Saturday, September 27, 2008

A Cult Classic Revisited

I was only 10 years old when I first glimpsed the BBC TV program... Shortly thereafter, I found the books... Read'em all. 24 years later, the author died before he could witness his grand vision realized on a massive scale...

In 2009, fans can honor him again. Stick out your thumb, why don't you?

Friday, September 26, 2008

Settling in to the table

I've been prattling on about create, create, and more create--- I've been watching the flow of new creative energies move silently through various mediums--- I was invited to a special film screening by a few friends in the local production a few days ago--- and as I sat there, I could feel my blood boil ( not in a bad way, mind you), and I knew then that I HAD TO GET TO MY TABLE AND PRODUCE RIGHT AWAY!!

"The next greatest thing to inspiration, is a workstation to realize it in!"

I've been somewhat quiet lately, plying my little art skills at the table after a short hiatus... I've divided my time between turning out page after page ( somewhere around page 147, and that's w/o the add-ons), finishing a new batch of one-sheets, and working on two new scripts.

Believe me, once I finish it all, I'm taking a vacation--- Probably last a day;)

Those who know me, know how I work--- And to watch the sun come up is NOTHING to me... If I don't have to work my first job, of course...
Next time you settle in to your worktable, stop a moment and say thank you.

Alright, yous mugs, back tah woik.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

What is the RockNRolla?

In the beginning, there was Lock, Stock, and Two smoking barrels and the underground crime/boxing film Snatch from Euro-wunderkind Guy Ritchie... Of course, after a falling out with his production partner, Matthew Vaughn ( who subsequently went on to give us the incredible L4yer Cake ), Guy's mojo didn't shine as brightly as before. He gave us Revolver, but again, without Vaughn, the film became nothing more but a string of ideas and theories as told by Andre Benjamin... ( I actually liked the visual style of Revolver, but the narrative was too chaotic--- but that's me)

Guy is indeed back. Kickass cast, incredible visuals, and the return of the smashmouth narrative that made the wunderkind shine in the first place! Hot damn! The RockNRolla!

ReInventing an Old School Medium

Once again, the ghost of Grindhouse looms large again--- sort of.
Recent attention has come back to Robert Rodriguez' Troublemaker studios as he announces his commitment to completing a full-length version of his famous faux trailer MACHETE. Danny Trejo returns to a character that's been around since DESPERADO! The Weinstein Company has spoken publicly of making Machete a TRILOGY during the pre-prod. of Sin City 2!

The visual style of faded stains and flicker actually ADDS to the appeal of this lost genre of entertainment. It's no secret that I've talked around the subject of Grindhouse era/visual arts before--- and as so far as print media goes, I think it's a goldmine RIPE for re-inventing!

(Ha, just add a coffee stain to the top of a page, and voila! Instant conversation piece)

My love for researching different visual styles is boundless, y'all! Back to work... Oh, which reminds me, start looking for new work posts soon from yours truly. I've got an abundance of backwork piled high, and I've just gotta get it outta my system!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Empire Building... Wow!

I am a certified film junkie. From the method to the process; the labor to the end result.
I came across a recent article of George Lucas attending ShoWest '08, and as I read through, I realized all over again that I respect the hell outta this guy! It's funny--- in only 20 years, this guy has completely re-engineered the moviemaking landscape. Here's what I've learned from it:

The Bigwigs in Hollywood once thought Lucas was crazy when he asked to exchange part of his directing salary for STAR WARS' merchandising rights and sequel ownership. By doing so, Lucas guaranteed his autonomy. By owning his film projects and action figures, he used the revenue to finance future projects. With financial independence comes artistic freedom... Hey, it's his money.


L.A., being full of what he considered 'counterproductive distractions', was not an option. San Rafael Ranch ( later Skywalker Ranch) was Lucas' way of working outside of the frenzied Hollywood machine. No more distractions.

