Friday, August 27, 2010

Doug Jones! Who?

Things are starting to warm up here in L.A. and I don't just mean weather wise (it's been about 97 the last few days - it is 69 as I type this). I'm talking about the creative process. The rest of the students and I are getting our imaginations revved up and ready to go. We received our most challenging and important assignment just a few days ago. 'Tis this:

- Develop your character into their story
- 6-8 pages (no more than 10)
- Interesting character + conflict + resolution
- Character must change in some way.
- Simple story + complex character
- Rules on content....non-existant

So, I'm in the process of writing a script. One of my summer assignments was to create a character and write two-pages describing that character. I had previously created a character that I didn't get to flesh out as much as I would have liked to. So, I expanded on that character, the character of Albert Ryan. Now, I must expand on that character even more and put him in a story. If you would like to read my character description of Albert that I turned in, see below and please ignore any spelling errors:

Albert Ryan is a 30 something year old trying to achieve the oft sought after goal of world fame and recognition as a successful movie star and screenwriter. Unfortunately, Albert is failing to reach what he believes to be his “life calling.” He’s a failed actor because he lacks the talent. He’s a failed screenwriter because he doesn’t know how to communicate through script. In fact, Albert doesn’t know how to communicate through any medium. At first glance, he appears to be an empty shell of a man; never communicating how he feels, what he’s thinking or what he wants. His friends all call him boring and of course, Albert is boring. The most daring part of his day is when he throws open cupboard doors in hopes of getting his face as close to the swing as possible without breaking his nose off. The only time he truly smiles is when he is trying to suck up flies using his vacuum cleaner. And Albert’s idea of a good time is whacking a golf ball around the yard for a few hours. But beneath the epidermal surface, Albert is really quite entertaining when he’s by himself and doesn’t siphon his behavior through his many psychological filters. Those filters include his natural born introversion, his fear of confrontation, and his desire to be liked by everyone; all of these seem contradictory to each other but they are the reasons Albert is so good at keeping his thoughts to himself. Even if these mental blocks cause him to endure his biggest pet peeve: being called boring. Of course, the last two paragraphs have been talking about Albert from three months ago, pre-mental breakdown Albert. Three months ago, Albert was in a relationship. I say, “was” because she called it quits after deeming Albert too boring. And that is when Albert snapped. His mind was so desperate to find a way to express his inner most thoughts upon the unsuspecting world that it simply created its own path of escape. This path came in the form of a film crew that only exists inside Albert’s head. Albert is now the star of his own documentary. The invisible film crew is now his much-needed confidante. Consequently, everyone within earshot of him is now his confidante. This has lead to all of his relationships changing, some for the worse. When he is “on camera” he is his true self. Albert isn’t acting anymore. His speech is faster, looser, more real and as a result, he hurts people’s feelings, alienates them, and hops onto a few people’s enemies list. In the past Albert would avoid conflict, now he actively seeks it out. Conflict is at the center of any good narrative after all and Albert is all about fabricating his life narrative as more exciting and provocative even if that means turning some of his friends into merely recurring characters. Ironically, now when he is alone is when Albert really struggles with his confidence. Albert’s personality has flip-flopped. Now, he’s obnoxious and boisterous while in public or the presence of company and quiet, reserved, and contemplative when by his lonesome. He asks himself why he “hired” this film crew. Is it in hopes of catapulting his acting career that he’s put so many of his relationships on the line? Or is he trying to show them that he’s not boring? Or show himself?

The whole idea for this character came from watching The Office. I would see how Jim would non-verbally communicate to the audience through the camera, as if passing of a secret through a smirk or a wink. I tried this in the dorm room a few times with Brock and that other guy I live with. The first time they freaked out, thinking someone else was in the room. I took that idea and ran with it. With my wonderful classmates Alex Canfield and Bill Rehr, we created a fake trailer for a movie starring Albert:

Now, I'm charged with task of making that trailer become a reality.

The highlight of the last few days was getting to meet Doug Jones. He was a special guest speaker at the center last night. If you don't recognize him from his quite famous film roles don't worry. You aren't suppose to recognize him.

