Monday, April 30, 2007
On a side-note of mild relation, I read Ralph Nader's book "The Seventeen Traditions" over the weekend. And I'm glad I did it in one sitting, as Nader asked me to.
It was an excellent read and made me respect the man even more deeply than I had before. I really think that this would be the book to buy someone if you wanted to slowly convert them to the wise thinking of Ralph Nader.
It outlines the seventeen traditions of his homelife and upbringing that shaped him as a person and it is in no way political. It's a home-spun book of knowledge that felt like it would be right at home with non-partisan books of wisdom of Benjamin Franklin or Abraham Lincoln.
I would seriously suggest you buying it and giving it to a conservative friend, and maybe you might just find that you have a mutual respect for the man.
It's been a busy week. I'm sure most of you were aware of that. Between wrapping up principal photography on our Untitled Dick Cheney Protest Doc and interviewing Ralph Nader for the Untitled Obesity Doc and working on the proposal for the next couple of projects, we're just up to our eyeballs over here.
But I couldn't help but point this out.
A group of Utah County Republicans (just about 300 of them) ended their recent convention debating Satan's role in illegal immigration.
Check out this excerpt:
Don Larsen, chairman of legislative District 65 for the Utah County Republican Party, had submitted a resolution warning that Satan's minions want to eliminate national borders and do away with sovereignty.
In a speech at the convention, Larsen told those gathered that illegal immigrants "hate American people" and "are determined to destroy this country, and there is nothing they won't do."
Illegal aliens are in control of the media, and working in tandem with Democrats, are trying to "destroy Christian America" and replace it with "a godless new world order -- and that is not extremism, that is fact," Larsen said.
There are so many bizarre, preposterous and ignorant statements in there that I can't even begin to take this guy seriously.
And then I got the idea that this article might have been a joke. Then I did some checking and it got reported here, here and here.
Turns out, it's not a joke. Don Larsen truly believes Satan is the architect of illegal immigration. And, I should note, in all fairness to some of the Republicans there, they did chide him by explaining that this was going to far and would merely provide fodder to the liberal media to make them all like fools.
Damn, that guy was right. They do look like fools and assholes like me are laughing about it. But it also worries the hell out of me.
My favorite reporting of the article, though, had to be the discussion forum set up by Christianity Today. God, this stuff is rich.
Saturday, April 28, 2007
Friday, April 27, 2007
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Pop over to The Huffington Post, where Joe Vogel explains how hard labor is likely to be added to the prison sentences of an entire generation of progressives here in Utah County.
No days off for good behavior.
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
I just wanted to add in something that they missed.
While Carri Jenkin's, the BYU spokesperson, accuses us of misrepresentation, at no time does she deny the fact that BYU Administraters designated a small orange square for free speech, took the student's signs away and looked on with indifference as the President of the college treated them with disrespect at a public forum.
There's really no denying that any of it happened. And plenty of media paid attention to the peaceful sit-in protest (admirably, I might add) and we merely found the one story that was overlooked by everyone else.
The truth to our video must be quite immense if BYU and the Deseret News (loosley affiliated with the church, and in turn BYU) would kick their spin machine into overdrive in a vain attempt to discredit us. The footage and the facts are on our side and they know it.
Shame on them and their Orwellian notions of journalism.
At the beginning of the day on Monday, April 23rd, they had raised about $9,500. I posted a heart-felt blog entry on The Daily Kos asking for help nationwide and, 4 hours later, the funds reached an unprecedented $21,000. This help came from people I've never met and will never have to opportunity to hug and thank. The help came from a pure grass roots effort of activism and love for a cause.
There were shouts of joy and celebration at the announcement and there was an air of democratic success.
The local press called all those involved to get the details. The Salt Lake Tribune and The Daily Herald were taken aback and surprised at this absolute miracle and they went to the protesters' website to confirm that the impossible had indeed occurred.
And then The Deseret Morning News called me. And not Tad Walch, the Deseret reporter who's been covering this from the beginning, but a sports writing intern named David Rasmussen. He asked briefly about the amazing fund-raising that day and then he went on the attack. For the next 20 minutes, he grilled me about a video clip (clip meaning a segment of a bigger picture) that I had edited and posted on YouTube earlier in the week. He said the Carri Jenkins, BYU's spokesperson, claimed that the video "misrepresented" what happened and that things had been taken out of context. She didn't, however, deny that the events in the video never happened. Seems that she's in serious spin mode.
Rasmussen then grilled me about my comments on my blog about BYU President Samuelson basically telling a student to go f##k himself. He said "Samuelson didn't say 'f##k', did he?" I said, "No, I said he BASICALLY told the student that." Rasmussen, with an obvious attitude said, "Yeah, but you kinda said that". I said, "Dude, how the hell do you interpret that? I said he BASICALLY told the student to go f##k himself. Read it for yourself, the word "basically" is right there." I think it's obvious to anyone that I was using a euphemism to characterize Samuelson's attitude toward the students leading the protest.