Lucas figured when you pay superstars in a movie, you pay steep salaries and hefty slices of your projected revenues; sometimes exceeding 20%. A Natalie Portman or Ewan McGregor not only cost less up front, but they don't command Tom Cruise profit points on the back end. The less money you spend, the more money you keep. Example: By paying for all the marketing costs himself, Lucas pocketed 90% of Episode 1's earnings... Earnings that he funneled into Episode 2's effects.
Consistently spend wisely. When he made Ep.1, it was only after 2 decades of extensive research and development (most of that funded by earlier works--- say, his ILM company's work with an archaeologist and a Jurassic Park ).
Hasbro sold $1 billion in STAR WARS merch within the last year of Ep. 1's release. Just for the privilege , Hasbro gave Lucas a lion's share of stock, $250 mill in licensing fees, and a 20% royalty fee. Lucas would use that cash alone to fund the last two installments. ( Remember, it was Kenner toys that kinda made Hasbro possible)

From Distributor 20th Century Fox to theatres, Lucas set rigidly defined terms for his projects.... How they were seen, heard, and presented.

Example: 4 theatres presented Ep.1 on digital projectors, a new format at that time. ( A norm now--- ask Robert Rodriguez) To Lucas, Digital movies won't scratch or flicker and cheaper to run as opposed to film, and eventually be transmitted via satellite, denting the piracy debate. ( Of course, nationwide conversion to this format would cost $2 bill... To be continued)

Through the timed releases of games, books, and film re-re-releasing of the first 3 STAR WARS films, Lucas consistently kept the audiences wanting more. He never rushed direct-to-video sequels into Blockbuster stores, nor did he ever make the Episodes BEFORE he had the tools he needed.

Lucas & ILM created whole new worlds ( i.e. entire backgrounds & almost exclusively digital characters). Pioneering the way for other concepts like MATRIX' 'bullet time' FX.

After EP. 1, Lucas shot the last two films completely digital. Recording in this format made it easier to edit and score on a personal computer; as well as distribute over the internet ( another norm today--- can anyone say YOUTUBE?) In other words, give creative control back to the creators by shifting power away from greedy financiers.

Of course, though this is what I've learned from the filmmaking process a la' Lucas, it's not hard to convert and utilize some of this info to fit into the comics realm. The enlightened creator will catch on to what I'm saying real quick. Either way, like him or hate him, you can't help but respect him.

And to think that somewhere, Lucas' inspiration for all this, Akira Kurosawa, is smiling proudly...

Nemesis Nowadays

From an artists' perspective, there is nothing new under the sun, only different areas in which to view the shine. Everybody knows ( or should know) that in order to build the next level, you must show respect to the foundation which you must inevitably build on--- try building without it, I guarantee you, it will not hold. Long ago, one of my best friends coined a phrase to which, over the years, has become my mantra : Mediocrity is my nemesis.

In today's pop culture- fueled miasma, damn if that enemy hasn't gotten stronger over the years.

But, of course, as I said, nothing new under the sun.

Everybody's whispering about it... Some are talking openly about it ( i.e., Robert Kirkman's video editorial on CBR)... And, of course, some of us are doing something about it. The Next Movement is about to begin, and HOT DAMN if it's not looking good!

I know I may sound like a broken record on this issue, but I'm gonna keep ranting about it until I get it right ( heh...) Until we all do. Notice how quiet the western front seems to be as of late?
Always that way once the summer con season dies down. We haven't had a major kick in the ass since the emergence of IMAGE in the early 90's. To those creators that feel me, you can feel it too... The slow boil. I mentioned in an earlier entry about how the International art scene is booming continuously: New creators with new styles! Old creators who never repeat themselves! No one fools themselves into thinking " I will recreate Superman", because there is no need to.... Their answer to this was easy:

Honor Siegel & Shuster by creating NEW worlds.

( Don't believe me? Think about how many people how many 'creations' were 'inspired' by 'Big Daddy' Eisner--- but this is all academic.)

So WAKE UP PEOPLE!!! Time to put our thinking caps on and gather our instruments of war for a new battle--- a battle I will fight eternal---

The Monster known as Mediocrity.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

PUNISHER: War Zone! Look a little closer...

Now, this is the story I first heard during post production of the film.
If this version were to remain untouched, it could EASILY rank with the DARK KNIGHT---
I know how that sounds, but I'm not afraid to say it! Compared to the last 2 Punisher movies,
this is the one that could stand as the definitive!

The fact checking is GOOD here, people! Blow it up and look closer... The Death,Rebirth and subsequent Death of a franchise is at hand....

