Saturday, June 30, 2007

Editing exercises

If you want to peek at some of the video editing things I've been doing, projects by which to learn the software, go to Small Screen Video and scroll down to the "Shooting" area. These are large mpeg files.

Oregon Literary Review

The Summer/Fall 2007 issue is now online at


Poems by Chris Abani, Allison Adelle, Britta Andersson, Jennifer Fox Bennett, Mary BlackBonnet, Jenna Brager, Trevino Brings Plenty, Katherine L. Browning, Henry Carlile, Siv Cedering, Olivia A. Cole, James Crumley, Mahmoud Darwish, Jon Davis, George Evans, Jennifer Foerster, S. G. Frazier, Patricia Goedicke, Michael S. Harper, Richard Hugo, June Jordan, Milton Kessler, W. S. Merwin, Tiffany Midge, E. Ethelbert Miller, John C. Morrison, Duane Niatum, DG Nanouk Okpik, Lisa Olstein, Deleana Otherbull, Cesare Pavese, Peter Pereira, Cathy Tagnak Rexford, Phoebe C. Rusch, Vern Rutsala, Kim Shuck, Jim Shugrue, Arthur Sze, Greg Thielen, Phyllis Unkefer, Luke Warm Water, James Welch, Orlando White, Elizabeth Woody, students at Newby Elementary School.Translations by Edmund J. Campion, Siv Cedering, Tom Doulis, Lars Nordstrom, Mary Anne O'Neil, Joseph A. Soldati, Arthur Sze. Poetry and Images by Siv Cedering. The Spoken Word by Taha Muhammad Ali, David Lee, Bill Ransom. Broadsides by Margaret Atwood, Olga Broumas, Hayden Carruth, Jim Harrison, Pablo Neruda, Gregory Orr, Adrienne Rich, Theodore Roethke, Primus St. John, Rebecca Wee. Essays by Paul Giles, Tom Meschery, Vern Rutsala, Susan J. Tweit. Book Review by Lisa M. Steinman.

Film and video by Mariana Arévalo, Alan Becker, Chris Day, Tim Fort, Adam Hurst, Joanne, Bruno Kavanagh, Karl Lind, Mike Stanfill, Phillip Van, Michael Wesch. Music-poetry by Joe Balaz. Music-stories by Lynn Darroch. Graphics and text by Pris Campbell, Joel Weishaus. Video poams by Thylias Moss.

Creative Nonfiction
Personal essays by Ronnetta Fagan, Matt Love, Scott McCarthy, Ryan Smithson, Sari Weston. The Writing Life:, by Evelyn Sharenov.

Fiction by James Crumley, H. Suzanne Heagy, Evelina Zuni Lucero, Emily Lundin, Bill Ransom. Plays by Rebecca Bella, Dawn Corrigan, Maaike Davidson, Phillip Hamrick, Garrett Socol. Screenplays by Jeff Brewer, Stacy Feder, Sean Funk, Hannah Martin, Aaron Walker, Leslie Wilson. Libretti by Martin Burke, Stephen Meyer. Genre Fiction, a new column by Jeremiah Rickert.

Paintings by Susan Beck, David Brooks, Ming Wei. Water colors by Tupper Malone. Sculpture by Jo Grishman. Photography by Christine Eagon.

New music by Robin Henderson, Guilherme Schroeter.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Busy morning

Had to make an addition to the review that an editor had neglected to forward to me last spring when he'd accepted it. Then spent an hour in the editing program, fiddling with coloring tools. Discovered I prefer a more subdued picture than the one delivered as default. Then to the Northwest Magazine archives to look at an article I'd published on October 29, 1978 about CETA and the arts -- a very comprehensive piece, as it turns out. Of course, I have absolutely no memory of doing this. But there's stuff I can use in the current assignment. To Nobby's, breakfast, and I got permission from Greg, the owner, to shoot Scrapple there. Got a clip of the sign outside. Home.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Can Portland take the jail out of Jail Blazers?

The local media has been in a frenzy in anticipation of the NBA draft today. Oden is seen as franchise salvation, and indeed thousands more season tickets have been sold in anticipation of his draft and arrival. A series of stupid decisions by management filled the team in recent years with talented thugs and jerks who couldn't stay out of trouble until the team became an embarrassment to the city. Everyone longs for the good old days of Walton and championship playing. Oden has a lot of burden on his young shoulders, but he does seem like a nice guy for a change.
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Blazers go for Greg Oden with top pick

NEW YORK - Greg Oden is the 1. The Portland Trail Blazers settled months of debate Thursday night when they chose Oden over fellow college freshman Kevin Durant with the No. 1 pick in a highly anticipated NBA draft.

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And today I learned ...

... how to split the screen, which I'd sometimes do for phone conversations. Other uses as well. Add to the bag of editing possibilities.

Another good rehearsal

The women, in fact, are in better shape than the men. We scheduled the shoot for July 9th, and I think it'll be good. They have their characters down. It's only a 4 minute piece but I think it'll do what I want it to do.