But Rasmussen wouldn't budge. For 5 more minutes he tried to get me to say something negative and damning. He then accused me of editing Cecil Samuelson's answer to Adam Barlow's question. This is absolutely absurd. Here's the transcript (and Adam Barlow will back me up):
(Adam gives Samuelson a description of the events following the previous day's protest and then:)I noticed David Rasmussen left out that last part of Samuelson's response in his biased article. For Rasmussen to criticize me for "editing things out" or "taking things out of context" is both hypocritical and in poor journalistic taste. Not to mention completely unprofessional. Not only did he take my words out of context, he refused to print my support of the video and my affirmation that it was true and that any denial on BYU's part was clearly false.
Adam: My question is: Why, as an institution of higher learning, does the university so severely limit free speech and what is the school so afraid of?
Samuelson: The school is not afraid of anything, Adam. Thank you for your input. (points to the audience) Next question.
I also offered to show him the raw footage, to prove that nothing was misrepresented. Since a fair, balanced and accurate view didn't fit the article he was writing, he declined my offer.
So, to boil it down, Rasmussen's article brought up 2 main complaints:
1) The video doesn't represent what happened that day. Well, duh. It's a 4 minute clip of a much larger story. We're in the middle of filming a feature documentary on all this hooplah and we aren't even close to being finished. I mean, there's MUCH more controversial stuff that's going to be in the final project. Rasmussen, Jenkins, etc should wait until the final project comes out to be worried about BYU's image. I mean, if I showed you a 4 minute clip of my hour long vacation video, it obviously wouldn't represent the entire vacation would it? Jeez, what are Rasmussen and Jenkins thinking?
2) That I misquoted Cecil Samuelson. Ok, I already explained this above. It's just plainly a false accusation by The Deseret News and they should be ashamed. They really pulled at strings to print this baffling connection of words. And, seriously, what you saw in the video is just the tip of the iceberg. Samuelson pulled out some real zingers after that. You'll get to see them soon in all their objective glory.
So, in light of all the grass roots triumph yesterday, The Deseret Morning News (with financial ties to the Mormon church) decided to throw a fly into the soup by lazily spinning the BYU web of Public Relations. I must say, I'm extremely disappointed by it. But that's to be expected, I guess. I learned this when I made my first film about free speech in Utah County, This Divided State. When you hit the record button and capture the reality of bigotry and oppression, those perpetrating these qualities don't react too happily. Sometimes they sue you, as happened to me 2 years ago. Or sometimes, they get The Deseret News to make you look bad.
Either way, my camera has never stopped rolling.
I'll see you at the movie theater.
However, I do not believe and I did NOT say, that the video itself grossly misrepresented the events following the protest.
Those were the events as they happened (condensed and dramatized, but hey, that is the medium we call film). Pres. Samuelson's response to my question was exactly as shown. I think it is intuitive that Steven Greenstreet would focus on the controversial in this 3 min clip. However, I expect and am confident that when a full length documentary is released from Shinebox Studios on the subject of this entire controversy, that all sides will be shown with as little bias as possible.
Hopefully, with far less bias than that shown by the reporting of David Rasmussen from The Deseret News.
Monday, April 23, 2007
The Daily Kos is such a huge and popular blog, that I expected my entry to quickly disappear into the woodwork.
But this was not the case. Within minutes, people from around the nation started pouring in supportive comments to what I had written. And, within a few more minutes, money donations started gushing into the Alternative BYU Commencement website. Hundreds upon hundreds of people started discussing this issue and we suddenly became the top most talked about Daily Kos Blog Entry of the day. Hundreds of dollars became thousands of dollars. The "donation" meter exploded from about $9,500 to $15,000 in 2 hours. And then, just 4 hours after the post went up, the $20,000 goal was annihilated. And people just kept giving and giving and giving.
My heart is full of cheer, warmth, and celebration. This is a great day. Especially for someone like me... a pessimist.
Here are some of the 500 comments from readers of The Daily Kos:
This is one of the best days of my life...
This is how freedom is born. It is hard and it requires pain, but they have done something really courageous and it will grow. Watch it grow!!
I hope these kids know that these donations are coming from atheists, agnostics, Jews, Pagans, Catholics, and other folks... Go BYU Protesters!
I LOVE THIS!!! THIS is what I've been waiting for. For the college kids to join us. I'm from the Vietnam era and have been discouraged that the (current)college kids weren't politically motivated. Well, they are at BYU. Thank you, grads, and good luck.
Great Work, Mr. Greenstreet and the other students and all of us who donated. How cool to see the good that can come out of the net-roots. Just my little yay us to add to the chorus...
Way to go BYU students! You guys are really impressive.
OK, this will be my last update, but it's cleared the $21K mark (how fucking cool): $21,000.89105% of what they needed. That was awesome. NICE!!!
I contributed $10. I can imagine how unhappy (ok, downright angry) I would be to have Cheney as a commencement speaker for my graduation. Congratulations to these BYU students who stood up for themselves and are making this happen.
What these kids are doing takes guts. I am so glad they made their goal and then some...it sends a good message to support anyone who wishes not to have their big day sullied by the likes of Cheney... I am not a fan of Nader... but Cheney is in a whole different league...And the fact these kids where they were...and going to the school they are... and had the courage to speak out.......... that is a message of hope.I gave $50. Boy, It feels real good to be a part of this action! What a knock on Cheney, and in deep red Bush country no less! Cheney can go NOWHERE in America anymore without us reaching out and touching him! And these BYU kids are the greatest!
