Sunday, July 28, 2019

First feature film from a director better be Pi or Memento

My opinion, yes, my opinion - not fact, is that many people think their first film needs to be Pi or Memento.

That's really strange to me. This is a craft. I expect everyone's first movie to be technically proficient but story engaging with imperfections present to regular audience members.

The majority of first time feature-films that knock out millions of sales are the lottery winners.

I'm sure you're thinking Tarantino did it with Reservoir Dogs, but that's not his first film. His first film is one he'll never show because it's not perfect. But here's the thing: Reservoir Dogs isn't perfect either. But it's fun. It's also a multi-million dollar first feature, so I don't count it. It's a well-marketed film by a failed-actor-turned-writer who also marketed himself enough to direct the thing.

Oh yeah. So, I like to look at David Lean or Marty Scorsese. They made a half dozen or more movies which ranged from $400(four hundred, not four hundred thousand) features to made-for-TV movies before they 'got their stride right' and started actually directing true films that gave their own spin on the medium.

That's media consumption in the 21st century: We are all actors and directors in our own right. Just like anyone can sing. But singing really well takes practice and commitment. I'm talking years of craft. A singer goes and sings Happy Birthday for a few friends first then a church choir then a crowd of 50 and so forth.

It doesn't mean there aren't movie director prodigies out there. But thinking that you are a prodigy will only lead to disappointment is all I'm saying.

Story is what matters. Characters matter. You are a craftsman and craftswoman. It's up to you to spend time on yourself before trying for Pi and Memento. Make a spirited effort in a film that runs 80 minutes. Learn from it. Be humbled from it. Get an award or two or 10. Then make a bigger spirit film. That's called dedication to the craft.

Have a nice day! ☺

Thursday, September 14, 2017


Everyone starts somewhere, I suppose.

I've always tried my best to help people. I know the truth that 99% of people won't be remembered in a few generations, or if humanity is meant to survive after all. And that's no matter how hard we try to make a name for ourselves or try to encourage more open minds and hearts. Myself included.

I know I'm smart. I know very little but I know a few more things than most. I know my IQ and it's ridiculous. I hate it. It annoys me having to think so big that I sometimes forget to see the things in my line of sight.  It makes me wonder 'why me?'. And because of this stupid (excuse the pun!) number assigned to my brain, I try to help people that have it harder than me. I'm not a supremely well-known writer or moviemaker, and honestly, I'm not sure I want it either. I'm happy being me though. I do know I want people that have dreams to go for it. I'm working to get others to achieve their dreams. I guess that's my big dream then.

Well, it seems every time lately I've tried to help someone, things get messed up. A few years ago I wanted to help someone be a movie producer and it didn't work out well and this time too.

I am not interested in writing for television, series, or short films. Right now my focus is longer form movies. Once in a while though I'll get intrigued by someone or something. And that's what happened. Someone was looking for a producer for a very small film.

I went and met these young guys who smelled like day old weed, and we talked about the script for an hour or two. I went over the story: They didn't really have one. It was a piece of shit - I'll be honest. But I spent the time doctoring it with them because I saw what they had in mind but couldn't express on paper or moving pictures. I thought they were taking this as a serious film. Serious films are not a genre. Serious films mean they are a business. Sometimes movies are made to get jobs, and most of the time they're made to make money. These guys were thinking of neither. It reminds me of the wannabe producer that said his goals were to have a Lamborghini and a hot babe in his car. He left L.A. within a year and half.

There was very little communication between us after they sent me the finalized script and I approved it. I asked what they needed and the answers were vague, but they told me they had a location, and just needed equipment and a money. I asked how much and never got a straight budget or anything. The night before I got a notice that everyone was to show up for filming, and no contracts were signed. I spent another half-hour writing up a contract to save myself and luckily they signed it. So I just did my thing. I showed up with the co-producer, and these guys were smoking weed again and someone was drinking hard liquor. It was the least place I wanted to be. So I left and only came back to pick up my equipment after some words about credit with someone who claimed to be a producer who'd I'd never met before.

I helped write their script, then transported back and forth some of my gear to use. Nothing bad came of it except a waste of a lot of valuable time.

That's what I'm most upset about. I saw potential and it'll stay at that plateau. Hell, I don't know, maybe I'm just not a good mentor or I give up too quickly? Which brings me to my next thought.
I've always tried my best to help people - until now. Maybe someday or if the right person comes walking by my door.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

This actually happened

I've been behind the camera since I've been in my early 20s now. But the love of immersing myself into a character's role has been there since I was a teenager.

I'm an actor if it's the right role for me. As a 20s male of middle eastern roots, I was offered every villainous role out there. But these were not villains with memorable lines or anything; they were typical one dimensional roles full of stereotypes that a beardy guy with thick eyebrows was perfect for in a racially charged America. 

Early in my career I agreed to it because the pay was substantial. And it wasn't a bad day's work either. But eventually I had to tell myself the truth: I'm a hero. I need heroic roles to portray. So I decided I wouldn't accept bad guy roles anymore unless the villain shows that their point of view is seen and they are relatable. Darth Vader redeemed himself. So would I. None of the phony bad guy that is bad for the sake of being bad.

So I have a friend who is a talent agent. She tries her hardest to get me in front of a camera once a year. At least it seems that way because I only hear from her a few times a year with an offer to audition for a support role for a good chunk of cash. These are the SLACKER, the SMART ASS types. They are the walk-on roles but tons of fun work and life of the party characters. 

I'm a director. I study acting and actors. I include myself with up and coming or established talent. It's my love and my job. I continue to  take part in the study of acting and recently voice-acting. Performance is just as important as sound design, cinematography, production design, and editing. As a quick note: I never let on that I'm a director inside the audition. My job is as an actor here and it's a job I gladly want to do and want to do only for them.

So I showed up for the audition and this is what happened. I showed up to the audition for some dating contestant sketch. I was Contestant #2. The one that never gets picked. (Why?) The contestant's character was much of a "don't care one way or another" kind of guy. I did my audition, shook hands with the casting people, and was picking up my belongings to leave when a woman walks in, very freaked out. She speaks in very loud pitches. She says, "I'm so sorry I'm late! I was just rear-ended when getting off the freeway!" All eyes were on her. I stuck around to hear what happened. She told exactly what happened. A brown car made in the 1980s hit her, making her car squeal off to the off-ramp wall. She was visibly shaking. Someone brought her a cup of water and she sat down to cool off. The producers nodded, said to her everything was going to be OK, and of course she was able to audition.

I decided I needed to head out. I stopped by the cafe and got myself an iced tea. As I made my way to my car parked on the street, I saw the woman that came into the audition. I went over to her and introduced myself, and asked her about the damage done to her car. She unashamedly told me she had made all of it up. I was damn impressed.

There was no way I wasn't going to get her contact information. Her performance was stellar. I believed her with all my heart that she had been a victim of hit-and-run. I felt so sorry for her at the time but later when I saw the truth, I knew that she understood acting. It's a truth as if 'what would I be like if this happened to me'? and using that to make a performance.

I did end up getting that audition. And I've kept in contact with my friend, the Scream Queen. She's a full-time audition attender - even if she's a little late because she's driving from audition to audition. Her paychecks only come if she goes to auditions, markets herself, and books the job. And she's very good at the job of being an actor.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Young and Beautiful AKA Jeune Et Jolie, directed by Francois Ozon

One of my favorite types of films are ones that makes me leave the theater or turn off the television and talk to someone about what made it so compelling. Or if alone when watching, to be in silence for a few while trying to figure things out in my own life. A comparison. A need to connect with others in some way.

This film is about a young woman that is exploring herself and in that, her sexuality. There are a lot of what ifs and imagining what happens next with her character. There is family drama included because of her age that includes characters of varying degrees. This is what fascinated me most. These people are neither good nor bad; they just are who they are within their joy and struggle.

It's something I think about when a film moves me; where am I in my own life and what its meaning is to myself and those around me. I am not a nice person or a mean person. If confronted with antagonism I become mean. If confronted with something that brings me happiness I have joy. These are simple things that too many films try to go past in search of reaching for better and ultimately falling short.