Moreover, rehearsal was out in SE in a delightful neighborhood I didn't know about, with coffee shops and restaurants, a movie theater and a supermarket, on bus lines, everything within walking distance. Really neat.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Head cheese

Now and again I simply must have a head cheese sandwich, and soon. Today was one of those days. Fortunately, the only market around here that keeps it in stock is close, so I zoomed off and back and satisfied my craving.

I tried to make head cheese when I was a grad student. What else do you do when you return from class to find a hog's head in a box on your front porch? My friend John Basham played butcher and, knowing my fondness for head cheese, gave me a gift. My attempt, however, was a failure. The hardest part was breaking up the head to fit into the pots we had. A long story. Here's a recipe that sounds better than the one I tried to follow forty years ago.

Hogs Head Cheese
PREP TIME: 3 Hours
YIELDS: 4 (1 pound) trays

Many cooks today feel that hogs head cheese is a country rendition of the more classical daube glace. Though similar in nature, I feel head cheese is the by-product of sausage making such as boudin, and has been around for hundreds of years


* 1 hog head, split and cleaned
* 4 pig feet, scraped and cleaned
* 4 pounds pork butt
* 3 cups onions, finely diced
* 3 cups celery, finely diced
* 2 cups bell pepper, finely diced
* 1/2 cup garlic, finely diced
* 2 whole bay leaves
* 1 tsp dry thyme
* 1/4 cup peppercorns, whole
* 1/2 cup green onions, finely sliced
* 1/2 cup parsley, finely diced
* 1/2 cup red bell pepper, finely diced
* 1/2 cup carrots, finely diced
* salt and cracked black pepper to taste
* 3 envelopes unflavored gelatin, dissolved

In a 4-gallon stock pot, place all of the above ingredients up to and including the whole peppercorns. Add enough water to cover the contents by 3 inches and bring to a rolling boil. Using a ladle, skim all foam and other impurities that rise to the surface during the first half hour of boiling. Continue to cook until meat is tender and pulling away from the bones, approximately 2 1/2 hours. Remove all meat from the stock pot and lay out on a flat baking pan to cool. Reserve 10 cups of the cooking stock and return to a low boil. Add all remaining ingredients, except gelatin and salt and pepper, boil for 3 minutes and remove from heat. Season to taste using salt and cracked black pepper. Add dissolved gelatin and set aside. Once meat has cooled, remove all bones and finely chop in a food processor. Place equal amounts of the meat in four trays and ladle in hot seasoned stock. The mixture should be meaty with just enough stock to gel and hold the meat together. Cover with clear wrap and place in refrigerator to set overnight. Head cheese is best eaten as an appetizer with croutons or crackers.

Without a doubt, the best head cheese I ever had I bought in a small market in a village on the northern coast of Nova Scotia. It was called Potted Head. Amazingly fantastic. Ate it at a cliff overlooking the stormy ocean, at a time when I thought I was deliriously happy, not knowing that even then my partner was in inner turmoil as the seeds of truth about her sexuality sprouted toward their explosive revelations, delirium ending quickly thereafter.

Remembering Peter Fornara

For the essay mentioned below, I'm going to write about what I consider to be the most remarkable theater company in the history of Oregon theater, Peter Fornara's Actors Theatre Company in the old Centenary Wilbur Church over 25 years ago. Fornara managed to get a CETA grant to fund the company! He put many, many theater artists to work putting on plays in rep. Indeed, in one astounding week, four plays opened on four successive days: as I recall, they were Joe Egg, Cabaret, American Buffalo and Marat/Sade. Here was an argument for the wonderful consequences of government support of the arts, a theater company that didn't have to survive on box office (though it was popular), and therefore could be adventurous, ambitious and sometimes wonderfully reckless.

If anyone reading this wants to share memories of this remarkable theatrical adventure, please email me at

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


I've been invited to contribute to an upcoming anthology celebrating Oregon's 150th birthday. I accepted and suggested two topics for my essay. We'll see if either strikes a chord with the editor.

Double charge

Really jacked on two accounts: rehearsal went very well. This short can be good. The actors at their best are really on target -- I'll be shooting each moment six ways, and if at least one of those moments captures them at their best, we'll have a fine product indeed.

Earlier I was working through the editing software workbook some more and continuing to be amazed by the editing tools I have. This is all damn exciting.


Did some rewriting this morning, cutting it down from ten minutes to about eight and a half. First read-through this afternoon.

Monday, June 25, 2007

The fun begins

Read through of Scrapple tomorrow, Moments on Thursday ... finally get to work with the actors. Really looking forward to it. This is where it all has to happen.

Learned a new trick in the editing software today ... have a book of "tricks", or special effects, not sure I'll use them but I want to know as much about the software as I can learn.

Summer issue of OLR

Only a few loose ends to tidy up and to respond to whatever link-checking software turns up, and the summer issue of Oregon Literary Review will be released.

