Sunday, 30 August 2009

Chatterton Playlist

For my crew, as we discuss the film's style. These are the songs I plan to use in the film. Polyvinyl has given me permission to use any music by "of Montreal."

Thursday, 27 August 2009

The Cindys Display Their Total Domination of Awesome

Cindy Chen, my actress playing Donna in Chatterton, just sent me pictures from her first fitting in the costume Cindy Ye designed and built for the film.

In Chatterton, Daniel and his roommates use Donna as a model in their fake historical photographs. She climbs into an old theater costume and poses for them in Wyman Park while they snap her with an antique Graflex - that's the old-fashioned kind of portrait camera with bellows around the lens and a hood for the photographer. You can read more about the camera I'm renting for that prop here.

Below are pictures of Cindy Chen trying on the costume Cindy Ye made. It needs a few small alterations, but I'm extremely impressed with Y's craftsmanship, especially on the ludicrously small timeframe and budget I gave her! I can't wait to see the dress myself at the shoot next weekend.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

The Chatterton shoot is coming up in two weeks! What's left? I have to cast one very minor role; finish the artwork for Daniel's room and notebook; draw keyframes to send to Jay, my animator; continue recruiting crew members; send wardrobe specifications to actors; check in with Cindy on Donna's costume; make a final, master list of all props and equipment to bring up with me to Baltimore; and take several very deep breaths.

Friday, 14 August 2009

Great news! I'll be able to rent an antique Graflex from Audio-Visual Services in Hampden, Baltimore for the Chatterton shoot! It's actually a piece personally owned by the store's founder, but he was interested in the project and happy to clean the camera up for me and rent it to me for an extremely reasonable rate.

Audio-Visual Services is a fascinating place. A narrow little shop in Hampden near the popular bar Rocket to Venus, it overflows with vintage still and movie cameras, projectors and parts. It was founded by Cas, who tells me he's "an old movieman," who was shooting film in Baltimore before anyone else was. He filled his shop with antique pieces and replacement parts, partly to serve the photographers and filmmakers still interested in using traditional equipment, and partly as a tribute to the old technology. His shelves are like a kooky, crammed museum, and he told me students often come up to the shop just to look at everything. But much of it is still useful, if patrons are interested in using it - I've actually visited the shop myself for parts to repair one of the 16mm projectors owned by the JHU Film Department, and I can't imagine any other business in Baltimore that would be as helpful or instructive to fans of shooting and projecting real film.

Cas has passed the business on to his son, Eric, who has made it notable for his audio repair work. Cas tells me he can barely walk through the store now for all the amps that have been sent in by people around the country! But Cas still comes in on Fridays to fix up his cameras. If you're in Baltimore, stop by for a look around and a chat. It's hidden little gem of a store.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Chatterton Update

For those who were wondering what's happened to the pre-production of my short film during all this madness:

After a short break to settle into my new place, I'm getting back into stride with the final organizational tidbits of Chatterton. Cindy Ye has told me she's working on Donna's historical dress, and I'm bubbling with excitement to see her skills in action. In the meantime, I continue to search for the all-important props.

The most important is an antique large-format portrait camera that will be the "star" of Daniel and Tom's photoshoot scenes, and will appear subtly in the background of other scenes. Currently I'm asking friends and businesses to borrow their stuff, and I'm hoping I'm onto a few good leads.

Also, since I have this week off before I start my new job, I'm going to work on creating Daniel's artwork. I will draw all the sketches that appear in his sketchbooks in the film, as well as one painting that appears near the end.

Things are looking good, and I hope to have more to share soon!

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Little Girl, Big City Pt. 3

Last week I moved to Bethesda to start my new job. Read: Part 1 and Part 2. Continuation below.


It was the middle of a sultry mid-Atlantic heat wave, and the girls had no internet.

Their new apartment sported a capacious kitchen, yes. A now-functional shower head and bathroom hooks for their towels, sure. An odd collection of chairs and tables - check. But for email access, they were forced to network piracy, commandeering the signals of neighboring businesses, including the Rolls Royce dealership down the road. This also caused them to wonder exactly how many people must have died in this apartment to make its rent so low.

Finally, they faced the prospect of inviting Well-Known TV and Wireless Service into their home.

It was an especially scorching day when the cable man showed up. The kind of day when it's perfectly sunny, but you walk back inside soaking wet. Cable Guy appeared sporting a handlebar mustache, a thick mid-Atlantic accent, a spotless uniform and a smile.

"Well, you see, only one of these coaxial outlets works," he explained as he dragged the two-foot drill out of his truck. "The others are old ones that we can't wire into our system. So we'll have to re-wire the apartment along the walls."

Hannah nodded. This seemed to make sense. Getting cable installed usually involved a certain amount of tacking wires along baseboards and under carpets.

"You just go read your book, I'll take care of everything," he declared, his tool box jingling happily.

Five minutes later, there was a hole through the wall.

"Oh, that? It's no big deal. Your landlord won't mind one bit."

Hannah sighed. Well, it was only a small hole, and close to the floor - they could Spackle over it before moving out.