This is about telling the BYU Administrators that America (or at least this portion of it) is watching...
The total went from $17K to $20K in about 10 minutes! Now this is about sending a message to the BYU top brass who wanted to bring Cheney onto campus, and about sending a message to all college students nationally about what can be done!
$6,000 2 1/2 hours?!?! This shows me that liberals stand by our principles. I mean, did you ever think you would be donating to kids at BYU? I'm keeping Nader out of this, let the kids have their alternative function, and I hope they have an overflow audience!
Vice President Dick Cheney will make a courtesy visit to leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints before giving the commencement address at Brigham Young University Thursday.So, there you go. Dick Cheney, war-lord, war-profiteer, and war-monger will be sharing friendly company with the Earthly Representatives of Jesus Christ, Lord and Savior.
Cheney, whose visit has prompted protests and counter protests at the Provo school, will fly in and out of the state within a few hours, but, like most national leaders in town for a day, will drop by LDS Church headquarters in Salt Lake City to visit with President Gordon B. Hinckley and his top two counselors, church officials confirmed Monday.
Cheney is then scheduled to speak to BYU graduates before flying out of the state. Cheney's office declined to release further details of the trip Monday and a BYU spokeswoman said only that more information would be forthcoming Tuesday.
LDS Church spokesman Scott Trotter said Monday one person of the three-member First Presidency also will attend the commencement address.
It's traditional for leading politicians to make a courtesy call to the LDS Church's leaders when visiting the state. President Bush met with leaders during a visit last August as he has previously during stopovers in Utah.
It's been a good day for the doc, too. We covered the interview with students on KRCL this afternoon.
And if anyone is going to have a camera to shoot anything on Thursday and would be interested in having it featured in the documentary, please get a hold of me.
They have had only 3 weeks to:
-Organize protests against Dick Cheney's approaching graduation speech
-Start a petition
-Organize an "alternative graduation" ceremony
-Find speakers for the alternative ceremony
-Find a venue for the alternative ceremony
-Raise the $25,000 to pay for all of it
WATCH THE VIDEO CLIP HERE.
The petitioners, after collecting a few thousand signatures were told by BYU, "We don't care about your petition, don't even bother submitting it."
The alternative commencement ceremony was organized off campus in student's houses. Groups of BYU students got together and began a collective grass roots effort to achieve the impossible in and impossible amount of time.
Within 2 weeks, the students had booked Ralph Nader, former Utah candidate for Senate Pete Ashdown, and human rights advocate Jack Healey. Speaking fees would land them a bill of around $15,000.
They had been "blacklisted" in Provo. Someone was trying to make it as hard as possible for them to succeed. So, they turned to a venue familiar with free speech issues, Utah Valley State College. This is where Michael Moore spoke in 2004 amid death threats, lawsuits, and bribery attempts. They booked the McKay Events Center for a super price of $7,000.
Not having the money, power, or support from their own university, the students had to get on their laptops and cellphones to publicize and event that would happen in less than 2 weeks at that point. How do we write a press release? How do we get donations? How do we take our final exams and organize a commencement ceremony at the same bloody time?
Eric Bybee, a graduating BYU student dropped $900 of his own money as a down payment for the McKay Events center. Ashely Sanders, another student, spent 2 days in a medical clinic submitting her body for experiments in order to earn a quick $1000.
No one has slept, they've barely taken their final exams, and now they fear that their efforts might be lost. They still need to make $9000 in 4 days and they still need to fill the McKay Events Center, which seats 8,000 people.
I asked one of the students, "Have you thought about asking BYU for the rest of the money?", and they just laughed. But it's not that funny.
When a university has the arrogance to confine student protesters to a taped-off orange square dubbed the "free speech zone", to physically take protest signs away from the students who made them, tell an outraged student who had his sign taken to basically go fuck himself, to pat the petitioners on the head and pinch their cheeks as if they were children, and to ignore and balk at a growing minority of students who feel disenfranchised by the invitation of a warlord to their campus, they have outed themselves as a fringe example of blatant fascism.
If these students don't make enough money and go into debt up to their eyeballs and if only a hand full of people show up to the McKay Events Center of Thursday, BYU will spin it as "you see what happens when you mess with us?"
Today is Monday, April 23rd.
The countdown has begun.
4 more days until history is made or repeated.
TO HELP THE BYU CHENEY PROTESTERS: CLICK HERE
Although I'm a little confused about the url they list since it just whisks people to the youtube link, but whatever.
Read it here.
Let us know what you think.
Saturday, April 21, 2007
Be sure to pass the clip along to all of your friends and be sure to check back here quite often to see what the scoop is.
Also, because of the video, we got more hits on this forum in two days than we got in 2006 total.
Friday, April 20, 2007
Anyhow, here it is:
Read my impressions of the play here.
Also, it's playing next week at the main UVSC campus, as soon as I find more details about it, I'll let you know because you pretty much just have to see it.
Thursday, April 19, 2007
Huffington Post. (Okay, this one was us.)
The World According to Bob.
BYU Alternative Commencement.
Jesus' General. (Man, I love these guys. Read their blog. Really, it's good stuff.)
OneGoodMove. (I read his stuff everyday, too. There really isn't a better place for Daily Show highlight.)