Most films feel like an afterthought. I generally watch movies first as an audience member then a film director. When I'm brought out of the story by sloppy technique or odd dialog I'm uncomfortable with the film. That's just me, but there were a few moments where I caught myself slipping into 'director mode' and thinking during this film that the director, Francois Ozon, knew what he wanted and how to capture that feeling. This is one of the few times I've been pulled out of a film as an audience member and enjoyed the art.

The lead character, a 17 year old who finds herself working as a prostitute, does not give a ton of depth into her life for a romantic drama, but something about her and the actress who plays her, Marine Vacth, pull you into her world. She's likable but troubled at times. Yet, she wants to be accepted by the ones closest to her. A typical person in extraordinary circumstances.

I highly recommend a viewing to decide for yourself.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Career Goals Completed in 2016

New vs. Old Goals.

I lump my personal and career goals into one list. It's easier to manage this way. I'll be sharing the list to talk about my writing and movie career goals mostly.

I've been creating new goals during the last few days of the year and it's been a decent year.

I've accomplished a few, not even been able to try many, but I keep going.

Things I did not do:

1. Bowling lessons or a personalized bowling ball. That movie Kingpin really did a number on me. Great job, Bill Murray.

2. Go to Canada. I'm going to really try hard to visit Vancouver soon. 

3. Pay off home in Oklahoma City. It's paying itself off so I'm not really worried about this. I just don't want any bank to make more money off me. That's the only reason I want to pay it off quicker.

4. Still working on the CSUN degree. Another 2 or 3 years.

5. Mount Rushmore. I'll be there soon, friends.

6. Hawaii. I wish I had gone that one time flights were really low prices. Let's hope. 

7.  Washington DC Vietnam Memorial. I really want to go. 

Things I'm unable to do now:

1. Go to Iran. There is so much red tape that I gave up. Plus, I don't want the country to take my American passport.

2. Get a girlfriend. Not career related, but I just don't think I'm going to be able to give someone else the time of day anymore. And relationships are a lot of communication and work. As I've gotten older, I've gotten colder. I'd rather spend my time with others sparingly. I do a lot of work on my writing and producing efforts, which makes me not have energy to spend with someone during the evenings. So I guess this technically could be career related.

Things I did do:

1. I did make a few Python projects. I made a reddit bot and am finishing a simple Galaga style game. I also used Python concepts for a major real estate firm, working with their IT Department, saving the company 20% time to do one large task.

2. I didn't write a new screenplay. Instead I did rewrite Breaking the Chains, came up with The Next Kill, which is written by Devon Green, and Abandoned Warehouse, which is being written by Deborah Huerta! Two, which I've done my 13th rewrite on is what I'm currently on.

3. I'm producing a few new projects. The Next Kill. Still unsure if I want to direct any of them.

4. I did finish and publish my first poetry book. It's coming out January 5th, 2017.

5. I did finish the children's book. Just need to work on it with my illustrator, hopefully out by summer or fall of 2017.

6. I did go to San Diego and watch the sunset in La Jolla.

7. I did get producer credits on feature films.

8. I did get director credits on a feature film.

9. I did look into Stanford's MBA program.​ I don't think I'm going to go now. Talk to me in 7 years.  

Final note: I got a lot of things to do with myself. I do it to please myself. And if I can, to make a difference out there.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Make it happen

I've been "hibernating" for a little while now. I needed to. My last big project, Breaking the Chains, is an amazing story written by myself and Deborah Huerta. I've been working with Deborah again, and rewriting it. It's a tight screenplay, if I don't say so myself. The production is also the source of heartbreak for me and a lot of learning I had to go through in the business side of film producing, which I'm going to share with you now.

I made it happen with a lot of help, but it was me that made it happen. I kept pushing, and working tirelessly, and I didn't ever say it wasn't going to happen.

I made some mistakes. Here are the mistakes I made, but I'm still very proud of the mistakes I made and a few mistakes others made too. We were trying to do something that most never get a chance to try.

For my first movie, Panomundo, I was brought on the project because my then acquaintance, and now one of my best friends, Charysse Tia Harper, invited me to a screening of her short film. I went with a friend and afterwards met up with her. I asked her what she was trying to do next for the film and her response was she needed more funding. I told her pointblank that I had never done such big numbers before. She (who I will always love for this) gave me a chance. She said if I think I can do it, then she'd bring me on as producer. Now this was a "sink or swim" situation. And for the first few months no money was coming in. I helped her develop a business plan, helped develop the website, did fundraising ideas, and shot some of the promo material with her. It took a while, but I finished swimmingly.

For Breaking the Chains, I figured someone took a chance on me, why no I try the same? I met someone in a Cinematography class that liked the idea of the script. She said she wanted to produce. I relied on her as a producer who had never done anything before and didn't fire her when I was busy writing the script, looking over and she was not on the phone making calls to people to sponsor our film. She was too busy playing games on Facebook. I am a good guy at heart, and try my best to see potential. I'm still a good guy but eventually I took over her job. Miraculously, I raised enough to pay for pre-production and with a little bit of post-production left over with 2 new producers. I will fire someone in a heartbeat now if they don't have the guts to knock on a stranger's door. This is a humbled job as a producer. Not for the timid or scared of rejection. And being fired is a rejection of sorts, so I'm OK rejecting them if they under perform.

I had a set-goal in terms of finances needed for this story. It was the cost of a backyard indie, but an action filled melodrama. I love action movies and I love to get my heartbeat racing while watching a movie. I like badass women and I like Los Angeles. There you go. One thing I planned on was to contain 90% of the action. On hindsight, I should have wanted more cash to get this done, but I was stubborn we could do certain things, like continuously film with 2 cameras to save time and money. Some things worked and some things didn't, but overall, it's something I'd like to try again, but with more people behind the camera, unlike Kubrickian crews I had envisioned. I just don't like seeing people standing around doing nothing while I'm paying them! So next time, I'll understand if a few people are waiting.

My other co-producer was a young guy who was a little bit shy, but likable. I started late with him but he had the potential. I went with him to a few people, I did 99% of the talking and then had him try a few cold walk-ins. We met with a group who were interested. I asked him to follow up, but I don't believe he did. And once you don't follow up it's all gone because to that sponsor, our passion wasn't there. Next time, I want someone besides me to mentor a young producer, which leads me to...

The 2nd producer I brought in after the first one was too busy. I love this woman as a friend with all my heart but she has too many plates spinning. She is a mother to an autistic child, a full-time recording artist, and then I threw a full-time gig as a producer at her. I did warn her of how much producing a film needs though. It needs money(which we had some at that point) and then lots of paperwork and phone calls. At this point, I'm going to have to reach out to her, have her produce a very short film, and see if it sticks. I'm sure she'd be great at it. Just need her to start smaller than the film I was making. I'm not giving this up. Some people walk to greatness, some people go running. Some people need a bigger push. I think she's the latter.

Out of the paperwork that came in, we didn't have a signed contract. Now, I thought I stressed how important this was, because no chain of title, no movie. But at the end of the first day, one of the actors, who I liked at the table read, came in to talk to me alone when I was needing to direct a scene. She brought me in and said her manager had read the script and wanted a percentage and she was demanding more money. I told her to talk to the producer(see above), and from there I quietly told the camera operators not to focus on her shots, because we were going to either not use her footage or kill her off in the next scene. One, that was completely unprofessional, and two, we were very upfront that we had finances, but it was very low budget. I don't believe anyone on the set, except that actor, was doing this for the money. We did it because we love making movies. All paperwork must be filled in and on time. No other options. I will put clauses that people will lose credit and compensation if it's something that hinders my productions from now on.

Production went into hiatus as I couldn't find a producer to jump in. It's better this way, because now I know the producers I want working with me are go-getters. Attitude is a big deal. Not giving it your all or spreading yourself too thin won't go very far, or worse, will deliver a shoddy product. I'm still open to newer producers but I think it's important to know who I'm dealing with before anything significant happens and letting them know that if they aren't playing ball, they need to resign.

One other thing was one of the financiers didn't come through with their check. That's not terrible but it was a lot of me chasing after them, which would've been nice to have. This should be a none-issue with the next producers.

Lastly, one person stole $500 from me. I've forgiven him now. I still can't believe it, though. Seriously? If he hadn't stolen the money, he could've made it back hundreds of times over if he'd stuck with me. I will watch every single dime this time. No room for errors. In fact, I want to talk to my lawyer to see what options we have on taking this guy to court. Lawyers are mandatory in every aspect. Take down driver's licenses, social security, etc. No more Danny will take you on your word because his old-school Iranian ways of handshake deals end up in turbulence.