DAZE- A Tale From The Wayback Machine Pt 2

I kicked back one Saturday, watching Gone in 60 seconds ( the 70's Halicki classic, not the Nic Cage remake), drifting off into the haze of nostalgia---- As a kid, struggling thru art school, I took some crazy ass jobs to fit my hectic schedule. I wound up taking a job as a repo man (how I fell into this gig, well, you already know...). Now, there are 2 types of cars to grab: the cars that're fresh on the list, and those that're about to be written off by the insurance company... By taking option #2, not only was I honored to become skip tracer for the state, but a human target as well... Yes sir, the 90's were in full effect!

The advantage of taking such a risky gig was the opportunity to reset my credit/debt record ..(Believe me, the college loans were kicking my ass!!!). In return, I would sit in my car and watch an old lady in a walker trudge to a SuperSport that she's kept in hiding for a year past it's recall date. In return , I would follow her to the gas station and watch her fill up. Wait for her to go inside ever soooo sloooooowly... Put my partner in the driver's seat of my car and take to the wheel of a powerful SS with a triple thick black paint job.
I would pull away as she emerges from the cashier-- watch her throw her walker down and jump up and down, screaming " You sorry bastard!!!!"--- All I could focus on was the $250 on the car, minus 10 bucks for the ignition switch.

And it was my third car of the day. In between Life drawing and Typography.

Then, of course, I would think about the crazier moments: Imagine disabling a car alarm while the car is parked under an open window... The bedroom window... While the client and his wifey were screaming mid-coitus. Imagine rolling a car downhill while trying to slam the car lock before I have to jump outta the car and watch it plummet off an embankment. Imagine getting away from a shotgun toting maniac after grabbing a car I've been hunting down for 3 months--- only to have the steering column LOCK THE F*CK UP while doing a cool 80 mph after only 2 miles!
Imagine getting pulled over by the cops, only then realizing that I left the repo order in MY car--- and I lost him 2 miles back! Try explaining that one. Mr Smith used to tell me that life expectancy in this business, at some point and time, would eventually drop to zero. He wasn't kiddin'... Within a year, 5 of the agents I trained with were either killed or seriously wounded. I think that was wake-up call enough for me to seek life elsewhere.
Mr. Smith taught me alot about the business. Subsequently, my mentor disappeared 2 years later after attempting to repo a ride he traced back to the Texas border. All they found was a sky blue Torino and a .38 revolver in the glove box... He will be missed.
The DVD ends, breaking my train of thought.

Imagine my laughter when the remake of 'Gone in 60 Seconds' comes on cable.

Friday, September 5, 2008

PUNISHER: War Zone! Grindhouse style!

DAZE- A Tale From The Wayback Machine

I remember the night I decided to become a repo man... You know, a legal car thief. Of course, the circumstances that lead up to what many would call destiny cannot always be appreciated--- ESPECIALLY when you're young. That silly decision began with another one...

I landed a job as a Club Bouncer working the seedier side of town. The gun cord I wore cut into my armpit something fierce; enough to make small doubts grow bigger. Because of the hardware (which was little more than a .38), I was forced to work the parking lot--- y'know, make sure the ladies get to the front door without incident ( hey, I was young ). I also wore a headset walkie which to communicate with the front door. After the first 3 hours, I thought I was on easy street making easy money ( young... And very stupid ).

Little did I know--- during the early 90's, the beeper handgun was the new thing ( a custom made bumper containing 3-4 .22 longshells encased in a pager shell with a firing pin built-in. Press the button and bang ), and when I caught wind that the front door had confiscated four of them, I started thinking if I could get my money early. Okay, here's what I didn't know---

While I was doing my 'bodyguard' thing for a group of girls driving a cheap Toyota in the back of the building, a caravan of cars, lead by a custom painted gold BMW, were coming in through the front entranceway, blocking traffic. The BMW contained 4 very blunted out Jamaicans, determined to show a caravan, 15 cars strong, a good time. Each Jamaican carried --- you guessed it--- a beeper handgun.

At the time, my attention was focusing on an unassuming white guy who circled endlessly around the parking lot via sidestreets and backalley shortcuts... Of course, once out of sight, out of mind.
What would take place less than 20 minutes later will forever haunt me--- not for what I didn't see, but what I heard. The walkie sounded like this:

KKKSSSSSHHH!--- (Random screaming) Hey! (glass breaking) Who's on outside?!
BZZT!! Rodney? KSSSSHHH! Rodney?! Are you out there?!!!

