Various yarns that weave into one

Whether you subscribe to the chaos theory approach to life, the universe, etc., or a more theistic approach, both philosophies are comfortable with the idea that life is made up of various yarns that tend to come together into one rope.

Sure, they might wander off in random directions, intersect, diverge, re-route, whatever and whichever and however you might imagine, but they tend to converge. The road in the yellow wood that split into two will one day emerge from that wood as one road again.

That said, we’ve all our various yarns weaving together into the tapestry of our lives. For me, that includes the Rangers film having had its first screening last week in Virginia. Next, it’s off to Fandom Fest, August 7-9, in Louisville, Kentucky, as well as at Gen Con in Indianapolis, July 31. Rangers is the second script I’ve written that’s actually been made into film (Rise of the Fellows Hip was the first–same production company: OAP); I’m not expecting it to be the last.

Speaking of film, I’m trying my hand at shooting a music video for a song called Little Zombies (local band called Skypilot, from their upcoming Galactic Holler album). Should be interesting to see what happens with no budget. Could be a trainwreck or could be awesome (as in: eliciting some awe). I think I’m going to go for a horror film approach, plus kids on bicycles.

Other yarns? Slowly (see: glacial) chipping away at another Tormay book. I refuse to divulge information about it right now, as that would be akin to opening the oven door to look at a cheese soufflé mid-bake. Never a good thing.

What are your threads these days?


Bill Cosby and Bill Cosby’s Art

The spectacle of Bill Cosby imploding across the American skyline is a sad and dreary sight. It’s no shooting star, that’s for sure. It’s more like a radioactive barrel of garbage, flaming down through the concrete highrises of Hollywood.

Cosby’s treatment of women over the decades, if true (and it certainly looks like it’s more than true with the multitude of accusers and painfully specific detail), is reprehensible, evil, and without excuse.

However, the situation brings into focus an old question: is the art separate from the artist? Can we still enjoy Cosby’s art (his sitcoms, standup, etc), despite his despicable actions?

Many people are returning tickets to his shows these days. Networks are canceling reruns of the Cosby Show. It’s clear that sentiment is on the side of not separating Cosby art from Cosby the artist.

But, is that logical?

Many artists down through history were reprobates, villains, loathsome creatures. Richard Wagner, the composer, is often cited as an example of a foul individual (given his views on races and master races), despite the beauty of his music. Should we not listen to his operas because of who he was as a person?

George Bernard Shaw, the fantastically talented writer who, among other works, wrote the play Pygmalion (remade into My Fair Lady, for those fond of Audrey Hepburn). But Shaw was also an ardent defender of Stalin and an enthusiastic supporter of eugenics. He believed that the less desirable portions of the human population should be culled out. Shaw considered poison gas an admirable solution for mass killing. Shaw, obviously, was a monster of a human. Does that mean we should stop reading Pygmalion and stop watching Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Doolittle?

Dalton Trumbo, one of the Hollywood figures investigated in the 1940s by Congress for Communist connections. By his own admittance, Trumbo was a dedicated Communist. For some people, myself included, such a philosophy is highly distasteful, particularly in light of the fact that Trumbo was a Communist during the Stalin era, a time of brutal repression and mass murder in the USSR. Despite being such a worm and an apologist for a bloody dictator, Trumbo also wrote some fantastic screenplays, among them Leon Uris’ Exodus, Spartacus, and Roman Holiday.

Roman Holiday! Who doesn’t love Roman Holiday? Never before has film seen such a heart-wrenching romance. Two hours with Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn in Rome contains more bittersweet fire than a thousand Nicholas Sparks movies.

So, back to the original question: can one still enjoy Cosby art, despite Cosby the artist?


The Hobbit and Kardashian marketing

I must say I’m not that enthused about Peter Jackson spinning out The Hobbit into three parts. He’s taken quite a few liberties with Mr. Tolkien’s untouchable tale, some of them rather benign and some of them (girl elf-Fili, or Kili, whatever, love story) reprehensible. Jackson should have his beard shaved off for that one in the manner of the king’s emissaries who were humiliated at the court of Edom (or wherever).

At any rate, it’s galling that Sir Jackson (Sir Jackson? that’s what people get knighted for these days, as opposed to fighting the Moslems at the battle of Tours?) has gone the route of Kim Kardashian marketing with the good Professor’s wit. Spin it out, enlarge it, hash and dash it and repackage it with something shiny.

Yes, I’m going to go see the movie. Even though I’ll gnash my teeth from time to time (sans popcorn, as it doesn’t seem to agree with my health — little agrees with my health these days; save me, Jonathan Gruber!, or at least let me know when I’m supposed to die so I can schedule my dry cleaning accordingly).