Crooks And Liars. (I visit this site daily, too. It's invaluable.)
Planet Houston Asylum. (I've never been to this site before today, but his top graphic kicks a lot of ass.)
DailyKos. (Okay, this was us again.)
Ok, so we're shooting a documentary about all this BYU/Dick Cheney craziness and I went through and edited together a 4 minute piece last night. It shows BYU security shutting down the "free speech zone" and then has BYU President Cecil Samuelson basically telling a protesting student to "go fuck yourself":
CLICK ON THIS ALTERNATIVE LINK.
For those of you who have problems with quicktime,
CLICK HERE FOR THE YOUTUBE LINK
BYU Security Stooges shut down the protest and threaten students.
If you don't know already, this film is actually forming up to be a follow-up film to THIS DIVIDED STATE.
ALSO!!!! Don't forget to visit the BYU protestors' official site.
The Utah Film Commision contact me about this, Steve made them a flyer and they're sending it out on their 2,000+ person mailing list.
A friend called me up about it, too. He said he heard about it on NPR yesterday on the news.
So, it looks like this might be a packed house. Come early and donate money.
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
Steve directed me to this article in last Thursday's Daily Herald in which notorious, "Mormon Filmmaker" (Filmmaker should suffice, yes?) Richard Dutcher sounds off on the pitiful ditch that Mormon Cinema has dug itself into.
Too little, too late?
Never. A ditch need not be a grave.
True, this type of advice/criticism is long overdue but, like a kindergartener guzzling Elmer's glue, one would hope that chronic projectile vomiting, if not common sense, would correct the problem before a grown up is forced to intervene. Apparently the taste has been acquired.
Enter grown ups.
I suppose that comparing what has come to be known as, "Mormon Cinema" to thick pasty vomit is a tad unfair, as even though I've worked on a couple in my lifetime, I've yet to sit through an entire Mormon Movie, Dutcher's included. Actually, scratch that, I recall a boyscout activity when I was twelve or thirteen in which the entire troop was taken to a screening of Legacy. Pardon the oversight, but it was anything but memorable.
I'm not necessarily trying to be a smart ass here, but criticism comes in all forms, Dutcher's tone is much classier than mine and I applaud him for it, but the point is, criticism is absolutely vital in any artistic endeavor. Nothing good comes from surrounding yourself with yes men, see: The Emperor's New Clothes.
Making movies has to be the greatest job on the planet, and to those of us, especially in Utah, who toil night and day to gain a better foothold in the industry , watching a movie like "Baptists at Our Barbecue" get funded is like watching Colin Sullivan pop a cap in Staff Sergeant Dignam's forehead in the final scene.
I will now cease rambling with this simple plea:
Artists are the antennae of culture, to support crappy art is to dilute culture as a whole.
Audiences: Demand more and you will get more.
Artists: If you're no good, get better or find another profession. Great art is nothing more than progress.
Now if you'd excuse me, I'm going to rent a Richard Dutcher Movie.
P.S. If you want a truly insecure and childish retort to Dutcher's article by a "real filmmaker", read this.
I posted a diary to DailyKos asking for donations:And be sure to spread the word about the press release below, as well.
If you have an account there, please go:
1) Recommend it!!
2) Address the comments. A lot of them are angry about Nader. Please go tell them our side and encourage them to donate. A lot of people are speaking out and I can't address them all.
Several people have already donated in the comments section. If we can get it on the recommended list, we'll get a lot more.
Here is the press release we sent out this morning with all the pertinent info:
PRESS RELEASEI've already been contacted by a couple of news outlets about this, leading me to believe it's going to be pretty big. So, you should probably most definitely come.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Bryan Young and Steven Greenstreet
'DIVIDED STATE' AND 'UNREASONABLE MAN' TO SCREEN AT BYU ALTERNATIVE COMMENCEMENT FUNDRAISER
Provo, Utah – ShineBox Media Productions announced today a special screening of their film "This Divided State", which will play alongside the documentary "An Unreasonable Man" on Friday, April 20 at midnight.
The screening, to be held at the University Mall Cinemas in Orem, is part of a fundraiser for the Brigham Young University Students for Alternative Commencement. BYU Students for Alternative Commencement is a grassroots effort comprised of BYU students, faculty, alumni, and friends from the community who are protesting Vice President Dick Cheney's commencement speech at BYU. Directly after the official university commencement on April 26th, students and community members will march from Provo's Memorial Park to a yet-to-be-determined location. Once there, the audience will hear speeches from former Presidential candidate and renowned consumer advocate Ralph Nader, former U.S. Senate candidate Pete Ashdown, and human rights activist Jack Healey. The event is not a convocation exercise, but a speaking event for the entire Utah community.
The screenings will be free, but donations are being accepted to defray the costs of the speakers, their travel, lodging and other associative costs.
"An Unreasonable Man", directed by Henriette Mantel and Steve Skrovan, takes a look at the career of Ralph Nader from his multiple bids for president to his status as a public pariah. It screened at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival.