Hannah looked up from her book again when there was a second hole just above the first.

"We need a feedback router split," the handyman explained in such a simple tone that Hannah was afraid to admit she had no idea what that was. She was now watching anxiously.

Three more holes appeared in the wall. Maybe we could cover them up with a nice Audubon print, Hannah thought, and then she decided against it.

"That's the problem with these old apartments," the cable guy told her. "The wiring inside the walls is almost useless. So we have to create all the connections ourselves."

"I think that cable is wrapped around your ankle," Hannah pointed out.

"Oh, no it's not a cable," the technician replied. "It's just the piping on my uniform."

He walked away to demonstrate, taking down a manhole-sized portion of the wall with him.

"Well, isn't that funny," he remarked. "It looks like it was the cable after all."

"I can see into my roommate's bedroom," Hannah replied. "That's uncomfortable."

"Don't worry, I'll fix it up just fine," the handyman assured her, pulling a sledgehammer out of his bag.

"Was that there this whole time?" Hannah wondered.

Without answering, the cable guy starting swinging for the wall. The hole was now the size of a bed.

"We've got to find the structural supports," he told her. "Then I'll just use some patching materials to rebuild from the studs."

Now all four walls were shaking and flakes were falling from the ceiling.

"Pardon my intrusion," Hannah peeped, "But it seems to me like you're only making the hole bigger."

"No, this is all part of the job," the cable guy replied, now tearing into the air conditioning duct. "See, as the patching plaster shrinks, it'll tighten on your ducts, so we've got to give them a little extra breathing room."

The ceiling, no longer flurrying, had let loose a full-on blizzard. The handyman was now climbing over the hole he had made in the wall from Nessa's bedroom into the kitchen, and stood in the sink, feeding pieces of cable into the garbage disposer. There was a rumble and a crash in Hannah's room.

"Um, I think the upstairs neighbor's kid just fell through the ceiling into my room," she called.

"Do you have Sesame Street?" the plaster-dust-coated toddler asked.

"No, we're just getting the cable installed," Hannah replied.

"I WANT MOMMY," the child retorted.

The doorbell rang. Hannah rushed to answer it.

"Hello, I'm here from Well-Known TV and Wireless Service. I'm here to install your cable and internet," a cheerful service technician beamed at her.

Monday, 10 August 2009

More of our adventures tomorrow. For now, something beautiful.

I know it's an odd pairing, but J. D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye and E. M. Forster's A Room with a View are the two most resonant coming-of-age stories I've ever encountered, and I return to both just as naturally as their words and scenes drift into my mind. I've reread A Room with a View about once a year since first picking it up by chance when I was 14; I never enforce this ritually, it just happens that there's always a season when I need the book, and as soon as I drift into it again life fits back into place.

Every time this happens, I also come out with a new appreciation for Forster. First published in 1908, A Room with a View's prose sounds typically British and a little old-fashioned, even for its time. But that's not enough to distract the reader from the exquisite lightness with which he drops truths into the story, like feathers. They speak directly to the heart about the longing to be alive just as youth lifts its veil to the world. In two delicate phrases, Forster captures the spirit of adolescence with George and Lucy's first exchange:

...his voice was perplexed and sorrowful. Lucy, too, was perplexed...

Short of posting the entire book, below are some of my favorite passages from the first two chapters:

"Charlotte, don't you feel, too, that we might be in London? I can hardly believe that all kinds of other things are just outside. I suppose it is one's being so tired."

Generally at a pension people looked them over for a day or two before speaking, and often did not find out that they would "do" till they had gone.

am so glad to see you," said the girl, who was in a state of spiritual starvation, and would have been glad to see the waiter if her cousin had permitted it.

The father did not see [her bow]; the son acknowledged it, not by another bow, but by raising his eyebrows and smiling; he seemed to be smiling across something.

Was this really Italy?

Lucy was pleased, and said: "I was hoping that he was nice; I do so always hope that people will be nice."

There was a haze of disapproval in the air, but whether the disapproval was of herself, or of Mr Beebe, or of the fashionable world at Windy Corner, or of the narrow world at Tunbridge Wells, she could not determine. She tried to locate it, but as usual she blundered. ...And the girl again thought: "I must have been selfish or unkind; I must be more careful..."

Charlotte's energy! And her unselfishness! ...So Lucy felt, or strove to feel. And yet - there was a rebellious spirit in her which wondered whether the acceptance might not have been less delicate and more beautiful. At all events, she entered her own room without any feeling of joy.

"I only know what it is that's wrong with him; not why it is."
"And what is it?" asked Lucy fearfully, expecting some harrowing tale.
"The old trouble: things won't fit."
"What things?"
"The things of the universe. It is quite true. They don't."

"Make him realize that by the side of the everlasting Why there is a Yes - a transitory Yes if you like, but a Yes."

Little Girl, Big City Pt. 2

This week I moved to Bethesda to start my new job. Read Part 1 here. The story continues below.


