Archive for the ‘Directing’ Category


RIP Delia Salvi – 5. March, 2015

You know that tough as nails teacher that relentlessly kicks your ass in the hopes of molding you into a better version of yourself? In graduate school, that teacher was Delia Salvi.


She was my directing instructor and, to borrow something that a classmate said on Facebook, “Delia was horribly mean, surprisingly kind and scathingly insightful.” No disrespect but I thought that was spot on. She freaked us all out. She made more than a few people cry. Still, she constantly challenged us and I learned a lot. I wouldn’t be half the director that I am (or writer, for that matter) if it weren’t for her.

Hell, I still use her scene analysis worksheet.

She taught me to never settle for mediocrity, to always stop a train wreck the second you see it happening, and to take no bullshit. Delia is also the only person I’ve ever seen to fluster the otherwise unflappable Alexander Payne.

Delia passed away this past weekend.

I’ll sign off by sharing the last thing she ever told me. It was the last day of my last class with her. She pulled me aside and said, “Tony, you’re getting better but I’m worried that you’re too nice.”


Here’s hoping she’s kicking ass in the afterlife.

Posted in Directing

I Know How To Make PORTAL The Movie – 31. August, 2011

Awhile ago I saw this psuedo-jokey article listing games that should be made into movies. Well, you know what? I’ve been thinking about how to make a PORTAL movie for a long time and I know how to do it.

Now I’m not gonna give you my entire pitch but I will say that in order to succeed this movie has to be terrifying, funny and cool. You need to feel the character’s fear as she wakes up to find herself a lab rat forced to solve deadly puzzles. You need to laugh when her mechanical torturer spouts off (il)logical conclusions that’d be cold blooded by any human standard. You need to feel that the Portal gun is the coolest thing you’ve ever seen. If people are throwing cake at the screen, you’ve completely failed.

Since Guillermo Del Toro loves to play Portal (and Call of Duty), I wonder if he’d buy the rights? I’m guessing someone already owns the movie rights.

Okay, I’ve got something else on my mind. I keep beating myself up over my lack of output on this blog. For some reason I feel like I have nothing to say here. How many times can I tell you that things are slowly moving forward with my film/writing or that indie filmmaking sucks more than ever or that big Hollywood spectacles are getting dumber? I need something else that’ll help me generate more material on a regular basis, something that’s both personal but that I’m distant enough from. I think I have something, or some things, I might write about. I’ll probably be straying further from writing about my creative process/endeavors, at least until there’s something to report.

Stay tuned… and if you hate where I’m going then I guess you’re free to tune out.

The No-Budget Myth… BUSTED – 25. August, 2011

So I just read this IndieWire article and I have one thought/comment.


Let’s just take the very basics of what this filmmaker proposes and point out the holes (which are as big as the Grand Canyon). I’m gonna run with his premise of shooting a $5,000 feature in 10 days.

#1 – Write a realistically shootable script. This is good advice. Take it.

#2 – Rent, don’t buy, a camera. Again, good advice. Let’s say you get a camera with a few lenses and a memory card for $100/day. For 10 days that $1,000, so $4,000 left in the budget.

#3 – Pay your crew. He says you should pay a DP/camera operator and a Sound Mixer $100/day each, more if they have their own equipment. Let’s say that they both have their own gear and will do the job for $150/day each. This means we don’t need to rent a camera. Great, our budget is back up to $5,000. At $150/day, for 2 people for 10 days, these two crew positions will cost you $3,000. That leaves $2,000 in your budget.

#4 – Have actors supply their own wardrobe. Again, good advice.

#5 – Sign a SAG Ultra Low Budget Agreement. Okay, so let’s say that’s 2 actors at $100/day. For 10 days that’s $2,000. Congrats, you’ve spent all of your $5,000.

#6 – Get production insurance. A wonderful idea. All my filmmaking friends tell me this’ll cost you around $2,000 but let’s say you get the deal of the century and only have to pay $1,000. You film now costs $6,000.

#7 – Don’t write music into your film unless you own it. Again, another bit of great advice.

#8 – Edit your film yourself. I’m just gonna run with the fact that you probably own your own computer and are gonna use iMovie, which came with your laptop. I’m not even gonna add the cost of getting a hard drive.