Here he is as Abe Sapien from Hellboy and Hellyboy II: The Golden Army

The Silver Surfer - 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer

Pan's Labyrinth as Pale Man

The Benchwarmers - Number 7 Robot

He stayed and talked to us for 3 hours. He talked about his roles and told us cool stories about meeting Tim Burton and Guillermo del Toro

I'll post another pic dump within the next day or two and I'll post some videos of Doug Jones telling his stories.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

And here...we...go...

Well, the move-in is complete. I am officially living in Los Angeles and residing in the second largest apartment complex in the country, Park La Brea (next to the famous La Brea tar pits - as seen in Futurama). Life here is...different. Not really how I pictured it. I'm not saying its bad because it's not. I love it! I'm excited to be here. I've met my roommates (Jordan, Carlos, Josh, and Kyle) and they seem like really cool guys even if they can't compare to the likes of Brock and that other guy I live with back home. I've met my instructors (John, Patrick, Nathan, Rebecca, Jeremy, and Chris). They are all industry professionals who know what they are talking about in the world of film. And lastly, I've explored the facilities, which are great (I'll post pictures in the future).

On Monday, we had our first day of “classes.” This really just equaled orientation, talking about rules, and playing those awkward “get to know each other games.” It was still a fun day despite the not so hot start to the day. I've already learned that Monday is trash day here at PLB. I've also learned that garbage trucks in the area clock in at 195 dB.

So I woke up a little earlier than anticipated. No big deal. I figured I would just hop in the shower and get properly woken up. Turns out our apartments are environmentally friendly. So, instead of traditional shower heads PLB has opted to use old recycled fire hoses.

Of course, that's not true. Using The Shower of Power, gives you the illusion of death. You won't actually die while bathing. It accomplishes this illusion through two methods. The first of course is its redic power washer type water pressure that is used to train UFC fighters and ward off those pesky civil rights activists. The second method is to generate so much steam that the shower will actually trip the breaker, turning off the light in the bathroom. This causes the shower taker (e.g., me) to assume the worst: death.

With my nerve endings freshly destroyed, I made my way to the school which is about a fifteen minute walk away. I have no problem with this because I enjoy walking. I'm actually planning on walking to Hollywood Blvd. sometime soon. (It's about 3-4 miles away.)

Later in the day we had a couple of guest speakers, a married couple who have been working in Hollywood for quite some time. They were there to talk to us about being a Christian in Hollywood. They offered up a lot of good advice on how to adjust to the culture of the tribe that is Hollywood. But I found a few things that didn't quite sit well with me. It's hard to articulate why I disagree (I'll need to think about it a little longer). The advice I have issue with is treating “Christian” as if it is a dirty word because it carries a negative connotation around these parts. They prefer to describe themselves as “Christ Followers.” I understand that you don't want to alienate someone right off the bat by immediately filling their head with “right-winger, homophobic, Republican” (their words) but I don't see why we should abandoned our label just because it's been “hijacked” by a group who's “ideology” doesn't completely reflect a “Christ-like attitude” (I'm not saying that conservative Republicans aren't Christ-like; I am one.....but let's not get into that) Don't actions speak louder than words? Are we incapable of calling ourselves Christians and then showing that we love everyone? Letting others see Christ's light through us? Is labeling yourself as a “Christ Follower” taking the easier route? I don't know. Those are just a few things on my mind. Also, you would think calling yourself a “Christ Follower” in order to avoid alienation would be an insult the the non-believers intelligence, thus, alienating them. I'm sure if you tell someone that you are a “Christ Follower,” that person will make this connection in less than .5 seconds: CHRISTian: a person who is a believer in Jesus CHRIST and his teachings = Christ Follower....

Overall, I'm glad we talked about it. It got me thinking about things even though in the end I don't agree with what they do.

Interesting anecdote: I was walking back to the apartments with a few of my roommates after our last class of the day. When I saw a short woman walking ahead of us dressed in all black. I didn't pay much attention to her until we caught up to her and I started to pass her. I turned to say something to one of my fellow students when I caught this woman giving me the evil eye while muttering something under her breath. Less than 15 seconds later, a crow dropped a deuce on the top of my head. A crow! A deuce! My head!

Logical conclusion: She was a witch.