Nessa returned to Baltimore from her Washington lab. After another exhausting day spent searching for signs of life in five grains of radioactive Martian sand, her shoulders drooped and her feet screamed. Dropping her lab coat by the door, she threw herself onto her boyfriend's divan, wondering if she would find the energy today to cross to the kitchen and heat a TV dinner, or if she would just lose herself to sleep right there in the living room.

"What's wrong, sweet lips?" Nessa's beau asked as he emerged from his bedroom, loosening his tie.

"My commute," she groaned in reply. "It's killing me. With a journey like this at the start and end of every day, it's a wonder I have any energy left to contribute to the lab's groundbreaking research. Today, for example, I spent twenty minutes peering through the microscope at what I thought was a singular example of Martian exfolioform ecphrasis, but it turned out it was just a crumb of the sandwich I'd brought in for lunch."

Nessa's beau sat thoughtfully on the arm of the divan by his girl, stroking his chin while he thought.

"Remember our classmate Hannah?" he said, a new light in his eyes. Nessa did remember - they had been a part of the same band of scholars since their freshman year at Prestigious Baltimore University, and had even lived together for one of those years. "I heard she's looking for a roommate in Capital City," Nessa's man continued. "If you roomed with her, you could move closer to your work, and you can look after each other."

Nessa sat up, the idea infusing her with a burst of energy.

"Yes, that would be more optimal than a rishst-heimer configuration laser!" she cried. "I'll ring her immediately."


Hannah lounged on the patio at her parents' home. She had put off the start of her job until she could find suitable living arrangements in the Smithsonian City, but she was beginning to despair of ever getting her start in life.

Then her mother poked her head out the back door.

"Dear, there's a telephoner for you," she called. "A nice young lady says she'd like to room with you!"

Read Part 3 here.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Little Girl, Big City Pt.1

Yesterday I moved to Bethesda to start my new job. Details below.


She arrived at the station, Peter Pan blouse tucked neatly into her A-line skirt, a tweed fedora perched lightly atop her French-twist chignon. She was a fresh-faced college girl looking for work in the nation's capital, the typewritten manuscripts of her two novels in a crisp manila envelope clutched under her arm. Smoke drifted from the locomotives and the cigars of the jaded newsies hawking their wares on the platform. Ahead of her lay intrigue, danger and suspense. Behind her was the settled safety of dormitory life.

Her kitten heels clacking on the shattered concrete sidewalks, through the steam of manholes and the haze of the brutal DC summer, she wound her way to the offices of a national non-profit law firm.

On the ninth floor of the slick city skyscraper, slanted shadows from the Venetian blinds rippled across the carpet from her feet to the receptionist's desk.

"How can I help you?" the receptionist asked without breaking the tempo of her clacking Royal No. 10.

"I'm here looking for work," the college girl replied, her eyes shyly bent on the floor.

"What are your skills?"

"Well, I have this degree..."

The receptionist raised an eyebrow.

"We'll take her," a voice came from the shadows of the back office. A man emerged, a respected lawyer at the firm. "Get her started writing press releases. Be here at nine o'clock sharp tomorrow."

The abashed college girl mumbled her thanks and emerged from the office with a new spring in her step.

Read Part 2 here

Thursday, 6 August 2009

It's too beautiful outside. Who let it get so beautiful? It's a disaster. I bring my laptop to the patio because on a day like today interiors make it difficult to think. But outside it's worse. I continually wrestle with the urge to skip, jump, pick buttercups and generally frolic. It's very dismaying. The only way to sedate my energy and focus on work is with a tall cool glass of iced tea.

Skimming Bulfinch for the fourth time, with very helpful suggestions from mom. But the fixing should only take a few hours. Querying agents as I go along. Music is distracting but inevitable. Lots of fat bumblebees on the butterfly bush.

ADDENDUM: Oh GOD, rural Pennsylvania, why do you have to smell like so much POO? Even my Norma Desmond sunglasses cannot shield me from that.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Finished the 3rd pass on Bulfinch - this one moved much more quickly because it didn't involve rewriting or major revision, just sweeping up afterward. Mom's looking at it now to give me her thoughts. In the meantime, I'm browsing Publishers Marketplace to make a preliminary list of agents to submit to, and then I'll rap out a query letter.

This is one of those waiting-weeks that drive me up the wall. I'm moving on Saturday and with the preparations for that, plus working on Bulfinch, you'd think I'd feel busier. Instead, I'm wilting with boredom. I'm anxious to start my new job, settle into my new place, and shoot Chatterton. But there's nothing I can do now except play the waiting game.

On the other hand, I did buy a smashing new businesslike purse and a pair of sunglasses about as big as my face yesterday. And I'm embarrassingly excited for the SYTYCD finale tonight. So it's not like I'm bending all of my energies to Higher Things! Nor do I really want to.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

More 3rd-draft revising on Bulfinch. Preparing to move to DC on Saturday. Talking to mom about the next novel she's writing and the manuscripts she's editing. Watching Chatterton in my head over and over in the shower. Finished reading Franny and Zooey, started The Fountainhead.


Sunday, 2 August 2009

Bulfinch page 110

Once I found Immanuel Kant wedged in the toaster.