#9 – Keep the hours short, the days few and the food delicious. Yes to all three, but how much is that food gonna cost you? Let’s say you’re feeding five people (director, DP, sound and two actors) for 10 days. Let’s say it’s coffee & bagels in the morning, lunch and light snacks throughout the day. But that food has to be “delicious”, right? So I’m gonna optimistically say that a delicious lunch, coffee and snack is gonna cost $20/day per person. That’s $1,000.

Congrats, you’re now $2,000 over budget.


But optimistically (which is really hard for me), you might be able to shoot your film for $10,000, right?

Posted in Directing, Industry

Don’t Retreat, Reengage – 26. January, 2011

So last year I set some goals for myself. I failed miserably. I wrote nothing. I didn’t direct anything. I…

Okay, it wasn’t all doom and gloom. I did manage to lock picture on my film, LAST NIGHT, but I still need to go back and tweak a few shots. And I need to finish it so I can move on to the next project. I also traveled to Europe. These are good things, but overall 2010 was a wash. Why? Well, without getting into it, things just sucked.

So how can I turn 2011 around? It took me a while but I realized it while I was about to fall asleep last night. I can’t take on anything new. No, that’s too much. I can simply look back at the things I liked in my life and reengage. This means working on my film, writing a new feature, writing those long overdue FRINGE and CHUCK specs, playing the guitar, etc.

That’s it. It’s simple but it’s a good way to get back on track (which needs to happen before I can move forward).

New Goals 2010 – 4. January, 2010

I don’t do New Year’s resolutions but I find it important to have goals and reevaluate them at least annually. Last year I had many goals and like a lot of folk I enjoyed some success and some failure. I know that’s not a very American thing to admit but if you work in the entertainment industry rejection is a fact of life. That’s okay. You just have to take another whack at that piñata. Maybe you’ll hit it dead center, maybe you’ll just graze it but you always gotta take another swing. That’s success. Plus it’s important to bite off more than you can chew.

But enough of the aphorisms, let’s get back on topic. What are my goals for the new year?

Write Another TV Spec – Last year I managed to successfully write a TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES spec. It placed in the Austin Teleplay contest, was strongly considered for writing fellowships at both Warners and ABC/Disney and a management company is considering me for representation so only good has come of it (plus it was incredibly fun to write). That’s why I want to write another TV spec. I was planning a DOLLHOUSE but now that it has been canceled I’m down to a couple of options. I feel confident that I could write a strong FRINGE or CHUCK. I have to catch up on watching the 2nd season of both but let me get a show of hands from my readers. As you’ll see on the sidebar of my blog’s homepage, I’ve created a poll asking you which I should write. I’m looking forward to your vote. Also, a free beer to anyone that can draw a tie between those two shows (why is it that I feel I can write either of those particular shows?).

Finish My Feature – It’s embarrassing but my first feature has just been sitting there. Yes, it was a hard 2009 and a personal tragedy late in the year really rocked my world but if I don’t do this I’ll only beat myself up more and that yields no good. Besides, finishing this thing is one of the keys to taking the next big step in my career…

Get Hired to Direct – I don’t care if it’s another person’s project or my own, I gotta make this happen. I have to hustle this up for myself. This is mandatory.

Get My Transmedia Project Up & RunningThis is another project that’s just hung in limbo. I now have the HDD I need so there’ll be few excuses for me to not get editing what we’ve shot… but we also need to set up our web presence and strategize our development, following a model similar to THE GUILD (BTW, using “we” just now was not a mistake).

Write a Feature Script – I’ve been working on an idea for a while, now it’s time to develop the outline and then crack open Final Draft.

Develop a TV Pilot – If I’ll be writing another TV spec, I need to have a strong idea for a new show. Here’s where things get a bit tricky. That feature film idea I just mentioned, I think it’d also work as a television show, maybe even be better as a TV show. Unfortunately, I don’t know anything about developing a TV show treatment/pitch and I feel like I owe it to myself to do the feature version first. And heck, if it doesn’t work then I can revamp it as a show ala GLEE. Maybe I should start with my web series idea and just practice serialized short-form storytelling. Maybe you’re wondering why I don’t develop this into a TV pitch? Because it’s raw, crude, funny and skirts the law. How bad to do you want to see my web series now?