"This Divided State", the critically-acclaimed, award-winning documentary directed by Steven Greenstreet, chronicles the firestorm in Utah County after students at Utah Valley State College invited liberal filmmaker Michael Moore to speak on campus just two weeks before the incredibly divisive 2004 presidential election. Many are comparing the events surrounding Cheney's visit with those that transpired in the same community three years earlier. "The protests and the debates seem to be a little more civil this time around. There aren't any lawsuits or death threats flying around like when Michael Moore came, so that's good," said Greenstreet, "It's amazing that Utah has become such a hub for political discourse. It kind of erases the stigma that it's simply a homogeneous, 'red' state. It's changing and evolving. Progressing, as it were."
Producer Bryan Young added that "it's interesting to see this sea-change of political support. Three years ago this was the most conservative community in the country and even here, although Cheney's support hasn't eroded even below the 50% mark, people are fed up enough with both the administration and the war to lead protests as significant as these being planned."
Greenstreet, Young and others involved with the film will be on hand to answer questions after the screening. University Mall Cinemas is located at 959 South 700 East in Orem, to the North of University Mall. The doors will open at 11:30 pm.# # #
Donate some money, too.
Monday, April 16, 2007
I went today and saw the Korean film "Gwoemul" (it's better known in the English speaking world as "The Host") and I have to say I had a really, really good time.
The filmmaking and special effects were top-notch, the acting seemed great and the humour translated really well to subtitles.
A few things about the film surprised me, though: First was that this film came out of Korea. I really just didn't expect something this polished to come out of a country who isn't exactly known for it's film culture. I mean, yeah there's been a few here and there, but I've never seen them. (Or maybe I have and I didn't know or maybe I'm just an idiot and someone will point out some glaring omission from my memory....) Anyhow, it's quality and polish were better than I expected.
The other thing that really surprised me was how well it struck a tone between serious monster movie and almost slap-stick comedy. The last film I saw that struck the balance so well was "Shaun of the Dead". I still think Shaun of the Dead is better, but this film was laugh out loud funny and downright scary as shit other times. And scary is really hard for me to take seriously at the movies. Generally it just comes off as cheesy, but when the film is in on the joke it really makes me tense up. And there were some other parts that got extremely emotional and almost had me crying.
Maybe I'm crazy. I don't know.
I also really liked how Americans were satirized as both cross-eyed morons and bastards, lobotomizing people for no better reason than to cover up a mistake they made and dumping toxic chemicals into the water for no better reason than the bottles they were in were dusty. It was really, really funny.
And did anybody else see any similarities in both looks and performance of Hie-bong Byeon, who played the Grandfather, and Takashi Shimura in pretty much any of his Kurosawa films?
Seriously, I can't be the only one who thought that.
Anyway, this film is pretty good (7 or 8 out of 10, easy) and worth seeing at the theatre.
Go see it.
If for no other reason than you should be supporting foreign films at the movies.
Saturday, April 14, 2007
Has anybody heard anything about the UV Film Festival? Supposedly it happened last night and "The Fleapit Three" was submitted.
I haven't heard if it played, what was played, what happened, who won awards, nothing.
Was anyone there? I would have been, but I was in San Francisco still.
There are just so many unanswered questions. The festivals format was supposed to be that they played everything but turned it off it sucked. Did they shut off Fleapit Three because they hated it? Did they love it? Why hasn't the Utah Valley Film Society updated their site or their MySpace? Was Fleapit Three the only film submitted? WTF?
God damn it, somebody let me know.
UPDATE: So, apparently the film screened (or at least some portion of it, no more word on that front) and it didn't win anything. No surprises there.
Friday, April 13, 2007
Thursday, April 12, 2007
You can read it here.
Even after a nights sleep to help me process this, I still feel bad about it.
One surprising thing about the Huffington Post article was that a couple of people jumped down my throat about the title, but a few people who were actually Vonnegut fans caught on and set them straight. It's all in the comments over there, check it out.
This is truly a sad day. I found out a couple of hours ago that Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. has died. To say that it took the wind out of my sails this evening would be an understatement.
So it goes.
I felt like someone had punched me in the gut.
Perhaps it's selfish or wrong of me, but I feel like I've lost an old friend.
I think Vonnegut has influenced me as both a writer and a person more than any single artist in my life. Even more than George Lucas. I've read all of his books (with one exception) at least 4 times. Each time I read a Vonnegut book, I feel like I'm visiting with an old friend and now that friend is gone, although I'll still have his books.
I wrote Kurt Vonnegut three letters. I never sent any of them. And when I was busy not sending them, I knew that eventually his time would come and I would regret not sending them.
Truly, I regret not sending them.
In the letters I told him that he didn't need to fear so much about the generations of kids after him. That people like me still do care about things like Abraham Lincoln and Sacco and Vanzetti and Eugene Debs. Kids like myself (although I suppose I'm not much of a kid anymore) really did learn and care to learn from people as wise as he.
More importantly, he taught me how important it is to care about my fellow man better than all my years studying dogma inside an organized religion and that I didn't have to believe in God to do it. He taught me the value of Christianity and the teachings of Christ without having to fall into the trap of all of the spiritual mumbo-jumbo that went with it. He taught me the optimism to see the essential decency in pretty much any human being.
He inspired me to write what I believe to be some of my best short stories (if you're familiar with Vonnegut's work, you might be interested to read them. Here, here, here, here, and here. But this isn't about me, this is about the profound influence this man has had on my life.)
There's so much more I want to say about him and maybe in a couple of days I'll be more composed to say more about it.