People always ask what I want. I want to tell stories. There is no other agenda. I'll take the money and fame, and respect that comes with it, but that's not WHY I do it. A year later and I look back on the movie with fond memories. Why? Because of the great people I met like Harry Farmer, Eddie Buck, and Melody Casta. They love film and acting is their job. They all did so well, it blows my mind at how much they put into this. Most of us did too, actually. It's wonderful being around people like that. It's inspiring, really. I write all this because the movie is going to happen again. It's going to be a little different but the essence of fighting for what's right is still packed into the story. I believe it'll show up on screen the same way.

I said to every naysayer when they said it couldn't be done, "HELL OR HIGH WATER IT WILL HAPPEN". And it did happen. If you're out there with a script and waiting on films to get made, it's only gonna happen if you make it happen. Rely on others but know who your team is and rely on yourself most. Make relationships happen. Make that movie, hell or high water 💀

It's coming soon and I can't wait for you all to see it.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Today is today, tomorrow is the future, and yesterday is no more

I had a fun Halloween. I went out to West Hollywood and crowd-watched, made some new friends, had a drink with said new friends, flirted back and forth with a nice girl who gave me a Hershey's bar because I'm Santa, possibly almost got mugged by a Juggalo, etc. Overall a very fun evening.

That's not what this story is about though. My story is a lot like the protagonist of The Fountainhead. I'm not willing to give in to what I want and I've made peace that I will struggle for a bit. One of the new friends I made is an older gentleman, who goes by J.L.

He found out I'm an independent film producer. He works in the industry as well, mid 50s in age, and is doing well enough for himself. He saw that I am a young(er) man and still figuring a few things out to reach more people and decided he needed to tell me what to do to become "successful". He said that I needed to go schmooze more with more lunch and dinner dates, he started to tell me who all in Hollywood is gay(I already know who is and isn't - it's none of my concern who someone loves, as long as they love), and then that what I'm doing isn't going to bring me that money that the studios get. Which is the opposite of what I do. I'm doing almost everything I can to keep control of my movies. Sure, I'll work with a few people in the industry because I like them and I want to work with them, but not working with people that don't have my best interests with theirs is counterproductive.

This is where my personal opinion of the industry comes into play. The cigar-chomping mogul is not dead. But they are dying a slow death. My era of working out of my home is slowly becoming alive. I have been doing this for 10 years now. Four of those years in Los Angeles. I am not living in an 8 story Hollywood Hills residence. Nor would I want to! Do you know how much I'd have to work to pay the taxes on that? I'm a different new breed. I don't want to work more to have 1/16 more than others. I find happiness with inexpensive things. That person wants to work from 7am to 10pm everyday without a day off to send their kids to a premium school? Go for it. To quote Lupe Fiasco, "The school is garbage anyway". It's me who will teach my children(or nephews, cousins, friends and family and community members) how to be smarter, not to work harder. I'd rather work a quarter of these full-time psychopaths and make 1/2 of what they do and still feel I own my own life. I can step away from anything at any time and it doesn't bother me. I'm free. That's what this is all about. Being free to pursue the American Dream. I'm not willing to give up my freedom for a few points or a few zeros on a check for high end consumerism. That doesn't consume a lot of Reality Shows they sell but I rarely am a consumer - I'm a creator. Watch what I put out in the future. It's going to be a lot of fun!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Anybody can make movies

Anybody can make movies. It's why there's so many videos on Youtube. Moviemaking is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration. Ideas come to me 150 times a day! I've seen and had meetings with people that talked about making a movie idea they had that falls through ALL THE TIME. 

Real genius doesn't just show up out of thin air if you want to make films. Nobody wakes up knowing how to make something interesting. It takes reading books, watching more good and bad movies than thought possible, making terrible films for all to see at first.

Then you start to know your work. Basically, to have your MBA in film production and show business. This is a commercial business. When I meet people and they don't have any kind of business plan - it's all just talk at that point. What they don't teach in grad school is real financing. How to go out there and show you've done your homework, knowing your audience, your story, and how to bring a profit. Lastly, you'll need to prove you want to work with people to make some magic happen.

Just to say it again: Anybody can make movies. At the least, be a decent enough person that is likable, and consistently work smarter and harder than everyone else. Make a fucking movie! This isn't rocket science, people! That's how I do it anyway.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

12 Fake Producer phrases to watch out for

Be wary out there.

Since I've moved to the City of Angels, I've met my share of time wasters. These are people that say "Yes, I'm a Producer" and haven't really worked for the title.

Here's the thing: Being a Producer can mean ANYTHING.

It can mean you found investors. It can mean you know an actor and talked them into coming onto the show. It can be (like me) having an idea, building a team, finding financing, writing or getting a script made,  creating a business plan, and then following this production to the end of a lifecycle...generally 3.25 years.

How do I know all this anyway, I'm some egotistical 34 year old kid? I'll tell you how I know. I've made mistakes in doing things. That's how I've learned. I'm hoping to pass some of this on to you so you will learn from me by proxy.

What I hear all around town is a lot more of 'faking it until we make it' than actual step-by-step production making. When you hear of anybody saying these phrases, you might take a step back and make a note to see if they are full of shit or not.

  1. "...I've been making deals all over the place and I want to cut you in for 50%..."
  2. "...I'm on set all day long... (why they can't respond to your text or email)
  3. "...I'm not a good financing producer. I'm better being on set..."
  4. "...I know Arri the CEO..."
  5. "...since I've made it to the top of the game I've learned a lot..."
  6. "...if this happens, it'll make me richer than I've ever dreamed of..."
  7. "...I've got a distribution deal already setup for any movie I want because they owe me..."
  8. "...I'm not greedy at all..."
  9. "...This is how we did it on my last picture..."
  10. "...I'm also an actor..." (does not count if it's Tom Cruise)
  11. "...all my financing people are out of state..."
  12. "...that's not how Name Studio Producer does it..."
Your best bet is to stay away from people that think they know EVERYTHING and NOTHING. All it takes for anyone to be successful is work ethic, reading, and a little bit of luck on their side.

Be careful. And be wary. Do your due diligence. I've developed a personal list of people in this town not to work with. Because this is the public web, I won't release it openly unless I find I need to. For a list of whom I’ve met with and who not to do business with, PM me and I'll guide you. Most of all, and once again: Do your due diligence. 

Ask for references, make sure they are who they say they are. Take down identification copies, make notes of all your meetings and what was said. Protect yourself first, because that's what is most important for your movie to be made.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Testing the Panasonic GH4

I used this camera almost a year ago on 2 different projects and fell in love with the capabilities.

Wow! The Panasonic GH4 International Version does NOT have a time limit on recording. This reason and that the camera is $400 less than the U.S. Version is why I'd recommend you get it.

By getting this camera body, I'm allowed to keep my Nikon 35mm F2 and 50mm F1.8 lenses. I did get an adapter and a CCTV toy lens to experiment with also. The toy lens is fun and quirky. I'm excited to show some pictures/video tests soon. Not that the world needs it, but because I like trying new things!

More to come!

Friday, January 15, 2016

The Mystery of Picasso

Picasso was and still is to me an artist.

His art was in taking risks. Anytime I think of an artist like Picasso I think to myself "I am a fraud."

All I do is write a fun story, find a few dollars and then talk to actors to bring out their best performance while it's captured on camera.

To be an artist in Picasso's time, that was to be a lover of the craft. He is considered prolific, but I call what he does "just not being a lazy ass like the rest of us".

He worked on his painting consistently day in and day out. 

For myself as a director, there can be months or half a year in between myself directing a film or producing or writing. I'm lucky I am always finding new ways to spend that time, soul-searching or keeping up on my reading.

...Something free and creative. That is very tough to do. Something respectable and able to make a respectable living today with. Something like that which Picasso or Rembrandt, Leonardo, Raphael did(or any of the other Ninja Turtles j/k).