Here are some highlights as a sneak preview:

The full issue, released July 1, is our largest and most diverse yet. Don't miss it.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

What a comeback

First college baseball team to win the championship after a losing record in the regular season.
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OSU Beavers repeat as national baseball champions

Oregon State successfully defended its NCAA College World Series Championship today by defeating North Carolina, 9-3.

The Beavers won their 11th consecutive game to sweep the series against North Carolina, which also was their opponent in last year's championship.

Oregon State held off rallies by North Carolina to become the fifth school to win back-to-back baseball national titles. The last team to do so was Louisiana State in 1996-97.

The championship came despite losing several starters from last year's championship team as well as sustaining a stretch of defeats during the regular season. Those losses, which resulted in a losing record in the Pacific 10 conference, left OSU's selection for the NCAA tournament in doubt.

But after being chosen for the tourney, OSU stormed through the regionals, super regionals and, finally, the College World Series in Omaha.
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Another literary hoax

An interesting observation. These hoaxes demonstate that in the commercial literary world, context is more important than content. A "brilliant novel" written by, say, an abused teenager ceases to be "brilliant" if the author is discovered to be a quiet member of the middle class with a happy childhood. Fiction isn't fiction: it's "fiction" with an important "true context of creation." What rubbish -- but tons of money exchange hands in the battle of content v. context.
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Jury Finds ‘JT LeRoy’ Was Fraud
Published: June 23, 2007

JT LeRoy, the authorial “other” whom the writer Laura Albert employed as her alter ego and self-protective proxy in the world, was found yesterday by a jury in Manhattan to be not just a fictional creation, but a fraud.

Ms. Albert, 41, was found by the jury in Federal District Court to have strayed beyond the normal limits of pseudonymous invention, in part by signing a movie contract using her nom de plume. After the verdict was announced, she stood with friends in the courtroom, saying she had somehow known hours before that the jury’s decision would not fall her way.
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Jazz singers

Driving to the university to upload some large audio files to the review, I listened to jazz as I usually do and the featured artist was Mark Murphy. Murphy was my late dear friend Ger's favorite vocalist. But not mine. We had sporting arguments about jazz singers all the time. Ends up we belonged to different schools.

There are two basic approaches to jazz singing: 1. communicate the song first and foremost; 2. use the song as a vehicle to communicate the voice as well as the song.

Of the latter, the "embellishment singers," are Murphy, Mel Torme, Ella Fitzgerald -- and, in fact, most jazz singers.

Those who sing without embellishment to communicate the song, period, are Frank Sinatra, Chris Connor, Billie Holiday and a few others. These singers rely on phrasing and tone; the former rely on a lot of vocal histrionics, usually called scat singing.

I can admire the vocal range and dexterity of a Fitzgerald or Murphy but they don't move me. Chris Connor moves me. Billie Holiday moves me. Frank Sinatra moves me. They believe that less is more, as I do.

I feel like I'm only a few hours away from finishing the review now but I don't have energy to spend those hours today, at least not now. Maybe later.

Damn, I'm eager to rehearse some scripts! I'll learn so much when I actually start directing actors to do certain things. I think I can make each script work within the parameters set by their skill levels. I may be wrong but I believe I can get the performances I need from them. I saw the potential in the screen tests. Everything will be low-key and understated, and I think it's easier to bring actors down than to bring them up. Most actors try to do too much. Once again: less is more. So my job is to stick the camera right in their face and get them to emote the right emotion, in a subtle but clear way, at the right moment. I think my actors are good. I see so many possibilities in the screen tests. I just have to make them comfortable and secure enough to do what they can do.

"Moments" will be the first one done, I'm sure. It's short. In Thursday's reading I'll tell them where I'm coming from. We should be able to shoot about a week later unless folks are gone for the 4th. But soon. And then I get to do the real joy of these projects, editing. Man, I love editing. I spent a summer editing all my dad's 8mm films in the summer of 1966, and I've forgotten how much fun it is -- even more so on the computer. I love the software, even though I've just learned the basics.

I'm ready to finish the review and get shooting.

Downhill side

I'm down to my last page of things to do for the review. A long single-spaced page, to be sure, but the last page of chores. Progress! I may finish in a few days.

A big question: what about the two writing projects I abandoned when I was struck with this movie madness? I want to finish each. I want to finish each this summer. But I'm no longer sure how that will happen, given the great amount of time I'm spending in pre-production for the shorts. However, once the review is out, a large body of time will open up. I should be able to do it all.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Steinbeck's second wind

Steinbeck's Discontent

On this day in 1961, John Steinbeck's The Winter of Our Discontent was published. Steinbeck was fond of reading Shakespeare -- he and his family would play quotation games with the sonnets -- and he approached the publication of this book with the hope that it might very well make "glorious summer" of his various discontents. His previous book, a treatment of Arthurian legend, had bogged down -- for good, it turned out. He suffered a stroke during the writing of this book, in 1959. His estrangement from his sons continued, and his battles with his ex-wife worsened, to the point of going to court.
Perhaps worst of all was his mental health, a despair that "I come toward the ending of my life with the same ache for perfection that I had as a child," and a belief that his fame or friends had led him astray, so that "true things gradually disappeared and shiny easy things took their place."
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More on Roswell

Recent testimony regarding Roswell ...