But at this point, I'd be remiss if I didn't sign off by saying that Kurt's probably in Heaven now.
I'm probably not the first to say it and I will certainly not be the last, but it's something that has to be said.
Monday, April 09, 2007
We spent last night in San Francisco and did a spate of interviews today. Then we roadtripped out past Fresno where we're covering a youth weight-loss camp all day tomorrow. Then we're back in San Francisco the rest of the week.
I have to say, this is probably the busiest week of interviews we've had scheduled for the entirety of this production.
That's why we brought Elias with us this time.
(Crews are still busy filming on the Cheney thing, too, so have no fear of that falling apart.)
Saturday, April 07, 2007
Last night I had the pleasure of witnessing what was perhaps the most enjoyable three-plus hours in a movie theatre I have had in a long time. "Grindhouse" isn't a good movie in the normal sense. In fact, it's a couple of pretty bad movie that transcends bad into awesome.
It's no secret that I dig both Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarentino on a number of levels and their films don't disappoint on any level of their ability. Rodriguez' "Planet Terror" offers extra helpings of preposterously great action sequences, amazing gross out moments, off the wall characters, laughs aplenty and more heart than one would expect from an exploitative zombie-picture. Tarentino's "Death Proof" offers all of the standard Tarentino-isms that one would expect: snappy dialogue, hot girls, gore you wouldn't believe and the resurgence of a star from day's gone by who should now be highly sought after once more.
Both films had their strengths and weaknesses and I realize that most people seem to be calling out "Death Proof" as their favorite of the two, but I wouldn't rush to make such a distinction. In fact, I did a lot of thinking about which of the two I liked more, but I couldn't decide. "Planet Terror" felt, to me, more like one of those bad horror films you'd see on the bottom shelf of Blockbuster that you'd rent to have a good laugh with buddies over beers, but ten steps better. "Death Proof" was certainly a more...realistic? maybe that's the wrong word...acceptable to a mainstream audience? I guess that's what I'm looking for. "Death Proof" was a more reasonable film, but it was too good for a Grindhouse picture. In fact moments of "Death Proof" seriously freaked me out.
The car accident. Jesus Christ.
Anyhow, I really, really liked this movie. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to spend three hours in a movie-theatre having a really good time.
My only gripe with the film was that I had to see it in a standard, 16-screen multi-plex. I wanted to be able to see it in some dilapidated old fleapit of a movie-palace from days gone by instead of some corporate theatre that checked my ID (seriously) twice, once by the guy who ripped the tickets and again at the door.
It was actually pretty obnoxious.
And the fake trailers were awesome, by the way. Every one of them. "Thanksgiving" was probably the most disturbing, though. By far. Man....that trampoline shit...
Anyhow: Go see Grindhouse, it's two horrible, gory, exploitation pictures that everyone can enjoy. Fun for the whole family, really.
And this is the kind of reinvention of cinema movements (no matter how tasteless) that I think filmmakers should be bringing back to the theatres. I think it's the same with shorts before movies, intermissions, overtures, double features, etc. Make going to the movies an event.
Hats off to Rodriguez and Tarentino for making the first step and let's hear it for a whole flock of Grindhouse sequels with different directors pairing up for double features.
Friday, April 06, 2007
Joel Petrie's production of Romeo and Juliet was really, really good. I went and saw it last night and I have to say it was worth both the drive to the UVSC Wasatch Campus (!) and the $6 they charged me at the door. According to the credits, I was the assistant director and they still charged me $6 and I still feel it was worth it. (in fact, the picture above is from the scene I did the camera work for)
Joel put together an incredible mix of stage and screen to recreate Shakespeare's play to chilling effect.
I'll admit it. It made me cry a little. But not the actual ending type normal stuff you'd expect, but it was actually Mercutio's death that seemed to me to be the most emotional moment in the play. Part of it was that the girl that played Mercutio (you read that right, she's pictured above) was really, really good. I would go so far as to say she had my favorite performance in the entire piece.
But Mercutio being a girl and the play being a mix of film and stage acting isn't the only thing Joel does to retell the story and it's the way he does it that makes this play fresh to me after so many years of knowing it. At one point, Joel had mentioned to me a way in which he futzed with the structure to maintain "the cliffhanger of Romeo's death" and I told him that there hadn't been anyone affected by a cliffhanger presented in Romeo and Juliet in three hundred years. But the fact that I was sitting, literally, on the edge of my chair with tears in my eyes at more than a couple of points during the play speaks to the enduring quality of Shakespeare's words and the ingenuity of my buddy and good friend, Joel Petrie.
I would highly recomend you go out of your way to see it. If my schedule permits, I'm going to do my damndest to see it again.
As a taste: Here's the Apothecary scene from the film. It's creepy as shit.
Thursday, April 05, 2007
It is ironic that I find myself invited to write my first guest-blog for this site as it was only hours ago that I told a BYU representative face-to-face that I have absolutely nothing to do with the This Divided State Blog. That was true until this very moment.
The occasion for our little run-in was a question and answer session between BYU students and BYU President, Cecil Samuelson, held in BYU's Varsity Theater in Provo, Utah. Samuelson fielded questions on a variety of topics, but the overwhelming majority were on the subject of Vice President Cheney's scheduled visit to BYU later this month.