Those types of New Wave Renaissance artists... those are the ones that I look up to. Those are the ones that I bet were NOT feeling as frauds in their day. I feel like a fraud sometimes and I wish I did not. I wish to be like my idols and truly be free to take the risks in my endeavors of my craft.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Career of pushing the button

Photography has paid my bills for quite some time. I'd like to think that I'm a decent photographer.

What is photography though? To me, it's not about pushing a button in front of a subject. It's about interaction.

As photographers we interact with things and try our best to capture a moment of time.

With this understanding, we shouldn't look to see how nice of a camera we can ladder up to. We need to master our gear we use, yes, but we should also take notes on who we've become as a person using these skills.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Stars not Actors

It can be a sad moment for me when an actor starts trying to be a diva. It reminds me why I must always stay humble.

I also get to see why so many people come to Los Angeles to make it big. They don't see the passion of the craft, they see stars in their eyes and are willing to hurt anyone in their path to it.

It's a little shameful if you ask me. We need to be more about the work, not the reward that the work can bring. The movies are a business. And actors are employees - even when they are independent contractors.

The only advice I can give it to show up early or on time. Be prepared as you can with what you are given. Be joyful around the people that work so hard to make you look good. Do as you're told when it comes to the story. Only speak up about it if it can enhance the story, not if it's a story change that you'd like to see. There's a reason we write what we write to see it on screen. We don't want to make your movie. If you feel so strongly about your story change....become a writer, not an actor.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

East and West worlds

The title is called Two because of the main character's two sets of parents and being of two worlds - the West and the East.

It's a drama about adoption reunion and growing up middle eastern in America. A story of a kid born and raised in the Midwest and he travels to California for the first time in his 20's to try to find his biological parents and himself in the process.

I wrote it because of my life growing up having a specific look but my allegiance to being a nationalist first. It can be conflicting having people/media say that middle easterners are the enemy when it's not the people of any place that are the enemy, just the radicalized ones in charge that have an agenda to push onto others. That and oligopolization of governments that are either bound by slowly adaptive religion and/or greed/fear of the true people taking over as leaders. We as people are scared into not saying or doing certain things. This is a system of control made early on by the powers that be -  the Royal powers that started civilization. We are given consumption of information without a way to question it. We aren't given the chance to think large.

The happenings are fictional but the ideals written are real and of my own.

I've been told that this is my most mature work I've written. I'm going to make it with a budget of 1.5 million dollars and film it in the San Francisco Bay Area.

No matter what, this is supposed to be entertainment. But I do interject some thought-provoking content so people won't know they're being educated.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Regarding the Hollywood gender bias subpoenas

Hollywood is a strange place. It's like a strip club. No one really wants to go there, but some of us have no choice to either work there or be caught going there. Most of the action going on in a strip club is probably illegal but we all look the other way, because the alternative is independent contractors taking more money in without a middleman. Even our wording is male dominated. Middleman is just somebody that takes a cut, but we reference a man doing it. The major studios want money, just like any stripper or strip club owner wants. Actors and filmmakers being the strippers and the studios being the owners of the club.

This is America, where we are basically free to hire the best person for the job. Now, unlike strip clubs, the studios are being positioned as being immoral for not hiring women. I am not against the studios even though we don't work together. What I have been saying to friends and colleagues is asking why they haven't just created independent content instead with a camera and a lens like this?

Make a production company, hire women to direct, produce, write. Then hire men to make it even standards. But for some reason everyone wants to work in Hollywood, be a freelance director with an agent that is probably male, and hope for the best, but not expect the worst.

It's time our thinking evolved.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The movies I'm making now as opposed to what I thought I'd be making

I never thought I'd be making the kind of movies I make now. See, the thing is, I care very much about storytelling. Writing and making movies brings happiness to my day and makes me sleep well at night.

I matured while thinking my specialty was going to be action movies. You know, action with a little comedy supported by smart-ass characters: The Lethal Weapon, the Die Hard, the Desperado, the Reservoir Dogs. Anything with machismo and a 'too cool for school' vibe coming from it.

Now, I haven't been working a whole lot the last two years- Err, I say that, but I have been working a whole lot. My focus hasn't been on paying rent and making a per-year salary like most people. You see, before this, any money I've made from jobs or gigs has gone into paying actors, camera equipment, gas money for crew, travel expenses and the like. My end goals are to make these films and release them out this year and the next and the next.

What I've been spending more time with these last two years is trying to figure out what I should be doing instead of what I think I should be doing.  This is the time I've gained by working less and technically not making a profit(or making less of a savings for that matter!).

And it's pretty simple, I find, really. I want...


I'm going to push for more women directors, movies about homosexual characters, different religions and faiths exposed to more people. I'm gonna risk everything on very young and very old writers. Alternative directors, producers, musicians, and I'll push for a wide range of diversity in front of and behind the camera. This is something that isn't being done in mass by other producers, and I feel I'm the right candidate for the job.

I've spent my early adult career losing lots of money. I stopped being afraid to lose money a while ago now. It's no longer even a worry for me. I expect to lose more money than I've ever lost before coming up in the future. And, yes, I do believe I'm going to win some profit substantially, because that's how gambling with big odds goes. It's who believes I'm passionate enough about my craft to gamble on me. It's these types of people that I like doing business with. The ones that aren't afraid either. These people are the ones that I want to fight for and win with.

That's it. There's really nothing to say. This isn't a "fireworks going off" celebration. Tomorrow, I'll wake up and do the exact same thing I've been doing since 2003. Fighting the good fight.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Why I won't change my black character

A potential producer/writer read my adoption script and notes he gave me were that I should write out the black character as being 'more urban'. Not that the character was a bad character; It was that the character wasn't 'black enough' and I shouldn't write a main character without some urban influence.

Background on the character I wrote: His name sounds urban-ish and his uncle lives in Oakland. That's it. That's about as far as he goes as being a stereotypical young black man. My black character I wrote is reasonably intelligent, a normal individual tossed into extraordinary situations. He's not white or black or yellow or brown in a box. He's a human being, a character in a story that has potential to be better if they make the right choices - and let's hope he does. I wrote the character to be like that, because that's the kind of people I write for. I want people to be better for watching my movies or be able to escape... or even learn to accept others for who they are.

I am not homophobic, racist, sexist, or hateful towards any types of people. The joke is that I hate everybody equally. People (currently) die eventually, one way or another. The next generation must succeed the previous. The producer/writer that read my script had some notes and I appreciate where he was coming from. But the fact that he is not understanding of today's nuances does make a difference. If this were a story set 10, 20, 30 years ago - then yes those notes would be much better to make a lot of impressions.

My black characters are black. They happen to have skin tone, but that is it. People come from a different range of backgrounds and cultures. This character is a modern man of the times. In fact, every one of the characters knows urban speak. They just don't need to use that type of language in private. Think about slang in your life. You might use it as a way of showing understanding but do most of you use it every minute? No. You are professionals, or working as professionals or you live with your parents who would slap the shit out of you if you talked to them like that. It's not a mindset that others think with on a consistent basis. That is important. There are kids growing up with knowledge of the world on screens all over. Ghettos will still be here for a while, but they are not going to be the same ghetto.  The black characters I write for grow up knowing black culture, but are more interested in learning about the entire world's culture, and communicating with others in EVERY culture they can access.

So these black characters are not typical of media idealism. They can still be tough, they can still get respect. They just fight with words more than fists or guns. It's reality becoming art and art becoming reality. As a writer myself, I control that ideal.

I write for characters of emotional and comprehensive intelligence in tough situations. That is the drama which I want to see. And correct me if I'm wrong, which I'm not, but everyone wants to feel that.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Two Moons of Arrakis and not being unusually bored

I was labeled a gifted child somewhere around the age of 5. How this was discovered remains a mystery. I was sent to a counselor's office with my parents and being asked to listen to a story and then being asked questions about the story. I had little quizzes to take. I remember never having been in that room, it was stuffy in there, and not wanting to be there.

I was put into a "Gifted" class for 2 hours at a time on a Wednesday. All I knew was that I was happy not to be in class. Being reflective, I don't know how much I really learned there. It was very relaxed, and we got to do things we wanted like making new inventions or talking to each other. I got to get out or normal classes though and go do fun things like use computers, meet other kids who were different, and one time, our gifted instructor sat us down to watch a VHS movie called Dune.