I know this posts seems super whiney but I'm really having a great time. There just wasn't a whole lot to talk about. But there will be once the semester gets into full swing.


A montage of travel footage that sounds like I'm headed off to Mount Doom instead of L.A. It's stupid. Enjoy.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

I guess that's why they call it the City of Angels.

Los Angeles truly is a city of angels. Maybe not a city full of angels but there are a few and fortunately, my mother knew them back in college. And no, Nicholas Cage was not one of them.


My updates have been a little behind schedule but I'm going to catch up with this one. First things first, we left my sister's house at 6 in the morning on Wednesday (18th). We had plans to drive all the way through the Oklahoma pan handle, through New Mexico, into Arizona, and down to the Phoenix area to spend the night with one of my sister's friend's house. The trip started out great. We stopped in Kansas to run my car through a car wash. My car was cleaned, I was feeling good, we had miles of open road ahead but that's when mini disaster struck.

Not that kind of mini disaster.

I accidentally dropped a penny into the cigarette lighter. Don't ask how or why this happened. It'll just make both of our brains hurt. All you need to know is that it sparked a few times and I ended up fishing it out in the deadliest game of Operation ever. After gaining my one cent back and losing at least one fuse, my car no longer had interior lights or power locks. “No biggie,” I stupidly thought, “It could be worse.” Oh, what a fool I was. Why did I say that? Little did I know just how bad things were about to get. We entered New Mexico and I had one thing on my mind: Slushies. Too bad the state had an unpublicized ban on any and all cool, refreshing, frozen beverages. At least that's the impression that I got because I couldn't find a slushie anywhere. Annoyed and slightly parched, we made our way out of New Mexico. We just had to make it through.....Albu-kirky. (I said, A (A!), L (L!), B (B!), U (U!),.....................Kirky! (Kirky!)) As we were getting to Albuqurkey, I was behind the wheel and noticed my vehicle, Patchy (that's the name I just gave it), was acting a little funny. Then, medium sized disaster struck, Patchy just completely shut off and wouldn't start for a good 5 minutes. This happened several times before we decided to use my trust GPS, Viki, to lead us to the nearest repair shop.

"In 0.9 miles keep right on US 101. My logic is undeniable."

Now its time to talk all serious and junk about what was going through my mind at this time. I left my mom at the shop to go for a walk to blow off some steam, think about things, and maybe mutter insults to passing vehicles who were obviously rubbing it in my face. On this walk, I had a woe is me attitude. “Oh poor, poor, Russ. Nothin' ever goes your way,” I foolishly thought at the beginning of my walk. By the end of my 2.5 mile walk, my thoughts were a bit more positive.

I had convinced myself that everything would be alright in the end. Things would work out so I could finish the trip and continue the pursuit of my dream job. After a couple more hours of waiting in the shop while playing Pokemon (Dayne, Brad, woot!), we got the problem fixed.....for $500. So, my thoughts weren't completely optimistic but they were in comparison to a few hours previously.

So we said goodbye to Albakurkee and hello to Arizona, the land of the billboard. But my disastrous day had not yet ended. I was still craving a slushie. We stopped to fill up and that's when I saw it in the corner of my eye. Visible through the station window was a giant rotating cup. Inside this cup was something red; outside this cup were the words Slush Puppie (Brown Chicken, Brown Cow). I rush inside after pumping gas to feast my eyes on the delicious frozen treats. Alas, these so called “Slush Puppies” we merely a more expensive snow cone.


Due to our slight delays, we decided to just stay at a cheap motel for the night and finish the journey to L.A. in the morning. We stopped just short of Flagstaff, AZ and put an end to this intensely disappointing day.

The next day....

We awoke and hit the road. We had smooth sailing for the entire morning. Spirits were high and the scenery was beautiful. No billboards. We entered California at around noon or noon thirty and started our drive through the Mojave Desert. I was cruisin' along, enjoying the view when -BAM!- medium sized disaster reared its ugly head again. We were broke down, in the middle of the Mojave Desert. In 115 degree heat. For 2 hours. The tow truck took us back to town to sit in a garage again and we hoped we could find this (same as before) problem. Obviously, the $500 thingy didn't fix it.