BYU Democrats President, Diane Bailey, was applauded by Samuelson for her efforts to keep yesterday's on-campus protest civil and respectful. Other students' questions were ignored outright as Samuelson found them to be redundant, uninformed, or offensive in nature. He took special offense to a question by one student as to why his sign had been taken away following yesterday's protest, refusing to answer. But Samuelson was generally pleasant and warmed to some easier questions like "How did you become so successful?" and "Will you attend our club party?"
After the Q&A I was subject once again to questioning by a BYU representative about why I was rolling tape. The issue is that out-of-the-gate they misunderstood our intention to use the footage we were shooting in a film. We didn't bother with contacting them about commercial film release as our first priority was for spot news, The Huffington Post, this blog, etc. Bryan Young did speak to Carri Jenkins (BYU Spokesperson) yesterday about shooting on campus and she gave her approval. Later, when she realized that we may use some of this footage in a film, she recanted and went so far as to scratch her signature off of our release form.
Anyone that reads the Guardian, the Washington Post, the New York Times, listens to NPR, or watches the local news (not to mention Al-Jazeera) knows that it was a media circus yesterday. Why should we be singled out? Come to find out that spot news is the only circumstance under which BYU will approve of our filming the Cheney protests on campus. The idea is that we aren't legitimate media because documentary films are commercial in nature. Other than the possible exceptions of the Daily Universe and NPR, I'd say that all of the media outlets represented at yesterday's event are commercial in nature. The New York Times may be free on BYU campus, but I paid fifty cents for my copy this morning. Newsweek isn't handing out hard copies to whoever wants them. CBS isn't paying its bills with wooden nickels. The idea that we stand to make even the slightest fraction of what any of these media outlets make with our little indie project is absurd. The real danger is that rather than a 20 second news blip that airs one day only, a documentary can be rewatched and redistributed several times while, with regards to content, get deep into an issue and take time to hear what people are really saying. That's harder to spin if you do P.R. for BYU.
We are covering this story because it affects our community. We're covering this story because it is in the public's interest. We are working for free while sacrificing time from other paying projects. And so we'll continue to shoot footage and try to make it available to the public and the "legitimate media"—but that follow up to This Divided State (a film roundly regarded as one of the most objective political documentaries in years) that you've been hoping for may be far off if BYU won't speak. Although sometimes, actions can speak louder than words.
A couple of days ago I mentioned that I was interviewed for a piece in the BYU Daily Universe about the whole BYU-Dick Cheney commencement thing.
Here it is, it seems to have ran yesterday.
I think my quote is fairly representative of both what I said and how I feel:
I want to reiterate that although I may seem to be leaning to the left on this issue, our filming is strictly non-partisan. We're working our hardest to cover all angles of the issue for our journalistic film, despite what some people might accuse us of.
Bryan Young, a producer for Shine Box Media Productions, participated in making the movie "This Divided State" when Michael Moore came to UVSC. Young said they are planning to create another movie about Vice President Cheney's visit because of the extreme controversy this has created for BYU and non-BYU students alike.
Young said it is encouraging to see that protests are happening and that people will have their chance to speak up about this issue. He said while they aren't protesting his right to speak, they are protesting his policies.
"I think it's great that people feel that they can go out in the streets and protest in a peaceful way," Young said. "I think protests always empower students to feel like they're a part of the democracy."
There's a reason that "This Divided State" was called the first successfully balanced political documentary.
In non-Cheney related news, Joel Petrie who did the camera work on Fleapit Three, directed a version of Romeo and Juliet that is drawing excellent notices.
I would advise going to see it. I did some advising on the script and shot some of the sequences featured in the play.
Read the article in the Park City Paper here.
Romeo and Juliet takes place at the UVSC Wasatch Campus in Heber City, April 4-7, at 7:30 p.m. Admission is $6 for UVSC students and $8 general admission.
"Y Protest Quite Tame"
"Demonstrators Duel Politely At BYU"
"Quiet Rallies At BYU"
Awwww.... BYU broke its cherry.
I have to admit that it's really cute to read how excited the BYU student protesters were yesterday. I mean, they were actually given permission to protest! Good for them. I hope, one day, with a little bit of hard work and persistence, that all of us can get permission to practice a little bit of free speech.
Watch an audio/photo montage of the protest here.
Speaking about the protests, "These occurrences are rare," BYU spokeswoman Carri Jenkins said, adding she was impressed by the maturity and responsibility demonstrators exhibited Wednesday.
Meaning, they behaved. They sat down like they were told. They didn't speak out loud like they were told. They only protested until 1pm like they were told. And they let security stooges take their protest signs away without dissent.
Isn't that like asking the W.T.O. permission to protest them and then letting the W.T.O set the ground rules for the protest?
Pissed off Asians fuck with the cops. Hong Kong W.T.O. protests in 2000.
Anyways, remember "Red Light. Green light" as a kid? The game where you start running towards the moderator when they say "green light" and have to stop on a dime at "red light"? Kind of a stupid game, but it was sure fun when you were 5 years old.
On one end of campus were the "anti-Cheney" demonstrators sponsored by the BYU Democrats. Between 100 and 200 strong at any given time, students and faculty members raised signs displaying their distaste for the policies espoused by Dick Cheney such as war profiteering, torture, preemptive war, lying, using the "f-word", lying, etc.