New! 2007 Lt. Walter Haut: Former Roswell base public information officer who issued the base press release. Haut's "deathbed" sealed affidavit has just been published. In it he confesses to seeing the spacecraft and bodies in base Hangar 84/P-3 and tells us the mysterious press release was Gen. Ramey's idea to divert press and public attention away from the closer and more important craft/body site.

New! 2007 Sgt Frederick Benthal: Army photographer flown in from Washington D.C., said he photographed alien bodies in a tent at crash site and saw large quantities of crash debris being hauled away in trucks.

New! 2007 PFC Elias Benjamin: Roswell MP, said he escorted the alien bodies from the heavily guarded base Hangar P-3 to the base hospital, and saw a live one being worked on by doctors; was threatened afterwards if he didn't keep quiet.


Location, location

Have a location for "Moments" and three of the major dialog scenes in "Honky Tonk." Two read-throughs next week as well, so things are moving along.

My publisher friend and Italian cook, who would absolutely own "Joe's Italian Kitchen," has chickened out. Damn, he's such a natural. But the actress runs this sketch, and I can get an actor easily enough. In fact, auditioning someone new Monday, maybe he'll work out for a change of faces.

It looks like "Moments" may be the first to come together.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

5 shows cast

Finished with the bulk of my screen tests, and I've cast five short scripts:
  • Sunset Hearts
  • Honky Tonk
  • Moments
  • Scrapple, Grits, Biscuits & Gravy
  • Joe's Italian Kitchen

I hope to schedule read-throughs next week for "Moments" and "Scrapple," each with just a single location, probably the easiest to shoot. Each, however, is filled with and driven by subtext, so the pieces are challenging for the actors.

Tomorrow and the weekend, it's all the review.

Old news

Statistics like this are shocking the first time you encounter them but we've been "an illiterate culture" for a long time now. In fact, the last stat I recall re book publishing was that 80% failed to make a profit, so maybe things are better ha ha. Fat chance. I'm surprised the "new books read to completion" percentage is so high.

Of course, being in academia, stats like this sound as if they come from another planet. But I've known where I live for a long time. You deal with it.
1/3 of high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives.
42 percent of college graduates never read another book after college.
80 percent of U.S. families did not buy or read a book last year.
70 percent of U.S. adults have not been in a bookstore in the last five years.
57 percent of new books are not read to completion.
70 percent of books published do not earn back their advance.
70 percent of the books published do not make a profit.
(Source: Jerold Jenkins,
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Corrected editions

It's astounding how many "American classics" have been reissued in the 20th century in an edition matching the original manuscript after authors made compromises to get published. Dreiser's Sister Carrie, Melville's Billy Budd, and here Crane's Red Badge of Courage, all "improved with age" with new editions.
Crane's New Red Badge

On this day in 1982, Stephen Crane's The Red Badge of Courage was published by Norton and Company in "the only complete edition from the original manuscript." All previous editions incorporated all or most of the cuts and changes that had been made to Crane's manuscript for its original publication in 1895. Crane had made these changes, but many now agree that they were coerced by an editor with an eye to the marketplace, and were so significant as to distort and muddy the story Crane wrote and the theme he intended. The original edition, writes the Norton editor Henry Binder, remade Crane's hero into "a youth who finds courage and self-possession, instead of one who, if he changes at all, becomes at the end even more egotistical and obtuse than he is at the beginning."
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3 scripts in the mail to actors today. And my last big batch of screen tests this afternoon. Still looking for an elderly woman for a script and I have 3 to look at today.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


Roswell Revelations

First hour guest, author, and publisher of UFO Magazine, William J. Birnes revealed Walter Haut's statements regarding the Roswell crash. The statements, in a signed affidavit, were released last year after his death.

In July 1947, Haut said he was at a meeting at the Roswell base attended by Brig. Gen. Ramey where it was announced there was a second crash site, about 40 miles away from the one that had first been reported.
Samples of the UFO wreckage were passed around, including a type of light metal paper and pieces that had odd markings on them. He said he was taken to Hangar 84 where he saw part of a craft, egg-shaped and 12-15 ft. in length, as well as two bodies lying under tarps, with heads sticking out that appeared larger than humans.
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I've cast two more shorts: Robert Projansky and John A. Donnelly in "Scrapple, Grits, Biscuits & Gravy" and Jim Bradbury and Judith Richmond in "Sunset Hearts." Hope to cast "Moments" after screen tests tomorrow, where I'll find my final character.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Honky Tonk

I've cast my first short, "Honky Tonk," with Judith Richmond, Robert Projansky, Hollie Olson, and Robert Peate."

Screen tests

Another productive day. Found the young woman to use in "Moments," I think. Looking at 3 older women for the mother later in the week.

