My arm was bruised for two weeks.

0:34:50 – “You can try to dig your way out of this, you know, like, feeble shovelful of dirt by shovelful…”

0:36:30 – Pure filmmaking. A simple yet perfectly executed scene aboard a Greyhound bus that transpires without a single line of dialogue. The soundtrack is doing weird things here. It sounds as though the roar of the bus engine were on some sort of strange, pulsating loop. The cut to Dusty finishing up an implausibly large fast food meal is sublime. What is that audio playing in the background? Sounds like an 80’s workout tape.

37:00 – Many of the moments in this movie are not only documentary-style, they’re straight up documentary. The Greyhound’s arrival in New Orleans strikes me as an example of skilled documentary filmmaking.

0:40:00 – Nandan’s mustachioed open-Hawaiian-shirt cameo is a cameo for the ages. Really baffling use of a bible quotation in a movie.

0:41:00 – More documentary work is bringing back memories of Mardi Gras. What a wild experience I had with my bros.

0:43:00 – Another welcome break from the action comes in the form of a relaxing road montage guest-starring Jason Lee (talk about great entrances). The strangely silent laundromat interlude strikes me as puzzlingly beautiful.

0:45:35 – I’m glad that Dusty manned up and shot this excellent insert of a security guard at the Alamo. And suddenly we’re in Austin. Jason delivers a truly arresting monologue. Rob is convincing as a man teetering on the brink of insanity. I call Rob “such a damned loose cannon.”

0:50:00 – With this dark alleyway sequence as well as the music-free road montage before it, Rob has really harnessed the tools of editing to create an ominous sense of imminence.

Ben McCain! A true performer does not disappoint here as Burt Kringle, the Texan life insurance salesman. The ambient country music and underlying soundtrack tones make this scene feel polished.

A beautiful interlude. We are swooped up into heaven and offered an eternity in paradise by a guardian angel. We choose to return to realm of the living.

0:55:25 – We have arrived at the mansion that Chaplin built, now inhabited by schlubs. This night’s shoot was tough. An altercation with a resident put a damper on morale.

Breaking convention with a strangely tender, naturalistic moment in the midst of plot-drivenness. It is here that we can finally grasp the true level of friendship between Rob and I.

1:00:00 – TV’s Zander Eckhouse returns! As does David Ferino (in a way). Things are coming full circle. Dusty arrives on the scene and I am excited to watch this climax unfold.

1:03:00 – Shots fired. Chekhov was right.

1:05:00 – Eckhouse delivers a textbook “get some.” There is blood. Classic rock bottom point between two leads. For all of its unconventionality this movie is extremely conventional.


Rob has added something here. He’s attempting to fill in a plot hole, to solve one of the movie’s longest-perplexing problems. What we have here is an incredible information-age photo montage chronicling the entire history of Rob and Zach as friends. I am thrilled. It is a heartrending real-life tribute as well as a staggeringly effective cinematic device. I am moved to shoot a reaction video of myself as I watch:

1:07:00 – Enter my then-ten-year-old cousin Ben Rosen. This sequence plays out in absolute silence, recalling some sort of silent film classic on blow and acid. No sound, this is pure editing. Juxtaposition of motion picture images.

1:10:00 – We’re in an interesting place. The plot of the film seems to have ended but we’re still following these guys and we don’t yet know why. This delightful musical buddy-montage on the Santa Monica boardwalk makes me not mind it being a mystery for at least a short while longer.

1:11:40 – Traces of a 90’s screwball comedy.

1:12:30 – Speaking of the 90’s, we just referenced the most beloved Sears air conditioner commercial of all time.

1:13:15 – Traces of plot return. We’re beginning to understand what’s happening.

1:14:30 – And just like that it’s all over, as signaled by this brilliant musical cue that’s somehow both somber and uplifting at the same time. It is the words “The End” in musical form.

A little bit of text to wrap up the loose ends. And…


The movie ends. I’m left in silence. I think that we are very close to completing this labor.Bedroom Ambience – 5/16/11Bedroom Ambience – 5/16/11


May 9th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Zach here.

Still too afraid to watch it. More updates soon once I grow a pair, and hopefully nothing in the vein of what Nandan and myself have written under similar circumstances in the past.

Where am I?

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