Sunday, November 02, 2008

Art As Faith

Art and creativity have such a close relationship with faith and vision. It has to do with listening to those inner voices and trying to take that connection out to others where they can hopefully draw inspiration from it. It's so much easier to listen to those voices around you who see what is. There were so many who never thought this project would ever see fruition. But I really feel that someday it will be very commonplace for individuals to put together local groups of artists and performers, make beautiful, insightful comments on video and broadcast it soon after it is made. The people who made it and those who view it can then discuss it online together, maybe suggest or even add a song, clip or photo that would enhance the message.

If we weren't burdened by an outdated, unwieldy system of accreditation, ownership and payment, things would be much easier. As it is now, no investor will invest in the technology that is surely there, waiting to happen. Funspots and Mashits won't be funded in the real world. No VC will touch those companies since Napster and subsequent decisions have put a perma-frost and mind and spirit numbing chill on Silicon Valley creativity. All we have now is an increasingly entrenched Mason-Dixon line of mutual snubbery and guess who is losing, folks? The people of the world, yes, all 6B, on their Negroponte laptops.

We all lose because of this ridiculous stand off which I lay 99% on Hollywood, which thinks it owns entertainment. And we let them. How much of their product do you consume? I personally am the world's biggest offender, but I can't help it, they produce so much. And for all the cameras out there, how much actual entertainment is being produced outside Hollywood? It is not that hard! Scripts can be written, actors can be found, events can be filmed, docs can be thought up and executed. They don't have to look like Hollywood productions. You hold yourself up to that standard and you're finished. That's buying into the bullshit that keeps them powerful and you silent. The last thing Hollywood wants is local artistic empowerment, because that will be their final undoing.

The Renewal

Films are like fine wines. They become richer and deeper with age. They fulfill the flavors that were just buds as those first few frames were shot. The story of survival against all odds grows and people come to appreciate all that went into the final product as it is finally savored.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Valley Fog Blog

The following is the welcome to my newest blog, which is, yes, Valley Fog Blog.

This blog is all about the film Valley Fog and the long, slow, tortuous history of its route to fruition. As I recall, the idea to do an independent film preceded the actual concept for the film. I was going through a period of creativity which, not coincidentally, came around the time of my divorce. I was exploring several other mediums at the time: music, blogging and painting. Film was the natural fourth, I've been a film buff most of my life.

What made it all feasible was that the barriers to entry for making a good looking, quality film were coming down. I realized it would be possible to tell my story on film for a fairly modest price... but, what story? They say write what you know and that's exactly what I did... finally, about two years later.. when I finally started writing scripts like a dervish. First I had to try several, let's just say long tortuous routes, such as trying to get actors to improvise my drama on a line by line basis and generally, learn a lot of lessons the hard way. All of this along with my teenage son, who will probably go on to tell the story in his own way in a few years, and probably with a budget a million times the size.

But, back to the beginning. We started the project in earnest about a year ago, filmed with a cast of four and a crew of three over a few weekends last winter. At that point, with all the issues surrounding the demise of my own marriage fresh in my mind and wanting expression, we focused on the relationships. There was a married, interracial couple, Jason and Shari, fighting over kids, who were having an engaged couple, Greta and Nick, over for lunch. We had no script (that's one lesson I learned the hard way... never again!) and I spent endless hours with the actors going over the intricacies of their various and twisted histories with and without each other... let's just say it was "complicated".

After one of the actors moved out of the area, I shelved the project. I didn't really have enough footage to make anything, despite my occasional lame comments to my son that we did. Finally, I figured out how to use the original story and make a feature out of it without using the actor that had moved. So, about a year after the original shoots, with a much bigger cast and crew, including two of the original actors, we continued the story of the original luncheon by showing the various friends of the foursome discussing it, and what happened, primarily the fact that Jason and Greta end up kissing each other. Then there are additional scenes to illustrate more of the mentality of Silicon Valley and the merging of worlds that happens when Jason's corporate type friends interact with Greta's cool band mates.

There was also more exploration of the way relationships and affairs are viewed by various constituencies, from Shari's PTA mom friends, to the San Francisco independent film community. I also tackle current issues going on in Silicon Valley today surrounding the new distribution mediums for music and film. The company Jason and his buddies work for is "Lime", a thinly veiled Apple-like company which, in the fantasy world of film would be sporting the lime slice that for many is the international symbol of revolution, taken from Limewire.

We see a culture of arrogant executives seeking, or should I say, sucking, the fresh views of the young filmmakers but also wanting to sell them on the corporate values they embody. The young indies recognize the sell-outs for their internal emptiness and lack of creativity, but also try to figure out how long they can hold onto their freedom and expressiveness in a world where money can be made in many different ways from content they provide.

Below is the current draft of the official Valley Fog synopsis:

Valley Fog

Are the elite of Silicon Valley on the cutting edge or do they live in a fog of distorted values? Are those shaping the future of electronic entertainment clearly seeing the needs of the consumer or are they blinded by dead marriages and the desire for stature?

Jason Sanville is a man who grew up with everything and succeeded as a professional musician, a start-up entrepreneur and as an executive at a high profile Silicon Valley company. He has an artistic, intelligent wife, two beautiful kids, a big house in Palo Alto and all the perks of life. But, he is restless and unhappy. His wife is bored and frustrated. They can’t get along.

One day an old friend and former business partner, Nick brings over his bohemian fiancé, Greta. Jason, feeling threatened by Nick, ends up kissing Greta over a game of chess in his family room. Finally, it seems someone cares about him in a genuine and free way.

This gets him thinking about his lost career in music. He asks some of his co-workers if they would like to put together a cover band, the Limetimes, and while they are having lunch, Jason sees Greta. They reconnect and she tells Jason she will be singing at a new, hot nightclub nearby. He comes to see her play and that night they go back to his house while his wife and kids are out of town. Before long, Greta’s band mates, a group of San Francisco artists and filmmakers, show up and things get pretty wild.

The next morning finds them over croissants discussing the evening and saying goodbye at the train, but who knows if the goodbye is final? Jason has never felt more alive. He has finally regained some real connection to his creative self and clearly wants more. Greta doesn’t want to become a cliché or sacrifice her spiritual and emotional needs to become “the other woman”, but is also attracted to Jason and wants to bring out the best in him.
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