It was magic. It was a live-action version of the serious cartoons I had envisioned in my head. I didn't know there were directors or actors at the time, I didn't understand the schematics of how they put on lavish costumes and worked with huge production puppets. Why were they calling me gifted again? Well, I assume every once in a while, one nerd slips thru the cracks.

David Lynch, one of my idols in personal and business sense, a decade or so later, would I realize was the director of Dune. And by critical accounts, hated for it. I couldn't understand it. The man was a genius. And his other work is part of my collection of most loved movies.

Every once in a while I'll go back and revisit the House of Atreides, Paul, and the spice melange. Yes, it's got a campy vibe at times, but the colors, the design, the magic is still there.

Also, in my teens, I realized that the spice was marijuana. I was way off with that thesis, but I'm pretty sure it made sense to me at the time.

Sunday, November 23, 2014


My first film was done with the help of my brother, who I met at the age of 13. He was given up for adoption and he was able to find us. This was back before the internet became popular. Our talks ranged from what sports we liked to how good we were in a fight. You see, my brother and I never got the opportunity to grow up as kids together, therefore, we lost out on a few chances to see who was the leader of the group. We are blood related, but as far as official paperwork goes, we are just two really good friends. When I told him I wanted to make movies, he wanted to be in my movie. Now, the end result was a 21 year old experimenting with moving images, but luckily I've grown my dedication to my craft. I've created over 50 short films, some very experimental, some have had slight viral success. I've always wanted to move forward and make a feature-film.

I write one feature-length film a year. About three years ago, I wrote an action-thriller that got some of the best responses I couldn't dream of. The problem is that no one will hand over millions and millions of dollars to a first time director. So I went back to the drawing board and wrote a personal story with dramatic elements - a combination of my brother’s life  and mine. What I came up with is Two. A story about someone adopted that goes searching for answers, and the answers aren't the ones that he was going for.

This is a personal journey, and I’d like for everyone to see my film. I’d like to have others see what being American by birth and having roots of somewhere unknown, is really like. I’ve rewritten this script almost a dozen times now, and with each revision, it becomes more magical. And I don’t use that term loosely.

I’ve directed dozens of films and commercials for startup companies and small businesses. I’ve produced music videos and commercials for large corporations. I’ve produced a feature documentary now. I want to see what else is out there to make as art, and make it a profitable venture. I can’t see myself doing anything else.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Movie Theater businesses evolving toward higher end clients

You may or may not have noticed that a few movie theaters are now offering beer and wine service. There's a few theaters around here that have chairs that feel like loveseats complete with ottomans.

This is a great evolution of film. Since film downloads and streaming have hit high marks, the theaters have been scratching their collective heads trying to figure out where to go and high end clientele still need a place to go out to, without going to a dirty club to dance to EDM music that they can't dance to anyway. Well, nobody can really dance to that music, that's the point, but that's another story.

There are even theaters around the country that offer waitstaff to bring select gourmet foods to your "table".  After doing some searching, here's an article that will give you some insight as well.

As a forecaster, I would assume this to happen for the future of my profession's cineplexes:

1. Less seating. More legroom, bigger chairs, plugins for phones(yes!), and pre-seating conversational music.

2. Age categorized rooms. Less teens mixed with seniors. Actually, both of those groups are the make-out groups, so maybe lump them together, and have 30s to 50s in same rooms and optional baby/kid clubhouse for rated PG-13 and up supervision.

3. Old Days. Tuesdays are half-price and you can sit with people that aren't in your preference and gourmet food and beer must be consumed out of the screening room.

4. Pillow rentals like a hotel.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Magic is real

I believe in a few things: Myself, my family and friends, and magic. Believing in magic means everything to me. It's why I'm so passionate about filmmakers and filmmaking. Without the idea of something out of this world like magic, I would have a hard time believing that what I'm watching on a screen really happened.

And that's the thing. If you go to a movie theater or watch a movie on any screen, you give up that reality. The truth becomes whatever is presented in front of you and there is no other option of any of it being fake. Think of WWE wrestling. We all know these men and women workout all the time and maybe they could be nice people behind the scenes, but once the stage lights go on and the crowd is roaring - there is no acting involved. It's all real.

Magic is the same way. When something extraordinary happens, I don't imagine ways to believe it happened. I already know the reason. It was a spell or a curse.

There are many facets of magic. White magic, black magic, protection rituals, and more I can't think of right now.

The illusion is real, whether you know how a presentation happens or not. That is why, even with everything I know about movies and moviemaking, I believe in these stories I tell.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Risk it

I'm not here to spin in circles.

One of the biggest principles I have stood for in my education, career, and life is in these two words.

Risk it!

It just sounds exciting even thinking about it. It’s a reminder to step aside from what I'm doing and reflect on myself if what I'm doing or saying is the right choice for what I want when trying something new. I like to ask myself these questions:

Is it a challenge? If not, then why am I doing it?
Is anybody else doing it? If so, then what purpose does it serve me?
Can I live with myself if I don’t do it? If so, then it’s probably not that big of a deal and I should find another task. If I can’t live with myself, then I better get started on the mission.

If I can’t answer these questions while thinking I’m going out there to make that small difference in the world, then I’m not interested. If I wanted to do nothing, I’d stay at home. Maybe taking risks won’t give me exactly what I want, but it’ll align the path to what I’m destined for. I'm not looking to win any awards, but what I am looking for is to have a simple message that anybody can understand. It's not an easy way to be subjective if I’m doing things the regular way all the time. I can be sure I’m onto something worth fighting for when my mind hits that certain threshold. I get more blood pumping in my veins. I have that specific vision. That’s when I know what I’m doing is making things happen. That’s when I know that persistence pays off and I’m going to go for the gold.

That's what makes me so comfortable about myself. I'm happy with who I am, and if it means I do things a little differently, then so be it. I dare myself to push harder, to reach the highest mountain. If I was content with mediocrity and being regular or average, I wouldn't be in college or I wouldn't have moved to California in search of bigger opportunities.

I surround myself with smarter than myself and risk-taking people. My principle is to lead by example, teaching others to check themselves before they wreck themselves. If a few more people can think about risking it more often, there’d be more chances of making that bullseye.

Wayne Gretzky said it best. “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”. The odds are in our favor, then.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Actors List for Two

UPDATE: I now have been brewing about actors in my mind and the state of this list. As I watch more movies that I like and what makes a good actor, I've decided to look at theatre actors closer so this list will definitely change.

I've been acting as my own Casting Director's Assistant (Casting Associate) for my feature film, Two.

I've compiled a list of actors that would be within budget(not astronomically high cost for talent, the chances of being a diva to come play a few day's role). They should also be willing to work with a mixture of union and independent film cast and crew towards the ultimate goal of a subject of adoption. 99% of the roles are the ones that most actors would want to do because of the caliber of iconic roles they would be able to play.

The cast probably will change a few names here and there as people die unexpectedly, or are busy doing their own thing, or would never want to work with someone else that is cast due to politics. That's the nature of this business and please don't hold it against me. I would love to work with every actor eventually and given the timing and nature of my writing, probably will.

A note about all this: I have been writing this list out, researching actors, looking at faces, ages, past work, personal behavior, etc. When I wrote this screenplay, these characters didn't have that personality they have today. It's because of this research, this thinking of what an actor could possibly bring to the role that I have brought this list out and given the material larger than life memorable attitudes. Once the actors are cast, these personalities become theirs and whatever choices they create are no longer mine, but they are of the screen in which you see them.

