Look at These Damn Shorts !

Every now and then I like to sweep out the attic and cough up old dust bunnies of shorts from over ten years ago. Some people are wise enough to bury their old work. I have to remind myself to get back onto the horse and make more fresh content. Also, to overcome a sense of demoralization. Sometimes you need a kick in the back of the pants.
https://www.youtube.com/user/PornotheClownDOTcom
The original short from 2007 generated for Daryl Gold’s Hard Liquor and Porn Comedy Festival was originally uploaded on my personal youtube account which has mostly home movies. It has over sixty thousand views. It would be great to import those views into this upload, were it possible. But frankly I look at many of these hastily made shorts and see only the flaws. Even though I have observed the laughs coming across.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=biUUuY6H_fk
In 2008 we cobbled together a simple false documentary in the style of Zeitgeist, called Shitegeist, using simple narration and slightly doctored stock images to create the mythology of Porno the Clown. Much of it was too lo-res. It was taken down at one point because it must have ruffled someone’s feathers. In hindsight, more shorts should have been made right away. Most of the videos were done in 2009. The stile of this 2008 experiment might have led to regular update videos using audio and a simple file graphic of Porno the Clown as if he is a foreign corespondant so that timely videos could easily be done. But this was resisted by Jay Ould who played Porno the Clown. It would have kept the charactrer active. Also, initially Jay had mentioned a potential investor in a series of shorts so I had generated a number of outlines. About half of those actually got shot. The investor did not pan out, but I still wrote out full scripts for most of them and we shot what we could for fun. But Shitegeist was an interesting minimalist experiment.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b5L9Y7VgAho
My intention had been to do a seasonal short for each holiday. We did get one done for Father’s Day, in which Jay’s own son Cai plays someone claiming to be the offspring of Porno the Clown. It ends with a kind of PSA that Jay was skeptical about but he had to admit once it was executed it worked out. Unfortunately a number of other holiday videos did not come to fruition.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Etx53nTrzCA
This is an example of one of the monologues I wrote for Porno the Clown. Production wise, very simple. It may not be satisfying for Jay. But for the writer it is fun. I had pitched a one man show for Jay to do at the Fringe Festival but he was not interested. I think the idea of memorizing a high volume of my writing is a pain in the butt. There may yet be a Porno the Clown play, or more likely the play and eventual feature (already written and refined) may become a varient that salvages much of what I wrote and keeps PTC off screen. That is a back up plan if Jay doesn’t want to do something as written. A 2017 tentative approach to a feature was cancelled by me after it turned out that much of the support was for an improvisation cluster f**k version that I had no interest in. I’d want to shoot only my script with every problematic joke intact.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0EYVblDLv2k
There were a few segments generated for an interview skit I wrote which might be the best attempt at a Porno the Clown short, in terms of getting through jokes. I recall having cue cards. When the exterior sidewalk shots were being done, an allusion to the strut of Saturday Night Fever, a little girl approached Jay who was in full PTC costume and she asked his name. He came up with, “Uh, Joe-Joe the Clown.”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MDxBQUlUBKk
This video is kind of a curiousity. I wrote a short called Orgy Etiquette as part of the collection for PTC based on a couple of other stabs I had taken at the concept, a monologue and some other iteration. I remmeber being at a party and mentioning it to the late Tony Rosato of SCTV who said it was a great premise. Eventually the written versions had quite a few guidelines listed for getting through an orgy, pulled out of thin air because I would never have the slightest idea of that world. Like any Porno the Clown thing I had written it was the abomination of speculation coming from a repressed Catholic. Then I believe Jay had a meeting with Dave McKay and they adapted those writings into a two-hander live audience participation skit that I recorded with a camcorder at the Comedy Bar. This might be the one grey area or room for confusion about my feature where someone might get the idea that I was open to that being improvised. Nope. But this short piece is fun and most likely the other full versions of the premise might not have been done.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E9xSa66FskM
There is a short that might be buried somewhere in the hard-to-access Facebook videos of my private account, Porno the Clown meets Bad Babysitter. That one was based on an idea from Jay. It somewhat follows the format of other scenes and has an okay structure but was thrown together under time pressure. It is not on this channel because months after shooting it the actress stated she wanted to go out for modeling or other parts and was concerned that her name turned up in searche engines for this short and she needed to shake it. Unfortunately she was not straight with us and initially claimed her release form was not valid because she was under age. I initially was filled with dread, until I fact checked it and discovered she had lied and was actually not under age at all. Still, I deleted whatever I could and removed tags with her name and so on. The short played at a Salon Du Refuses off shoot of Daryl Gold’s Hard Liquor and Porn Comedy Festival. I recall the actress was an outstanding illustrator. I wish her well. This link likely won’t work unless you are logged into Facebook.
https://www.facebook.com/818445561/videos/143000125561/extid=5I5cINV1XsOVMMN8
Those are just a few of the Porno the Clown videos that had been generated, basically highlights. I’d like to see them get a new life and some attention. The feature that is built around him will in one form or another be brought to life, even if I have to resort to substituting a new character so the name Porno the Clown doesn’t spook too many people. It is an uphill battle for an idea that I had thought was just crass enough to be commercial. Also, much depends on whether I can cast people who get on with learning dialogue or whether there is push back from people who insist on improvisation. I have no love of Theater Sports as they call it and keeping myself off balance with an influx of chaos. I mean, I’d rather not even call it a comedy if it comes to that. Too many experts on comedy. I wouldn’t want performances that seem like they are aware it is comedy. I guess we’ll see.