Also rec'd a small tripod I ordered made to order for a small camera without a tripod connector, an ingenious design I can use with any tripod. I love inventors who solve problems so elegantly. Also rec'd a book on all the special effects available in my editing software and it is overwhelming. I'll never use 90% of them (I'm not a big SFX guy) but it's great to know I can split screens, use mattes, distort audio and such. My mind races with the possibilities.

I made progress on the review this morning, getting two artists up. Two more to go. Then some finishing up on every section except Poetry -- and THEN I tackle Poetry, by far the hardest section this issue. It may take me a week to get together. But I should just make our July 1 deadline!

The video section is done and looks great. Great interview by editor JMM.


From a former student:

I'm fairly shocked to report that the script I sent you has been bought and will turned into a film latter this year. I was planning on funding a shoot myself but a producer I knew loved it and wanted to make that happen. I'm directing still. I don't think I could have written the screenplay as well as I did without your class. Thank you.

Up and running

At the university bright and early to upload large video files for the review.

I think I'm "up and running" again after the crash. I'm sure there are programs I seldom use that aren't right but the Big Guns I use all the time seem to be working fine again.

Three more screen tests this afternoon.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Remembering a giant

From Today in Literature:
On this day in 1982 John Cheever died at the age of seventy in Ossining, New York. In 1977, the novel Falconer was number one on the best-seller lists and Cheever was on the cover of Newsweek. A year later, Cheever won a Pulitzer for his 700-page retrospective collection, The Stories of John Cheever, a book regarded as an essential chronicle of middle America, written in a style that made its author, said critic John Leonard, "the Chekhov of the suburbs." In his personal life, too, Cheever seemed triumphant: he had finally won his battle with alcoholism and kicked the two-packs-a-day habit; he had also found some accommodation for both his marriage and his bisexuality. In her 1984 memoir, Home Before Dark, Susan Cheever described her father during this period as not so much having arrived as returned: "It wasn't just that he didn't drink anymore... it was like having my old father back, a man whose humor and tenderness I dimly remembered from my childhood."
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Yet again

The unfortunate news today is a major computer crash at 5 a.m., the second in several months. Not good. Had to do a complete recovery and am still reinstalling software.

Three screen tests this morning, and I'll be casting two of them.

In a foul mood so had better stop. Ha ha. Onward.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

One down, one to go

Just turned the last of my grades in. Now to finishing up the new issue of the review.

A busy week of screen tests ahead: 3 Monday, 3 Tues, 1 Wed, 2 Thur. After which, I hope to have a number of scripts cast.

Which means final rewrites on the scripts so I can distribute them. And schedule rehearsals. I'm doing considerable rehearsing WITHOUT the camera before I begin shooting.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Time marches on

Common yard birds disappearing in Oregon

PORTLAND, Ore. — It may be getting a little more quiet in back yards as a steep population decline continues among common birds such as the Western meadowlark in the Portland metro area.

The meadowlark — the state bird — has nearly vanished as grassland habitat gives way to housing and parking lots.

The rufous hummingbird that winters in Mexico but returns to the wooded Northwest to breed has declined 79 percent in Oregon over the past 40 years. Even the familiar red-breasted robins have declined nearly 3 percent per year in the Portland metro area over the same period.

"There are a lot of species that we take for granted around here that are having real trouble," said Bob Sallinger of the Audubon Society of Portland.

The decline can also be blamed on urban predators such as house cats raiding nests and wide use of pesticides that kills the insects birds eat, biologists said.

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At last

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N.C. panel disbars Duke prosecutor

RALEIGH, N.C. - District Attorney Mike Nifong was disbarred Saturday for his "selfish" rape prosecution of three Duke University lacrosse players — a politically motivated act, his judges said, that he inexplicably allowed to fester for months after it was clear the defendants were innocent.

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Pocket Film Festival

Last weekend in Paris was the 3rd annual Pocket Film Festival, a showing of films largely shot by and for cell phones. I hope to have product to enter next year!

My writer friend and colleague Lynn Jeffress, who lives in Paris, sends a note and photo:

Here is where it was, the main lobby. It was early this morning, about 11:30, before the crowds started to show up. They had a conference room with round table discussions that went on all day starting at 2 pm. You see the cell phones hanging from that white plastic tree like thing?

Making progress

Have most of my grades in ... some online advanced students to wrap up, and I'm done. Should get to them this afternoon.

Audition an actress this morning. She has great enthusiasm and a solid background. If she works out, then I'll have my two country singers for "Honky Tonk." Also close to casting "Sunset Hearts" and "Scrapple, Grits, Biscuits & Gravy." I might be able to cast "Moments" from auditions next week. I also want to write a piano bar piece for a particular actress and another special piece for the actor I auditioned yesterday. These are six projects, more than enough for the summer, I think. Now I need to find locations for various scenes. Been thinking about this and have places in mind, some to check out, others to get permissions to use.

But next week I also have to get the review out.

Bad news from a collaborator. He missed a deadline and this morning I found out why: his long-term relationship ended. An old flame of the woman showed up, and she left my friend to marry the other guy! Ah, the heart has its own hidden energies, which can flare up at any moment.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Screen tests

A productive day. Found an actor whom I'll be using in several scripts. Meet tomorrow with a promising actress, and if she works out as well as I suspect, I'll be in business for at least one script. I think I have a second male as well, which means I would have two cast and with a young actress I could have three. Looking good.