Michael Angarano
Taylor Lautner
Carter Jenkins
Corbin Bleu
Mark Indelicato
Dev Patel
Suraj Sharma

Nicole Beharie
Lenora Crichlow
Ruth Negga
Yaya Alafia
Amandla Stenberg
Jurnee Smollett
Jordin Sparks
Keke Palmer

Rashida Jones
Tatyana Ali
Rosario Dawson
Persia White
Gugu Mbatha-Raw

Doc Shaw
Jaden Smith
John Boyega
Tristan Wilds
Michael B. Jordan
Evan Ross
Leon Thomas III
Dayo Okeniyi

Kaya Scodelario
Analeigh Tipton
Brie Larson
Zosia Mamet
Kristen Stewart
Emma Watson
Zoey Deutch
Shailene Woodley
Ariana Grande
Victoria Justice
Selena Gomez
Hannah Marks
Lily Collins
Joey King
Lourdes Leon
Seychelle Gabriel
Josie Loren
Christian Serratos
Isabelle Fuhrman

Chloe Moretz
Juno Temple
Saoirse Ronan
Emma Stone
Shailene Woodley
Bonnie Wright
Kaya Scodelario
Mia Wasikowska
Emma Watson
Chloe Moretz
Mae Whitman
AnnaSophia Robb
Elle Fanning
Imogen Poots

Craig Robinson
Jerome Caldwell
Terry Crews
Dule Hill
Dolvett Quince
Isaiah Mustafa
Derek Luke
Blair Underwood
Lenny Kravitz
Laz Alonso
Michael Ealy
Lance Gross
Jesse L. Martin
Morris Chestnut
D.B. Woodside
Charles Michael Davis
Damon Wayans Jr.
Shemar Moore
Jesse Williams
Boris Kodjoe
Andre 3000
Keith David
Dennis Haysbert
Samuel L. Jackson
Tone Loc
Isiah Whitlock Jr.

Maz Jobrani
Richard Ayoade
Omid Djalili
Oded Fehr
David Cross
Ciaran Hinds
Tony Shalhoub
Ron Silver
Said Taghmaoui
Faran Tahir
Shaun Toub
Arjun Rampal
Sendhil Ramamurthy
Hrithik Roshan
Raza Jaffrey
John Abraham

Whit Spurgeon
Gary Cole
William Fichtner
J.K. Simmons
William H. Macy
Harry Dean Stanton
Steve Buscemi
Thomas Hayden Church
Clifton Collins, Jr.
Bruce Dern
Chris Elliott
Sam Elliott
William Forsythe
John Goodman
Woody Harrelson
Michael Keaton
David Koechner
John C. McGinley

Kathy Bates
Holly Hunter
Joan Allen
Jennifer Jason Leigh
Frances McDormand
Joey Lauren Adams
Catherine Keener
Jane Lynch
Edie McClurg
Catherine O'Hara
June Squibb

John Turturro
Christopher Walken
Erick Avari
Graham Greene
Luis Guzman
John Leguizamo
John Ortiz
Michael Pena
Miguel Sandoval
Jacob Vargas

Douglas Booth
Will Poulter
Ansel Elgort
Kare Hedebrant
Paul Butcher
Kenton Duty
Mitch Hewer
Graham Patrick Martin
Brett Davern
Shane Sheckler
Rufus Taylor
Devon Gearhart
Lloyd Daniels
Chris Brochu
Chad Dylan Cooper
Sam Evans
Christopher Zurek

Derek Luke
Columbus Short
Chiwetel Ejiofor
Tahir Moore

Danny Derakhshan (myself!)
Naveen Andrews
Serj Tankian
Daniel Martinez
Aziz Ansari

Lisa Kudrow
Kathy Baker
Suzanne Whang
Debra Monk
Amy Poehler
Bai Ling
Molly Ringwald
Tea Leoni
Uma Thurman
Winona Ryder
Patricia Arquette

Ariana Grande
Sarah Hyland
Zoe Kravitz
Vanessa Hudgens
Samantha Barks
Freida Pinto

Cung Le
CM Punk
Nicolas Cage

Suzanne Whang
Lu Liping
Zhang Ziyi
Gong Li
Sandra Oh

David Yu
Harry Shum Jr.
John Cho
Ezra Miller

George Takei
Ken Watanabe

Willow Smith
Saoirse Ronan
Perrie Edwards

John Amos
Anthony Anderson
Wilford Brimley
James Caan

Joaquim de Almeida
Scott Bakula
Corbin Bernsen
Vincent Cassel

Suzanne Whang
Jamie Chung
Jenna Ushkowitz

Dylan O'Brien
Bobby Cannavale
Allen Covert
Giancarlo Giannini
Giovanni Ribisi
Ben Foster

*Not in the script, but I l'd love to have these actors in something if I can find a part to write for them.

What It Feels Like to Do Everything and Nothing In One Day

Some new details for the Adoption Reunion story.

1. We've got a name! Are you ready to read the words of greatness? OK, here we go.
Finding His Family. I could not think of a title for 2 years of writing this story, with exception of Clocks That Can't Be Fixed, referring to being adopted and wanting to find out about roots being a way of time being lost. Philosophical? Yes. Easy to say? No.

2. After much feedback, I've been writing all week long to a better revision. It's almost surreal how close to a movie this screenplay is now. The even more surreal part? It's gonna get better with each revision. I have this vision of dialog becoming better and characters becoming more iconic and the right mix of known actors and up-and-coming talent being introduced to me.

3. A fellow producer, Dan Janvey, from Beasts of the Southern Wild is now on my Advisory Board. This is great because one of the smartest friends I've worked with are backing me up on this journey.

4. A SAG signatory producer is wanting to help me with logistics and actors to handle this project. We'll see if all the agreements happen, but no matter what, this means I can't stop now.

I've spent 9a.m. til 10p.m. today working. I've been applying to Producers Labs, tweaking the screenplay, and writing up potential actors for the project that I can see a good fit for the film and within the budget. I am 90% done with it and I'll post it up in case anyone has worked with anyone of them before and can introduce me once funding goes further.

I also edited a boxing promo for a local company nearby that I'll be doing some more videos for in the future and I got a local comic book shop to agree to me making their web commercial for them. I have a great idea of having a bunch of people in costume mock fighting in front of the store trying to get in to get the newest batch of comics. I got the pet supply store to set a date to film this web commercial for them too. I also spoke to the manager of a medical marijuana dispensary to create some educational and informative videos for them.

Basically, I worked all day and night on what I love, but now my eyes don't want to keep looking at a computer monitor for a while. The reason I wrote everything and nothing in one day is that I know I'm just one man and I can't do everything, no matter how much I want to. I spent hours and hours today working but the reality is I can't do it all and have time for any recreation. That's a problem I'm working on. I've got my eye on an experienced producer to come in and work with me to get things done soon.

OK, if you're reading this: Anything is possible. I'm the proof. Watch this as it happens cause I'm on the journey.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

2 years and 1 week

It took me 2 years to write a real first draft of my adoption reunion drama. The revised draft is taking me a week. Of course, this is a whole week of doing nothing but writing. A big apology to all my family, friends, and bills that are past due; I've been committed to this work and nothing else. They say movies take 4 or 5 years to make from idea to seeing it at a theater or on Bittorrent. Well, I'm about halfway there now(haha!). 

I've spent the same amount of time on the computer this week, but more re-writing than I've ever done. I wake up around 7 or 8am and I'll work a few hours at a time, take a half hour break, then go back at it, only taking time off to eat or run errands. Maybe it's cause I'm so anticipatory towards this version. A lot of good friends tearing into the story, telling me what was bad and what was horrible helped. I can't say this was all me. They took time to read it, and got me to realize what made it mean and full of life; like a pitbull figuring out it has teeth. Possibly the funniest thing that happened was with one of my longest relationships, a man named JP. His feedback almost gave me a heart murmur. It shocked me so hard that he was right, that I suddenly felt embarrassed I had sent it out to so many people. 

Drama is not easy, especially for an 80's/90's person like me, who grew up on Terminator and Rambo and Alien franchises as well as cheesy comic book heroes like Superman, Spider-Man, X-Men, and the Fantastic Four. Also, I'm incredibly positive in life, and that is apparent in my writing. I had to go deeper and darker for this draft. And I'll probably have to go darker for the next draft after this. 

OK, back to positive thinking: Most spelling and obvious grammatical errors fixed. Challenges to protagonist corrected. Discovery process for protagonist envisioned. Not everything is handed to him. It's his story about being adopted and trying to figure out how to deal with sealed birth certificate laws and circumventing them because they're outdated and information should be freely available.

I also figured out a scene I want to film as proof of concept and tone. 

It's Saturday at night, and I should be relaxing, but I need to finish this. I'll relax next week. :)

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Fast and the Furious

Sometime in the early 2000s, my brother got started with a Honda tuning crew. He bought himself a 1988 Honda CRX and started suping it up. It was great and a lot of fun to drive in the passenger seat so I decided I wanted a CRX too. I ended getting a 1991 model, but I didn't do anything to it except get a quieter tailpipe conversion. I wanted to be elusive in the the night while my brother wanted to show off during the 39th Street car shows.