And, yes, I’m almost ready to publish the latest Tormay story. Hopefully before my dry cleaning’s date with destiny. Wait. Am I talking about clothes or closure?

And, yes, winter is coming, and that has nothing to do with George Martin. It’s simply winter, a much more profound and persistent entity than any Stark.


Ranger Filming Finished

elves and rangers

Elves and rangers

The Rangers wrapped up filming out in Virginia. The footage is looking great! The locations were mostly in Rappahannock County, which provided some gorgeous, pristine scenery. The cast and crew numbered somewhere north of 60, in addition to a lot of kind support from local businesses and the Culpeper Chamber of Commerce.

Anyway, now it’s time for post-production: color correction, sound design, any necessary dubbing, editing, etc. Ron Newcomb, the director, is hoping to have things wrapped up by the end of the year.

elves on the skyline

Elves hunting orcs

The Star Exponent, out of Culpeper, had a very nice write-up about the project. Among other things, the article touches on the angle of community involvment. Local business owner Rick Combs summed up the perspective of the locals on the film project:

“It’s an excitement being brought to Culpeper,” he said, “and it’s a nice movie about good triumphing over evil in the end. If they want to make more movies here in the future, there is a business community that will support them.”

Sabine

Sabine

Just as a quick aside, there’s no reason why films need to be primarily made in the Southern California area. That’s an outdated concept. With the substantially decreased costs in necessary technology, the willingness of talent to travel, and welcoming communities as evidenced by Combs’ comments, I bet that indie film will be flourishing even more in the years to come.

Our hope with The Rangers project is that we can use this initial film to spur more interest and development of further stories in that fantasy world. There’s quite a market for that genre and, as a writer, it’s a fantastic genre to create in. If you’re a finance person and interested, get in touch with me.

The Rangers cast and crew

Rangers cast and crew

Fantasy has certain unique attributes that are not easily available in other genres. For one thing (and I think this is key and dreadfully important), you can deal with the subject of joy. Not joy in terms of happiness, but joy in terms of the knowledge that the world is broken and it shall one day be made whole. More on that idea later, as it has wide and deep-reaching ramifications. Both Tolkien and Lewis dealt with it in their fantasies, as did George MacDonald. I hope to re-enter the Rangers world very soon and, amidst the orcs and elves and rangers dealing death and fighting the darkness, find the heartbreak of joy.

By the way, thanks to Jessica Mellow, Sebrina Scott and others for the use of the photos. If I missed someone to attribute for a photo, please let me know!


Rangers in full-swing of production

director and elves

Elves, director and makeup.

The Rangers, the latest indie film I wrote (with Ron Newcomb and Scott Mathias) is currently shooting in Virginia. Thankfully, I’m out here in California, hidden away and safe from the lunacy that usually comprises a set. Having worked for several years in television (all location dramas and documentaries for the BBC, ITV, etc), I have scars… Anyway, here are a few pictures I’ve culled from various Facebook posts from the cast and crew.

In all honesty, I’m actually torn. My introvertish self loves that I’m miles away…yet, I do love location projects. Yes, they can be tedious, but there’s a certain fascination seeing how a shot comes together, seeing how a director and actors interpret a scene, seeing how a location colors a scene.

orc

“Bring out the Bieber so we may put him in our dinner stewpot!”

One of the main things that interests me about indie film is the control aspect. Typically, a writer has zero control over their script, once it gets sold. They’re often not even welcome on set. With indie film, however, some amount of control is maintained (stress on “some amount”). Not all, of course, unless you want to go the Robert Rodriguez route (too much work for me–that guy must be insane). The Rangers is my second indie film to go into production, and it is whetting my appetite for a third.

With the combination of film and novel, nowadays, one can create a property in novel form and then bring it to film afterward. If the budget is kept low (see: minimize locations, minimal to zero special effects, contentment with B-list actors and locals, crowdfunding), it is legitimately possible to pull off a decent project.

Kulta Blackhand

Kulta Blackhand

And then sell it? Yes, of course. You’re not necessarily going to end up in theaters, but you can certainly get it on foreign television, Netflix, iTunes, video-on-demand.

Anyway, like I said, despite my oysterish nature, I’m starting to think more and more about producing my own projects, instead of just writing scripts. Heck, if Robert Rodriguez can do it…


The Rangers ready to start filming

woodland

Woodland location for The Rangers

The Rangers will start filming on August 15. I have to admit, it is much more peaceful to just write scripts and let other people film them. I get to lounge around in California while Ron Newcomb (director) and Scott Mathias (producer) and their teeming minions do all the hard work out in Virginia. I’m already feeling tired just thinking about their shooting schedule.

Anyway, like I said, they’re going to start filming on August 15 and will be filming for 9 absolutely packed days. Two crews, four cameras, breakneck speed. Quite a large cast, lots of extras, actors flying in from quite far away (Scandinavia, for some of the elves, I think). What’s more, this is a period piece.