I am going to rehearse the hell out of my actors before I shoot. I want lines natural and automatic. I want everything low key and loaded with subtext. Well, I don't want to over-rehearse, but I don't want "cold" or even "cool" performances on location. I want the material to be in their pours. If we rehearse for a month and shoot in two hours, so be it. But I think we might be able to get it in about three one-hour rehearsals for a ten minute piece, then I'll overshoot the hell out of it. The main thing is to allow time for all the subtle stuff to come through in their attitudes and expressions.

Scam agents

In the mail bag:

Mr. Deemer, thank you. I think your willingness to put your insights public (along with others) just saved me being robbed as a new writer. My book xxx is memoirs about a topic very important to me, the mysterious death of my child. I would have been devastated had I been robbed by an agent who has asked to see my manuscript, Michele Rooney.

Yes, she's one of the bad ones. Here's a list of the Twenty Worst Agents.

Rooney charges a "nominal" marketing fee, about $40 a month, which sounds innocent enough but is not the way the legitimate agents run their business. Yet if you get 100 newbie writers to send you $40 a month, well, you do the math. There is no record of her having ever sold a book, and she's been doing this since about 2000.

Also see the Preditors & Editors website for much valuable information.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The strange case of Jerzy Kosinski

Early in my writing career, back in the 60s and 70s, I used to review books regularly for such magazines as The New Leader and The Progressive. After a lukewarm review of a Kosinski book, I received a short letter from him, nasty and satiric in tone, the one and only time I ever heard from an author after a negative review (I rec'd several after a positive review, thanking me). I wasn't aware of the later controversy regarding his work and life.
Being and Not Being There
by Steve King

On this day in 1933 Jerzy Kosinski was born as Jerzy Lewinkopf, in Lodz, Poland. Kosinski's father changed the family name at the beginning of WWII in an effort to escape persecution as a Jew. As described later in Kosinski's international best-seller, The Painted Bird (1965), this plan went horribly wrong. When six-year-old Jerzy became separated from his parents he was given up for dead; he spent the next three years roaming the Polish countryside, witnessing and suffering such atrocities that he was struck dumb, recovering his speech only years later when, now reclaimed by his parents from an orphanage and enrolled in a school for the handicapped, he was jolted back to speech by a skiing accident.
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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Creative spamming

I've noticed that spammers are getting much more creative. For example, recently I've rec'd spams with the following in the subject line: "For the Editor" ... "About your story" ... "Screenwriter wanted" ... and in each case, the contents was a price list for an online drugstore. I fail to understand the logic of this, thinking that all I have to do is check the contents to become a customer, while it fact I am doubly annoyed by the trick. Perhaps they, the spammers, get paid by the number of emails opened, so they don't care if I'm pissed or not.

I still have a few more scripts to grade but I'm pooped for the day. Back at it first thing in the morning. I should be able to finish the finals tomorrow, then hit my online students on Friday and get grades in the same day.

I have eleven screen tests scheduled. I need four actors from them and hopefully more, for the other projects lined up. I have some major rewriting to do in one of the first scripts to tape, however. Maybe I'll do that tonight.

Truckin' along

Just about done with the student scripts/term projects. Tomorrow I'll tackle their finals. Looking good for getting grades in Friday if not Thursday night. Onward.

Hard ball

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Iran moves to execute porn stars

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Iran's parliament on Wednesday voted in favor of a bill that could lead to the death penalty for persons convicted of working in the production of pornographic movies.

With a 148-5 vote in favor and four abstentions, lawmakers present at the Wednesday session of the 290-seat parliament approved that "producers of pornographic works and main elements in their production are considered corrupter of the world and could be sentenced to punishment as corrupter of the world."

The term, "corrupter of the world" is taken from the Quran, the Muslims' holy book, and ranks among the highest on the scale of an individual's criminal offenses. Under Iran's Islamic Penal Code, it carries a death penalty.

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Motor sports

Naked couple in SUV arrested, accused of drinking, "embracing" on I-90

Seattle Times staff reporter

When the trooper saw the Ford Explorer drifting across Interstate 90 in Bellevue, he assumed it was yet another drunk driver.

But when he walked up to the car at 1:20 a.m. last Friday, he was greeted by a naked couple trying to stash an empty wine bottle, according to the State Patrol.

The 20-year-old woman in the passenger seat quickly grabbed a T-shirt to cover up, but the 19-year-old man driving didn't flinch, said State Patrol spokesman Jeff Merrill. They said they were driving back from Snoqualmie Falls.

The trooper asked the couple to get dressed, and both took a sobriety test. The driver had a breath-alcohol content of 0.08, the State Patrol said, and was cited for drunken driving as a minor.

He was also cited for embracing while driving, a misdemeanor.

Merrill said it appears the couple were engaging in some sort of "physical act."