BYU had "given them permission" to voice their opinions. Well, not really "voice" their opinions, BYU said they could sit down on some side walks and hold up signs, just not shout chants or yell anything. And they only had until 1:00pm to do it. Having received permission to protest, the ecstatic students remained peaceful and sat inside BYU's designated "free speech" zone in the middle of campus. Over the entire three hour demonstration it was estimated that 700-800 faculty and students were able to participate.
Sit Down and Shut Up: A BYU Protest.
In the mix was an assortment of students and familiar faces. Steven Jones, the physics professor at BYU who retired amid controversy about his research into the 9/11 attacks, was on hand and spoke to us about his distaste with the Bush administration. Joe Vogel, who was once the Student Body Vice President at Utah Valley State College (UVSC) in 2004 when he invited Michael Moore to speak and was then forced to resign over the ensuing controversy, was there to register his dissenting voice in the growing cacophony of protest. Joe is now a masters student at BYU and part of the faculty.
On the other end of campus were the "pro-BYU" demonstrators sponsored by the College Republicans. Between 15 and 30 strong, students and faculty members passed out free cookies, lemonade and cake and played football, all in support of BYU's decision to bring Dick Cheney to campus. They remained peaceful and had a good time eating cake.
The protests seem to go off without a hitch until things started winding down. NPR left. The local TV news cameras left. The newspaper reporters packed their things and left. And the only people around to document anything were students and our film crew. Our cameras kept rolling to witness what happened next.
As soon as 1:00 hit and the time for free speech expired, after an impromptu performance of the Star Spangled Banner by the BYU Democrats, men from BYU dressed in suits and sunglasses with Secret Service-style earpieces roughly rounded up all of the signage and banners. "You'll be able to use it all again. We're just going to keep it for you. So you don't carry it around campus, we'll take it to a safe place until the next designated protest."
It was like Daddy deciding that the kids had had enough play time and was taking their toys away.
Students we spoke to, on camera, were understandably livid. "I'm a student, but I'm not with the Democrats and that sign is my personal property," a disconcerted student told us, "What they're saying is they don't want any disruptions on campus and 'free speech time' is over until they say so."
And then the real debates began. Students and faculty on both sides of the issue met face to face and things began to get heated and that is when we felt taps on our shoulders.
It turns out, as it was explained to me, that documentarians, according to BYU, are not legitimate journalists. Because we wish to show the news we have to report on a theatre screen or a DVD, our aims don't actually count as news.
We rolled a lot of footage at today's events. Hours and hours of footage. Hopefully, we're making a follow-up documentary to This Divided State. But, if BYU has anything to do with it, you won't be able to see it. Free speech at BYU is open for business. But only from 11:00am til 1:00pm, two days only.
Angry yells, raised fists and a bloody flag: A non-BYU protest.
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
You can read about my harrowing adventures on campus today (or what I'm willing to spill the beans on at the moment) over at Huffington Post.
The photos below were taken by Josh Ligairi. Josh is producing this doc along with Steve and I.
Josh and I (along with a few others) pretty much kicked some ass and took some names at the campus protests today.
Tuesday, April 03, 2007
Tomorrow, BYU students of all political persuasions are invited to participate in both anti-Cheney and pro-BYU demonstrations.
We will be covering as much of the action as we can.
For more information about the protests, check here, here and here.
If you're leading a protest or attending one or doing something else about this issue tomorrow, feel free to drop me a line. We'd be happy to cover it.
Some of our filmmakers were abuzz with activity today and we're getting a lot of good stuff. The project is shaping up nicely.
Monday, April 02, 2007
1) John's movie "Blood, Boobs and Beast" is getting rave reviews all over the place and has been placed in a Film Festival. I'll let John come and give all the details as he sees fit.
2) The obesity documentary is going swimmingly. Elias, Steve and I are all heading out to Berkeley a week from today for an intense battery of interviews and then turning around a few days after we get back and heading straight out to Texas for more filming. IMDb has added quite a lot of detail to interviews we've done to the doc's profile and looking at it on the IMDb page, it really seems to be filling out, content-wise.
Principal photography is nearing a wrap and by the middle of May we should be heading into editing.
3) They BYU-Cheney project is gaining traction. We're really going out of our way to make as objective a view of the events as we can and it seems as though we're accomplishing that and we've recruited close to two dozen filmmakers to help record the events.
Doug Fabrizio's Radio West covered it today and we were able to get a camera man in there to film in studio.
I was also interviewed by a reporter for the BYU Daily Universe for my take on the Cheney debate. Who knows if they'll use anything I said. We'll see tomorrow, won't we?
Additionally, Disinformation (our distributor for This Divided State) ran links to our Huffington Post articles on their mySpace blog.
4) "The Fleapit Three" has most of it's IMDb data up and running and things went well at that festival in India. Or so I heard. I could have been lied to, though.
Anyhow, we're nearing announcing another screening. It'll probably be in May before I think about putting it together and organizing, but it's on the horizon.
5) Elias, Steve and I are nearing announcing the plans for another documentary project.
If you want to know more about it, my only advice can be to make our blog your homepage or something...