The dwarf Tiberius from The Ranger

The dwarf Tiberius from The Ranger

Yep. Period piece. The Rangers is not specifically a spin-off of The Lord of the Rings, but it comes close in look and feel. Medievalish setting. Elves. Orcs. Rangers. Wizards. Lots of weaponry. Fighting. Magic. A dragon makes a brief appearance. Definitely a period piece (those are much harder to pull off in terms of sets, costumes, etc, in case you’re wondering why I mentioned it).

Like I said, I’m lounging in California while they’re doing the heavy lifting. Filming, if you’re not getting the hint, is not glamorous. It’s a lot of work. Hard work. There’s a great deal of time that’s already gone into the pre-production phase: scouting, casting, a great deal of armor, weaponry and clothing had to be constructed, script development (I’m about to finalize the 9th draft), securing crew, finances…

Anyway, like I parentheticalized above, I’m about to finalize the 9th draft of the script. After that? Onto the next script. I’ve got a fairly goofy idea for a romantic comedy. If I can’t get Ron and Scott to go for it, I think I’ll shoot it myself out here in California. Which means I’ll be doing all the hard work…


The Rangers in pre-production

Lieutenant Wolf of the RangersThe Rangers is currently in pre-production, with filming scheduled for August. We’re doing a short film of 40 minutes, fully funded from our Kickstarter campaign from earlier this year. In a nutshell, Rangers is an epic fantasy off-shoot of the Lord of the Rings in sensibility and types of characters. The story involves a Ranger unit operating in the wild lands, trying to administer the King’s justice while fighting off bands of orcs. A deeper darkness, however, has come to the wild lands, an old evil that is working behind the scenes to topple the kingdoms of men and elves.

I co-wrote the script for this one, along with Scott Mathias and Ron Newcomb. That’s the same trio that wrote The Fellows Hip: Rise of the Gamers, the indie comedy that won Best Feature at the Indianapolis Gen Con Festival 2012. While that film didn’t get theater play, it has gotten plenty of foreign television deals (France, UK, Russia, the Middle East, etc), as well as straight-to-video deals in places like Walmart, as well as streaming on-demand on Netflix, etc. Ron is directing the Rangers and Scott is producing.

There’s quite a market for epic fantasy films these days, not that that’s apparent from the Prince Korlan of the Dark Elvesmovies showing up in your local cinemaplex; rather, there is a steady stream of low-budget indie fantasies from companies such as Arrowstorm Entertainment. Epic fantasy, as a genre, has a fan demographic that consumes at a fast and rapid rate. Therefore, a great deal of new stories are needed, whether that be in book form, comic form, or film/tv form.

Celistar of the Wood ElvesAt any rate, I’m looking forward to what Ron and Scott and Company pull off. Shooting will occur in the Virginia area. If you’re interested in working on the project in a crew or cast capacity, please get in touch with the production office (there’s info at this link for how to upload Youtube auditions if you’re interested in a part). I’ll post updates from time to time. The images in this post are from some conceptual photo shoots: Lieutenant Wolf of the Rangers (that’s Wolf Sherrill, who played a big role in our previous film, The Fellows Hip), Prince Korlan of the Dark Elves, and Celistar of the Wood Elves).


The Rangers – epic fantasy web series

Looks like we’ll be kicking into a summer production for The Rangers web series. The same core team that produced the indie film The Fellows Hip: Rise of the Gamers will be running this project. I co-wrote the script for The Fellows Hip due to an old friendship that traced back to my grad school days. Ron Newcomb, the director of that movie, is going to direct The Rangers, and Scott Mathias, the producer of TFH, will be producing The Rangers.

I co-wrote the script for The Rangers with those two. I must say, I’ve never written a script that fast in all my life. Not that I’ve written a lot of scripts (maybe six so far?). Books are my cup of tea (I tend to only drink mint tea, and then with lots of honey and lemon juice). At any rate, I think the project is going to be a little gem. Both Ron and Scott are dedicated and quite focused. What’s more, they know what they’re doing with budgets and schedules and talent.

Anyway, stay tuned…

…and, by the way, if you know anyone who wants to get involved (either on the talent side or the funding side), let me know.


Writing!

Working on development for a web series. The Rangers. Done by the same folks who produced The Rise of the Fellowship. I wish I didn’t have to sleep. There’s just too much to do. Too much to process. Too much to potentially create. I despise having to cut some projects free and see them fall away into nothingness. One of my professors in grad school told me, in some exasperation, Christopher, you need to choose between film, writing, music and journalism. Which will it be? Well, I certainly cut journalism free a long time ago, but I’ll hold on desperately to the other three. One of those bitter-clingers, that’s me.