I reluctantly answered.

( Screaming getting louder) Hey, yo!! The Rastas---!! ( More breaking sounds) --- went shell---!! WHATEVAH YOU DO, DO NOT LET'EM GET DUG IN THEIR CAR!!! KKKSSSHHHT! ( the line cuts to continuous hash)

At the time, I was rushing towards the front of the building as the crowds began to spew out. I was so focused on the front door, I hadn't even realized I was leaning against a tricked out gold primered Beamer. " 'Ey, Rasclaht--- getoff ma' cahr!!!" was the next clue that I had found the right people. With .38 drawn and tucked low behind my sleeve, I braced my nerves and ignored the urge to lose my bladder where I stood.

Suddenly, I look back to notice the unassuming white guy standing on the other side of the car, looking like a deer caught in headlights! Unfortunately, I looked back long enough for the Jamaican to stab me in the arm with a jagged piece of glass he found on the ground! Everything happened so fast--- The fear... The searing burn that lit up my arm... The jolt of the .38 as I fired two rounds... The sudden fear that I may have killed my attacker... I think maybe the biggest scare of all was the fact that I neglected to let anyone know that I had no papers for the piece under my arm in the first place! Luckily for me that no one else put up a fight after that.

As it turns out, the white guy turned out to be a repo man following up a repossession order for a 1989 BMW about to be written off by the insurance company. Apparently, this guy takes on the case files that other agents don't like to touch. After the police arrived, they opened the trunk of the car to reveal several 12 gauge pumps, an AK-47 ( well, a Chinese knockoff Type 6), a few automatic handguns of varying caliber, and a short barrelled Uzi. It was here that those words of ' Don't let them get in their car' took on a whole new meaning.

By night's end, I would be cleared of the shooting; being declared as self-defense under extreme circumstances, the men with the weapons payload would be carted off to jail, I gave up the nightlife job that night ( as the future would have it, I would know this life again), and accepted a new one: learning to skip-trace hard-to-find auto's and turn a big profit.

Oh yeah, the repo-man, known only as Mr. Smith, would later be on the highway at daybreak, driving a gold BMW, and tucking ' his .38 revolver' into the glove box of the car.

Funny how those kinda things work themselves out, right?

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Pure Action Prose that lives up to the hype: Classic Inspiration!

Visiting the local Borders ( one of my favorite haunts), I browse the book shelves with my usual 5 shots of expresso in a large coffee ( sometimes the circumstances of the day warrant such extreme measures...), and I sometimes listen to other browsers commenting on various writers to varying degrees: Chuck Palaniuk ( FIGHT CLUB is still the epitome of 90's disillusionment and anger-venting) , Barry Eisler ( The John Rain series is a methodical procedural on an assassins' life in Japan), James Rollins ( decent writing, but reads like he's competing against Matthew Reilly without admitting it)... It's here that the real conversation begins...

I rarely get time to really sit down with a good book, and when I do, I really want my money to mean something when I put it down. It was an oft-chance conversation concerning the prose of Reilly that made me check out ICE STATION, the adventurous exploits of Marine legend Shane 'Scarecrow' Schofield and his Recon unit.

A casual flip led to 10 pages of reading. I was hooked in 5.

Folks, I'm a cynic when it comes to the catchphrases because they rarely mean what they say (Spectacular!! Pulse-pounding action!! Pure Adrenaline!! blah, blah, blah---), so it was a blast of renewed energy to me to discover that this guy actually lives up to the hype! WOW! When I say the action is breakneck, the idea of looking for a good chiropractor is suggested. This kid writes action prose like John Woo shoots visuals: it's that tight!!! After reading the first three chapters of ICE, I bought all the other Reilly books on the shelf!
That was two years ago.
I'm reading Reilly's last hardcover, The 6 Sacred Stones, for the 3rd time.

I highly recommend the series especially to the 2 categories Reilly's books fit: To the crowd that loves blockbuster films in print, and to those people who don't read novels... You can literally finish a given book in a days time ( 350+ pages can really read that fast!)

Yeah, this sounds like another geek moment, but as a creator, the huge amount of inspiration in the writing structure alone is overwhelming! Try it for yourself, but watch the time... It can and will slip away from you fast just on a casual flip thru the world of Matt Reilly.
Speaking of which, I've gotta get back to work! My own book awaits!