Then, something happened. A movie trailer came out that depicted amazingly detailed cars in an action-thrill ride. We both knew we were going to see it on opening night.

We showed up around 7pm or so and the parking lot at the mall where the theater was located was packed full of mostly Asian and some European modded cars. My brother's CRX fit in perfectly.

The movie began and all the loud noises stopped as we began the journey of Vin Diesel and Paul Walker. When the movie ended, we all got up and paced towards the exit.

I'll never forget hearing a teenager in front of us yelling at the top of his lungs, "This is the best movie of the year!"

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

This is way more fun than the traditional way to make a movie. Happy filming!

Production Designers

I was on a show that is very popular, and there was a subway scene in New York being filmed.

The Production Designer gave everyone briefcases and newspapers and coffee cups...

This is a problem in the 2010's and up era. Anyone taking the subway is going to have an iPad or Kindle or listening to music on their commute. The newspaper is still bought, yes, but not at the rate of people buying devices to read on.

Everyone should have earbuds plugged into them and playing on their phone or laptop. Just saying.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Stronger than all

What's been interesting about all this work that's been going on is that I now feel like I'm not doing enough. I am, I really do believe I'm doing as much work as 2 highly caffeinated persons but it doesn't feel like it's enough. I'm waiting for feedback from a few high profile industry producers that are mentoring me thru the process of directing my first feature film next year and I'll post more on that soon. It's about 1am PST right now. I've been spending my Saturday night writing proposals, replying to emails, finding new screenwriters labs, directors labs, and producers labs. It's strange isn't it? I'm doing all 3. I've met up with some potential producers and I like one guy so far. He's never produced a feature but been a script supervisor on over a 100 feature films in the last decade. I like his honesty about himself and how he's unsure of a few things but willing to take a shot at it anyway. That's the kind of person you want to be your right hand. Just for fun, I'm going to make a quick list of titles I've got and maybe titles I need:



-Associate Producer (3)


-Mentor (3)

-Seed Investor (1)

That's it so far. I've reached out to a few Line Producer friends, a Casting Director, and a Costume Designer, but those are still just waving around until I can pull a real team together. 

Filmmaking is such hard work, but I think adidas says it best: 

"When you love what you do, it's not really work, it's just what you do."

I'm making movies.

Friday, May 9, 2014

From the Heart Productions

It's funny how things work. I'm speaking about me and my work of course, since this is my blog. I've been working non-stop for quite a while now, marketing my new company's vision and strategy. I created FredRose Films to make movies but I had no idea what type at the time. I named the company after my father and my mother. Now, FredRose Films is set to be for my short comedy sketches and experimental short films. I created a new production company back in March. This company is for a feature film. A drama story. An adventure story. The company is called Derakhshan Films. Why? It is my goal to have the majority of people in the world know how to pronounce Derakhshan, much like most people can now pronounce Schwarzenegger. Something I've always dreamed is that my last name would be a household name someday. This is my dream becoming real with these steps I'm taking.

I spoke with my pal, Josh Penn, a while back about what route I should be taking for my feature documentary, Panomundo. He gave me some sound advice and I incorporated it into my own style and now I'm using it towards my first narrative feature film.

I've actually been speaking with a lot of people lately. I've gotten some great friends who are guiding me towards a big thing like making a feature film that will look good and tell a good story.

I've never written so many drafts before. I've never changed so many characters I've loved and lived with characters I've hated for so long. It was this "character building" that got me where I want to be: Right here and right now.

I came home today and got my mail. I am expecting a check for either scholarships, sponsorships, or grants I've been applying to. I got rejected last week from 3 in less than 48 hours but I wasn't down. I understood the process. I got my mail and got a letter that felt like a rejection letter. I opened it and my Untitled Adoption Reunion story is now officially sponsored by From the Heart Productions. A wonderful non-profit organization is backing me up!

A bonafide organization that believes in me and wants the rest of the world to believe in me, and root for me to keep going. This was what I have been seeking. I was so happy I went to my next door neighbor and also small business owner, Jonathan Weitz, to tell him the great news.

It's time to apply for donations and seed funding. I've got a lot more non-stop work to do.
Stay tuned!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Untitled Adoption Reunion Project

Captain's log. Stardate -308660.8264205986.

I quit my dayjob almost a year ago to become a Captain. A full-time filmmaker and photographer. Most sales/marketing jobs let you do your thing, but there were a few that totally drove me up the wall with micromanagement and it was probably because I knew how little we were all getting paid for it. I knew I was worth a lot and I'm not talking money. Money is a tool and nothing more. It will never be a sign of someone's worth to me.

The film gods must see my persistence because they saw me starve this last winter and gave me a helping hand. The gods told me that since I was hungry, I could take up time in the day by writing continuously. I wrote and wrote and WROTE on this story so many times it changed into a new beast and it changed me as well. I've told this story so many times, I can recite it to anyone that passes by with barely a recollection needed.

My story is simple. It's about a Middle Eastern kid that is born and raised in the Midwest. He was given up for adoption as a baby and raised by white parents. He has never been sure where in the Middle East his ancestry is from, and all of his life he has felt there is a connection out there he wants to know and feel complete with. On his 20th birthday, he is kicked out of his home by his parents, who feel he needs to grow up, to stop being such a slacker with a menial job, and go find his destiny. He uses his adoption papers, birth certificate information, and with the help of his technologically advanced friend, goes to Northern California where the last known physical address of his biological parents is. It's here that he embarks on his journey to find out his roots, and hopefully himself.

The theme is about the discovery of ourselves through our past while embracing the present and keeping an eye on the future. And the strength to enjoy today. People of different backgrounds unite in the same upbringing, and that family can be anybody or any community you belong to. There are also underlying themes of coming of age, and the courage to deal with it.

Being American and having Middle Eastern roots is an interesting way to grow up, but this relates more to us all as being a nation of immigrants and keeping our ancestral identity while assimilating in the melting pot that is the United States of America. Now, the best part about this is that America is no longer the only nation of immigrants thanks to technology and advances and cost of travel. Our world is changing and it's the best time to be alive today.

I look forward to tomorrow.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Goals of filmmaking

This is Danny Derakhshan here to wish you a great week coming up. My favorite holiday is Halloween as I get to dress like a maniac and no one seems to care. 

My goals are lofty. Sometimes they fail miserably, sometimes they just work, and sometime they work but not the way I'd hoped them to. I'd like to take a moment to share my goals and why I do them. As you can see, I treat all new ideas by starting off small and working my way up higher, and eventually I move on to something new. Over the past 7 years when I moved to California from my hometown in search of bigger and better since I saw the future that was there for me: I had nearly topped out, with very little more I could accomplish in my search of truth.

I moved to California to work. I'm serious about story, whether it's drama or comedy or documentary. I go at a steady beat. I rarely will jump in to attack. I want to seek and find out tactics from others while gathering information and learning from them as well. Know myself and know the people around me. After moving to Los Angeles almost 2 years ago, I studied by watching everyone around me -whether film related or not- to see what works and what doesn't in business and art.

Film is a specialty market. You have to reinvent yourself over and over. I've already got plans to reinvent myself once I've touched the top of the movie mountain here. I'll tell you later about that. Think of companies like Apple that make products that people don't know they need yet. That's the kind of space to be in with any entrepreneurship state that you are seeking.

I'm a writer, director, and film producer. I spend time writing with people who like to write, I'll call friends to direct them in my movie ideas, and I spend countless hours writing up business proposals, going to fundraisers encouraging others to give support, and invest in these projects, speaking at events to encourage others to do well, and overall being a witty guy. This makes me one of the best film producers I know.

Speaking of producing, my film Panomundo has a goal of $100,000 by the end of March. We have gotten support to the tune of $35,000 so far, so we are almost halfway there. And this is all private sponsorships, grants, and a little bit from crowdsourcing. When I came on to this project I had very little knowledge about Trinidad & Tobago and the steelpan. Now people ask me questions about the country and origins of the drum. Very exciting stuff. I'm going to the islands in March/April to celebrate the wonderful movie we're creating and I hope you will watch my path as I go higher and higher up this mountain. Thank you for being my friend, my fan, and a well-wisher. I'm almost there.