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Into the stretch

Busy, busy! Did my first screen test today, went well, good prospect. About to go to the U and pick up finals. Rest of week is reading, grading. Then editing. Then ... my summer projects. Onward.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Learning curve

Great experience last night at dinner, talking with two film guys, one an editor for 30 yrs., the other a young filmmaker now in post with his first feature. Picking their brains etc regarding my own projects. Good feedback and encouragement.

Home today, and I'm ready.

Sunday, June 10, 2007


Well, the obligatory part of the visit is over, and I have a ton of necessary work waiting for me at home ... I am eager to get to it, get it done, and get cracking on my summer. But we don't leave till tomorrow.

The wedding

I'm not big on weddings but I must admit that last night's was perhaps the most joyous and fun event I've ever been to. The large families on each side exuded joy and positive energy that was catching. I loved it. I especially enjoyed (and taped) the kids (ages 4 or so to teens), who put on an incredible show of dancing during the celebration. This was a Jewish guy marrying a Japanese lady and both traditions were out in force. A great evening and night.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Report from L.A.

The wedding dinner last night. I kept the camera in my pocket and decided to mellow out. Too much work to shoot. An amazing meal at an Italian restaurant, many course, first served at 8, dessert served at 11, spectacular dishes in between.

Great visiting with friends here. But I'm already eager to get home. I have a pile of scripts to read and grade, pick up finals on Tuesday. Hope to have my grades in Friday, then turn to the review with all burners, finish it up in a week or so. And June 18th I start auditions for the two shorts and to see what possibilities suggest themselves from the actors.

Good response so far on "Peace Like A River." If nothing else, it sure demonstrates the possibilities of the technology.

Friday, June 08, 2007


Last night I burned a DVD of the art show piece. I expected a drop in quality but hopefully it would be watchable.

Well, there was no drop in quality whatever! In fact, on the TV screen it looks as good as any show or film. Again I am blown away by the power of Flip Video to do this. Whatever my shorts will lack, it will not be video picture quality. I'm going to look as good as the big boys here. Quite amazing.

Yesterday was the last day of class. I brainstormed with my students about adding a "filmmaking" option for my advanced screenwriting students ("this would be awesome," they said). That is, I am going to let them shoot short movies on a cell phone or whatever as an option to what they do now. I'll put together a syllabus for fall.

A nice chat with my friend in LA where we'll be staying. I'm going to shoot a lot of footage at the wedding dinner tonight and the wedding tomorrow, see what I can put together. I'd never do this normally but I'm still learning so much at every level, I like jumping right into something like this.

So far I have ten screen tests scheduled for the week of June 18th. I should be able to cast the two shows and think about, pre-cast, others, and I'll be looking for special talents I can take advantage of in future projects.

I have to admit, I'm already thinking about the possibility of shooting a feature next summer. It's simply a matter of finding the right story. I'm thinking of a spin off of The Brazen Wing, a version where someone comes TO Portland, not from it, and most of it is shot here, maybe using the coast or Mt. Hood as the scenic backdrop. But the same story concept, getting the lady out of the retirement center, going on a fishing adventure. Or make some other adventure. But the spine of the story could translate to something here, I'm sure. I could simplify the story in other ways for a smaller cast, combining small roles. I'll be thinking about this.

Life has interesting surprises. Only a few weeks ago my summer looked very, very different from how it's turning out to be. Then I watched H's vacation video shot on the Flip, and everything changed once I found out I could afford first rate editing software.

By the way, the editing software has the DVD burner built in. I didn't take advantage of the menu options, making scenes, etc., just burned a DVD that starts right up. Sufficient for shorts. The DVD on TV may even look a tad better than the piece on computer. I keep pinching myself. What a world.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Peace Like A River

If you'd rather watch an mpeg, go here.

Sink or swim

I just put down the music track on a three and a half minute piece about the gallery show last night. Learning by doing and all that. Maybe 5 or 6 hrs of editing for those 3+ minutes. Great fun. I'll stick the product here soon.

Still crazy after all these years

Harriet opened in a group show at Blackfish Gallery last night, her most prestigious company to date. I went with the Flip and ended up with over 60 video clips, so I'm putting something together to continue getting used to the editing software. This will be my first real "project" with camera and software.

I have the craziest idea I've had in years. The Brazen Wing is my favorite screenplay -- in fact, I recently heard from an agent who admires it -- but damn near impossible to sell because of the age of its two main characters. Soooo....what if I found a retired couple, both actors, and one summer the four of us took off to Idaho and the southwest, the required locations of the story, and filmed it ourselves. I could cast the other parts locally. There is nothing particularly difficult in it. Mostly it's taking the leads to spectacular settings. I know I could shoot it myself. All I need is a couple, both actors, who want to camp for a month or six weeks. We could do it!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Yesterday's good idea

clipped from

Tire Reefs

Correspondent Jeffrey Kofman blogs from the beach in Ft. Lauderdale:

It’s a good thing sun lovers on the beach in Ft. Lauderdale can’t see below the surface. Because if they could the ocean view that lured them here might not be so seductive. Just seventy feet below the surface and a mile off shore, sits a man-made environmental disaster. An estimated two million tires littering the ocean floor.