At this point, I was praying. I was wondering if maybe this is God telling me I'm not following the right path. Maybe He had given me signs all along the way and this is what it took to finally get my attention. I was also wondering maybe this is just a test; a test to see what I was willing to endure to accomplish my dream. All of these thoughts ran over and over and over again for hours. Finally, I said to God, “I'm not going to worry about anything. If I'm meant to do this, you'll provide a way.”

Not long after, my mother received a call from an old college friend, Jay McCoy, who lives in the Los Angeles area and only 3 hours from where we were stranded. Oh, I should probably also mention that he's a mechanic. I could also talk about how he said he would come get us, tow my car back to his garage, let us borrow his car to drive into L.A. so we didn't miss our hotel reservation, give my car a look over in the morning, take me and my mom out to dinner the next day, show us around the city, and use his car to carry our luggage. I should also mention that his wife, Deanna McCoy (also a college friend), took off time from work to help us out anyway she could whether it be giving us tips on traveling around the city or inviting us into her home or inviting me to come to Thanksgiving since I won't be going home for that.


Truly amazing.

God is great. And so is the McCoy family.

Hopefully, someday, I'll be able to truly thank them in a way that they deserve and a way that I can't even fathom at this point. They didn't just help us out of a jam. They have helped me pursue my dream.



Quote of the days: Nephew Sam: (while giving me a tour of the house) “And this is where I don't take a bath.”


A fountain near where I'll be living.

Santa Monica Pier

Stranded in the desert.

Suddenly, Sunflowers! Thousands of them!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Not quite out of Dodge...

(August 16th)
Today, was a rarity for the state of Kansas. A dark, overcast, rainy day. And of course, we spent a few hours of it traveling to my sister's house, near Meade, KS., which can only be reached through dirt/sand roads. In case you were wondering, dirt/sand roads + rain = driving in slushy snow and it guarantees the local car wash some business.


My mom described today as, “Uncle Russ Day.” That's because as soon as we arrived at my sister's house, my nephew Sam, wanted to do anything and everything under the sun. The overcast ruined many of his plans but that didn't dampen his enthusiasm. Instead of going outside so we could ride horses and what not, we stayed inside and watched Scooby-Doo (he was impressed by my Scooby imitation...probably because he's 4) and I was introduced to the cloying Handy Manny.

"You can do anything ever!"

Not much to update on today. We're staying at my sister's for a couple of days to get in the highly valued family time. Unfortunately, they're a little short on internet connection around these parts. So, my posts are a little behind schedule. Hopefully, I'll be able to post some videos. In a day or two, we'll be headed to Phoenix, AZ to stay before finally driving into L.A.


Quote of the day goes to my Grandpa Clark: (talking about his music collection) If Ernest Tubb farted on tape, I got it.


Grandpa's truck

The ranch that my sister lives on.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Dorothy: Oh....Nevermind.

(August 15th)
Today was a good day. Very light on the traveling. And when I say “very light,” I mean we didn't get any closer to Los Angeles than we previously were. We're still in Haviland. Yet, it was still a good day. I got to see several people at church who haven't seen me since I was an infant. I've probably heard “Oh, you've gotten so big!!” 50 times since I got here. The highlight of the day came when my mom and I had lunch with my grandparents down at Dolly's Diner on Main Street, Haviland. I'm lucky if I see my grandparents even once a year. So, it was wonderful to sit down with them and chat it up. Of course, the food was amazing as well (fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, corn, know...the home-cooked essentials).


Later in the day, I got to spend even more time with my grandparents, this time out on their porch just listening to Grandpa tell stories. My Grandpa is the kind of person who takes 10 minutes to tell a 5 minute story and you won't even mind or notice his lackadaisical narrative style. At 82 years old, he is the epitome of a lifelong farmer and chewing tobacco user and he's an absolute delight to be around. My grandma, also aged 82, is absolutely hilarious, not so much on purpose, but still hilarious. She's curious as a cat and won't take no for an answer.....and she's very forgetful. During our porch chat session, she would interject random observation about what was going on around the neighborhood. I learned the names of everyone living on her street and any suspicious activities they partake in. And you don't even want to know how many times she asked me if I wanted a Pepsi (Pepsi = Grandma's chewing tobacco).