And like the rest of the world, I have a laundry list of personal goals. Last year I was rather vague but how about I get specific? This year I’d like to…

  1. Take up a sport.
  2. Use my passport to leave this hemisphere.
  3. Jump out of a plane.
  4. Take a class that isn’t related to filmmaking or computers.
  5. Buy a new acoustic guitar so I can start playing again.
  6. Read four books that have just been sitting on my shelf.
  7. Invest my savings more aggressivly.
  8. Finally go out with Micki.

I’m sure I’ll come up with more but that should occupy my January.


And you? What are your goals?

Where Is That Webseries? – 11. November, 2009

In a world where the buzzword “transmedia” gets manhandled and tossed around like the proverbial drunk girl at a frat party, every major conglomerate has staked a claim in the digital frontier with a web channel. I’m not talking about reappropriated television shows or their web spin-offs. I’m talking about content created specifically for the web like ANGEL OF DEATH by Crackle or SQUEEGEES by Stage 9.

So why write about Fox and their 15 Gigs? Because of this image:


It’s from a still-in-development web series from the creator of BURN NOTICE and already I’m dying to see it.  It makes for one hell of a poster but where is the logline and trailer?

But why do I REALLY write this?  I do so because I have a couple of web series ideas but haven’t done much with them. Christ, one idea already has material in the can.

Why tell you? Because I consider public harassment and humiliation a potent form of motivation. Really, it’s inexcusable that we don’t have 1) a website and 2) a PayPal donation button so we can raise the money to buy a RAID so I can edit the stuff we’ve shot. Yeah, that’s all that stands in my way. Lame? Don’t I know it. Am I trying to do something about it? Yes. Therefore, coming soon.

  1. A website
  2. A PayPal donation button
  3. Some videos

Oh, how I love that feeling of pushing myself over the edge. Bring on the gray hairs.

Do You Remember OCCUPIED? – 3. November, 2009

This tiny film recently celebrated an anniversary.

For all the insiders, do you remember your 2-minute film? Do you remember your shoot? Please share.

I Am Amazon – 4. September, 2009

And for those that are curious, here is my Amazon spec.

Allow me an indulgence as I send a big shout-out to Dan Billet, Karina Bustillos, Curtiss Frisle and Michael Perkins for lending their voice talent; an extra shout goes to Dan for also acting in the film.  I’d also like to thank Laura Emanuele for all her behind-the-scenes help.

If you’re curious, I posted a debrief where I get into the technical nitty gritty. Also, be sure to leave a comment.

“No” Means “Try Harder” – 3. September, 2009

Before I get bombarded by some womyns group, let me assure you that 1) my momma raised a good boy and 2) I’m talking about perseverance in the film industry.

I know it’s frowned upon to share defeat but it’s the reality of working as a creative in the movie industry. Recently, I suffered two hits.

First, the spec commercial I made for the Amazon “Make-Your-Own-Ad” contest wasn’t chosen for one of the top 5 spots. I have no idea how many entries there were but I would assume a lot of people would take a shot at $20k.

Second, I topped out at the second round of the Austin Teleplay competition. They did send a letter saying that making the second round means I was in the top 10%. Someone even took the time to send me a hand written note with the form letter congratulating my courage for writing on a new show (the recently canceled TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES).

Obviously I’m bummed but if I dwell on the negative while trying to hack my way into this industry, I’d have committed suicide a long time ago. No, instead I take great pride in the work I’ve done, add it to the portfolio and move on to the next short (an actress from my Amazon spec pitched me an idea) and spec teleplay (I’m pretty sure it’ll be a FRINGE but I’m considering a DOLLHOUSE or possibly an EASTBOUND & DOWN).

As I say to my colleagues, I must heed as well: Chin up, gather your strength and keep moving forward.

My Summer 2009 – 31. August, 2009

As the summer of 2009 draws to a close, allow me a few minutes to look back at what I did for my summer vacation.

Vacation? Bull! I worked my ass off this summer (and I managed to have some fun, too). What did I do this summer?

  1. I wrote my first TV spec for the now canceled TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES.
  2. I found an editor for my feature.
  3. I shot a live-action/stop-motion spec for Amazon.
  4. I went to my first Comic-Con.
  5. I went to my first Tiki Oasis.
  6. I shot the first material for my multi-medium project.
  7. I directed scenes for an actor’s reel.
  8. I saw The Kills, Neko Case, Death Cab for Cutie and Andrew Bird in concert.

I’d say that’s a pretty damn productive summer.