It is one of those “it seemed like a good idea at the time” stories. More than thirty years ago someone came up with the idea of solving two problems at once: get rid of a lot of used tires and create a new reef for fish, coral and tourists.

It didn’t work.

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Lots of hours editing Oregon Lit Rev today ... enough to see spots, so I'm stopping. So much to do. And so stoked and eager to start shooting scripts! Patience, patience.

I think I may try to shoot footage for a funny wedding video in L.A., something to keep me amused from an event I'd rather skip. I'll turn it into a project. It's all material.

Man, is that true! IT'S ALL MATERIAL.

Learning software

I love my editing software (Adobe Premiere Elements) but learning some of its advanced options is taking me forever. The software help area isn't very good, which is typical, and the two books I'm using deal with version 2 and I have version 3, for which books are just now coming out. For example, my latest skill is zooming and panning photographs -- once again, it took several days and lots of trial and error to figure out half-page instructions. I hope I can remember what I did! Here are some results. You can imagine how professional this can look if I do everything right.
(The 4x photo, by the way, is the late great scifi writer, Robert Sheckley.)

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

More prep

I don't always want to shoot with a hand held camera. I've been looking into various ways to stabilize such a small camera (it has no tripod mount) and decided to use a monopod with a bean bag. This might look pretty silly but what the hell. It will work as well as be lightweight and very versatile.


Films shot on cell phones are now being entered in regular film festivals, some winning awards. If we produce a good product, there actually may be opportunities for it. Unexpected and interesting.
clipped from

Full length feature film shot with a cameraphone

For more than a year, filmmaker Cyrus Frisch heard and observed growing tensions between Dutch and immigrant kids beneath his office window in central Amsterdam. By The Huffington Post covering the 6th annual Tribecca Film Festiaval.

"As he worked on another film, he began shooting the heckling occurring in the plaza - with his cell phone camera. The 70-minute avant garde piece is nearly without dialogue and is seen through the perspective of an Afghan war veteran played by Frisch. The result is Why Didn't Anybody Tell Me It Would Become This Bad in Afghanistan. " ...

Storyline from The San Francisco International Film Festival: "Told through the eyes of a traumatized Dutch soldier who has returned home from a tour of Afghanistan, Why didn’t anybody . . . documents the brewing tensions between native Dutch citizenry, immigrant youth and the police in a small square in the heart of Amsterdam.

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Harriet's birthday dinner


God puts scientists out of work

Creationism museum opens as our nation rejects logic

Henry Kraemer & Michael Schocket

For decades now, Christianity has left science to its own designs. Free of the constraints of church dogma, modern science has brought us miracles like the polio and smallpox vaccines, cyberspace, the human genome project and, of course, Segways. Faced with such heretical innovation, God is taking science back.
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New play development

Last night, after our traditional birthday dinner at Todai, we walked up to the university to see a staged reading of a new play by a graduate student of mine. The play was structured as the weaving of two narrative lines -- one the personal, powerful journey of the protagonist, the other a didactic lecture to the audience about the meaning of fairy tales -- only one of which worked for me. During the "talk back" session after the play, a situation I found myself in many times thirty years ago, I was shocked to learn from the theater professor heading the discussion that our feedback was restricted to sharing what we liked and disliked about the play. What? As a playwright, I would find this information interesting at best but totally useless in my struggle to make the play better. "We are not rewriting the play here," said the professor. Then we are wasting our time, thought I.

The most helpful comments to me when I was listening to "talk back" decades ago were ones like, "what would happen if ..." and "how about combining the characters of ..." and such. Rewriting the play! I wasn't interested in matters of taste. I was interested in comments that gave me a new vision of my own material. I thought the talk back last night ended up being self-serving and practically spineless. Is this how young playwrights get feedback today? Is this part of the cultural trend to "be nice" and not hurt feelings and be politically correct? I feel sorry for my student. This is not a way to hear something that's going to twist your mind in a new, productive direction. The comments amounted to "I like potatoes" and "I don't like turnips." Gee, isn't that interesting?

I was almost furious. How can you explore the possibilities of a play without, in essence, rewriting it? Such restricted feedback is a disservice to the playwright.

The other thing that infuriates me is that the university (and most theaters, for that matter) stops its interest in "new play development" at the staged reading. They seldom do full productions of new work. This is like, You'll screw your fiancee but you won't marry her. The fact is, it takes relatively few resources to sponsor a staged reading. Stopping here is half-hearted support. The university especially should do much more than this. Thesis plays should get full productions as a matter of course, which was the situation in the MFA program I was in at the U of O. PSU should do that same.

And let's take the handcuffs off when giving feedback! The playwright is an adult, she can take it. It's her play, she'll do what she wants with it. But she's been so close to the material for so long, the best way for her to find an avenue for improvement, it seems to me, is with new insights and suggestions about her storytelling strategy. In other words, by letting audience members rewrite the play.