Sporting the crooked hat since 1964.

The other highlight of the day was getting to see my sister, brother-in-law, and my nephews. The last time I saw them was at my high school graduation open house. Nephew #1 is Sam.

The last time I saw him, he couldn't even walk. Now, he's a walking-talking typhoon who has gusts of up to 25 questions per minutes (QPM). Nephew #2 is Ace. Who I've never met before. He's only 20 months old but already seems as though he'll be the polar opposite of Sam.

My brother-in-law is an amazing man of God. Who works his tail off for his family and I respect him tremendously. He's a true-blue cowboy and an ex-bull rider. (Plus he's got one of the coolest mustaches around) I've had the privilege(?) of riding with him as he's herded cattle and what not. It was both a scary and fun experience. My beautiful sister Chateece is a former special needs teacher who now stays at home to raise her boys. I can't comprehend the incredible mixture of joy, frustration, love, and patience she experiences everyday while raising her children; all while keeping a sense of humor. I respect and love her so much. Unfortunately, I didn't get to see my other sisters, Julie and Kandyce.

Welp, now that you've met the fam there really isn't much else to say. Just thanks for all he support and for keeping me and my mother in your prayers. Thank you.

Quote of the day goes to my Grandma Clark: (talking about the age difference between her and Grandpa) “He was older than me for a while but I've caught back up.” (she's older)


Dolly's Diner

Main Street, Haviland, KS

Ridin' Dirty.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Dorothy: I don't think we're in Kansas anymore, Toto. Toto:....Good.

It's all come down to this. After months of anticipation and weeks of preparation, I am finally on the road to Los Angeles. The last few days leading up to this point have been incredibly stressful. On top of my packing for Los Angeles, I've also had to pack for two additional moves. My parents will be moving to a new house while I'm gone and I'll be moving to a house next to school when I come back so I had to have my affairs in order for that as well. And then their was the required last minute hang out time with friends; backyard golf, tennis, ping-pong, video games, we tried to cram it all in at the last minute. But now the clock has struck midnight on my summer and its back to the real world.

I was questioning reality when four o'clock came on the morning of August 14th. It was time to go. My mother and I gave one final glance over our cargo and vessel and set sail through the surprisingly thick morning air. Next thing I know, we're on the other side of Saint Louis and it's my turn to man the helm. So I drove St. Louis to Kansas City, all the while my main goal wasn't to arrive safely at the destination but rather to convert my mother to my favorite bands. Mission Unaccomplished. My mother is a “radio person,” where as I'm a “CD person.” She can scan the radio for what feels like hours. And its always the same contemporary Christian radio. Playing the same songs. All day long. So I was more than happy to share my superior taste in music with her when the time came. According to her: House of Heroes = too loud, Tegan and Sara = not good, Gorillaz = confusion.

How could she not be a fan?

Eventually we made it to Kansas, my home state. I think it's been more than three years since I've been out here to see my dad's side of the family. Almost immediately we were met with one of Kansas' infamous thunderstorms. Lightening was striking everywhere it seemed and being the geek that I am, I had to try to capture it on camera.

Long story short: we made it through and the sun poked back out so we could admire the flat nothingness that is the Kansas countryside.

Color graded? Perhaps.

After about 15 hours of driving we reached our destination of Haviland, KS. Located between Pratt, KS (as seen in season 2 of Prison Break) and Greensburg, KS (as seen on The Weather Channel when it was completely destroyed by a tornado a few years back. I remember golfing at the Greensburg golf course and being able to hit my shots out of water hazards because it was over 100 degrees and hadn't rained for days.) and with a population a little over 400, you could blink and miss the whole town of Haviland. There is a coffee shop and a dinner on Main and that's about it.


On our way to our friend's house where we would be staying the night, we had to travel by dirt/sand road. We stopped in the middle of the road and a ten minute conversation with a passerby (who happened to be my uncle) and not a single soul came down the road during that time. Now that's country.

Overall, we've traveled about 800 miles and still have a way to go. Please keep us in your prayers.

I just want to thank everyone who helped make this opportunity possible for me. And all my friends who have supported know who you are.