Why "The Crow" directed by Alex Proyas and starring Brandon Lee reaches the biggest audience

In my pursuit of understanding myself and my moviemaking art, I develop deep connections to films that have changed my life. My favorite movie is "The Crow". I still own my VHS copy, I have the DVD, and I have a digital copy. I make it a point to see the movie on or near Halloween, and usually once during the summer.

I watched it on Blu-Ray this last year and saw many different things this time. The lighting seemed a little brighter and the story became more visual in its tone.

Below is a recollection of why the film got to me and why it reaches to the gothic era audience as well as male and female audience members alike.

It's a revenge story.
The reason Eric Draven does what he does is for love.
His true, only love that was taken from him, and is ultimately brought back to him.
Eric Draven as a person or as a sentient being is hurt. He does not want to put revenge on his enemy, he needs to do it.
Eric Draven is not a talker, he is a doer.
The main villains don't care about what's wrong and what's right.
It's not just an action film. It's a thriller with action elements.
The movie is shot monochromatic and it's dark. Black and white films reach to art audiences.
Eric Draven comes back to life to exact revenge on the ones that deserve it.
The film is dirty, very little is clean and crisp. There is trash blowing around the entire city.
Eric Draven is a brooding man.
The villain, T-Bird, is not the real last bad guy.
The last villain, Top Dollar, is truly sorry for what had to be done. He has to die anyway.

The film takes itself seriously as if this situation really could happen. That's where the magic comes from. No one can shake the idea that what is happening in the story is real. No one can be fully sure what happens next.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Moviemaking and lemonade stands are a lot alike.

Who had a lemonade stand as a kid? OK, who knows the concept of a kid selling lemonade for 25 cents a cup?

Filmmaking isn’t that different from lemonade making. To make lemonade you don’t just say, “I’m going to make lemonade and sell it in the front of my lawn.” and POOF!it happens. To be in the movies you don’t just say, “I’m going to be a Director/Actor/Producer.” and it happens. Though that would be nice, right? “I want to be a filmmaker!”. POOF! “Get me Stallone and Rachel McAdams for my next picture!”

A lemonade stand takes effort, supplies, planning, specific tools, products and services to get that little paper cup full. Little Suzie Q’s mind doesn’t wrap around the fact that the cups have to be bought by the Executive Producer(Dad) and you’ll be lucky to get the cheap paper cups nevermind the red party cups. The lemons have to be picked from the tree or bought at the grocery store(by Mom the Producer), and it takes a while to build a stand(by you the Set Construction). The sign has to be made that says you are selling quality lemonade(again, you as the Art Director).

Now if you’re lucky and Mom the Producer calls all her friends to come buy a cup you’ll be doing good. But if you and her just hope for the best you might not make it. You might get lucky and a random stranger comes by kinda thirsty. Your selling skills on how good this lemonade is will be paramount. You are giving information to the potential customer about your service and how it will benefit them in the long run. Do you see? The customer can be both the ACTOR and MOVIE WATCHER. You are the DIRECTOR.

What’s the point here besides how great lemonade is? Use the tools as a filmmaker to make a great movie.

Actors: Your tools of trade are you mind and body. Hit the gym or go the park and workout regularly. Get your body do as you command. Read as much as you can, and no Entertainment Weekly doesn’t count. Take classes. Practice your craft. Work in as many movies as you can, whether paid or not. I regularly visit sets and on occasion will find an actor that I can see working with at a later date. If you’re not on set, how will someone know how good you are and approach you?

Crew: Be on movie sets. It doesn’t matter what you are there doing, just be there. Practice makes perfect. In one week, I went from Directing a commercial to Assistant Directing a short film to PAing a TV pilot and finished off the week by being a Camera Operator.

Writers: What did I do with my free time away from being on set? I wrote and I wrote and I wrote. Every feature film I have written shows improvement. Each one is better and better. I sell my writing here and there, and I feel lucky about it. Here is how I feel about luck. Being lucky is the culmination of hard work, treating people well & staying positive during times of insecurity. So work a lot, be nice, and good things will come.

Back to lemonade and moviemaking. Lemonade selling is a business. Movies are a self-selling business. Think about sales. Sales works for selling products from internet to wireless phones to gym memberships and if you can sell that, sell the idea and your self-worth to people.

It can be pretty sweet to be in this business. Sugar is what makes lemonade sweet but it only brings out the natural lemon taste. Too little sugar and lemonade becomes sour. Too much sugar and it spoils the lemonade. With just the right amount of sugar, magic can happen. Movie magic.

Go out and make the best movies (and lemonade) that you can!

Great writing from Sons of Anarchy

Nothing else to worry about except whats right in front of you.

Maybe that’s the lesson for me today.

To hold onto these simple moments.
To appreciate them a little more.

There’s not many of them left.
I don’t ever want that for you.

Finding things that make you happy shouldn't be so hard.

I know you’ll face pain, suffering, hard choices.
But you can’t let the weight of it take the joy out of your life.
No matter what you have to find the things that love you.

Run to them.

There’s an old saying.
That which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
I don’t believe that.

I think the things that try to kill you make you angry and sad.
Strength comes from the good things, your family, your friends.
The satisfaction of hard work.

Those are the things that will keep you whole.
Those are the things to hold onto when you’re broken.

-Jax Teller

Short Films are the now.

Short films have never had much clout in the entertainment industry. Sure, they can get attention, but to actually make money off it? Forget it.

Until now.

With Youtube and social media rising and people’s attention getting shorter, a movie for a quarter-dollar that runs less than 10 minutes doesn’t have too bad of a chance. You want a dollar? Forget it. I’ll just go on Youtube and watch free stuff. In a world that is completely international thanks to information, it’s all about quantity in streaming Video on Demand.

The best choice to me is Netflix or Amazon Video grabbing short comedies or thrillers and using them on their service as original content that is exclusive.

Think of being in the mood to waste some time in front of the television or internet video. Click on Netflix drop down and choose “Comedy Shorts”. Five short ten minute comedies play one after another or until you’ve had enough.

That is what will work.


I used to agree with Quentin Tarantino about his view that once movies were no longer seen in the theater that he would no longer want to make movies. Granted, he’s about twenty years older than me, and we like the same types of movies.

Sadly, the last few years I’ve realized that I’m OK with this change. People want to have a portable screen to view their content. Yes, they might have a fifty inch plasma television at home and go see the occasional movie at the theater, but they don’t want to be restricted.

I watch 90% of my movies thru Netflix now; about 5% of it on my Android phone. The other 10% is at the movie theater or video rental store. I have gone to a movie theater every month or two now, and I rent a movie from the video store if I am unable to find it on Netflix or streaming online.

I am not a supporter of Hulu because of their editing content and ads. I have the solution for them: One ad before the movie or show and one after. No inbetween. It ruins the flow of visual imagery.

So either make shorter film content or move the ad space somewhere else.

I hope Tarantino changes his mind about portable devices because I don’t want him to stop making movies. I know I won’t stop because a medium changes how it’s seen from how I originally planned for, but then again, I’m good at adapting.

Here’s hoping he is too.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Internship at Google

The Internship movie comes out this weekend and it looks like it’ll be a satisfying comedy. What seems to be the thought process is that Google made the movie, and they did to a point. They want the world to see the greatness they are and they want marketing and brand awareness.

The Internship is a movie. No IT company in their right mind would hire a buffoon. Well, they would try not to. This is a resemblance to something that could really happen, so expect everything that happens at Google hiring two middle-aged interns to be completely false. I would say that a large percentage of middle-aged men starting as entry-level internships would work their ass off and become VP’s in Business or Product Management within a few years.

Here’s my real speculation though: What is going to happen is that stoners people seeing this movie will laugh a lot. They will be stoned thinking deeply and want to start their own company(IT or not), will research hopefully and find out the real Google company bears little resemblance to what is shown on screen. I’m banking that Google pays well, takes care of their employees with immense benefits and genuinely makes a difference in the world, instead of profiteering with low wages and quick job turnaround rates. Really, look at Cisco. They have plenty of employees that have been with the company for over 20 years. I see other companies eventually trying to get to the benchmark these now major IT companies have made or failing miserably since others will go find good jobs as these dinosaur companies die out a slow but painful death.