An old Youtube Channel is back up

This channel contains comical shorts and monologues related to a character I wrote and directed called Porno the Clown.  It has been up since 2009, and the character has been brought to life since 2007.  May do more shorts as reality gets less crazy.  It was just a name on a piece of paper back in 1992 but it was ready to be written once I worked with Jay Ould on a publicity stunt and I saw how at ease he was with material that would seem creepy with the wrong delivery.  Anyway, happy that reason won the day this time, after the appeal was re-reviewed.  If you have a moment please go and subscribe or like or watch something. No pressure.

https://www.youtube.com/user/PornotheClownDOTcom

 

 

The Corman Challenge and Corona

The biggest hitch to the #CormanChallenge is to shoot a short on a cell phone.  I have a cheap Samsung Galaxy J3 which I would replace in a minute if I could just walk into the store instead of trying to order on the phone itself through the website and get caught in the loop of the store in my area I want to pick it up and the site attempting to steer me to have it mailed, which is too risky. Packages can end up left in the hall if I am at work (essential) or I can get a notice to walk over to the mall post office, right beside the store I would have preferred to just pick up the parcel.

Maybe that itself could have been (or could be) a short.  I don’t know.  But I had to use packing tape and a selfie stick propped here and there to get the simple but functional shots I needed for my short entry, “Alarm Rest.”  I have no idea whether it will be seen by Mr. Roger Corman or other directors reportedly screening entries, like Ron Howard, just because I post a link or allow others to share a link to the video with @RogerCorman and #CormanChallenge on “any social media.”

 

When Sean Baker and his DP  Radium Cheung shot Tangerine “on a cell phone” it was an iphone with apps that allowed them to set the frame rate at 24 frames per second and lock the iris and focus, and they usually had a housing for the cell that kept movement smooth. I ran into a couple of shots that were so handheld and shaky I tried slowing them in post.  I also discovered that even though everything was framed landscape to look like a movie and it played back on my PC and even on my Mac as landscape those shots required me to shoot downward or at such an angle that something might have been confused because in the editing program they came out as portrait. Those I had to just re-shoot the following day.

Meanwhile, I have gotten a renewed taste for the process of shooting and I know I have to get back into it as a routine.  I have looked back at drafts of the screenplay I meant to shoot in 2017 and have had a recent burst of inspiration about how to merge those drafts and what I have learned from novelizing that project and maybe generate a script that leads the audience in more smoothly to the world it creates.  I don’t want to drop people right into strangeness, but rather have them not realize they have entered it until they are already somewhat invested in it.  There is a temptation to spend the day watching old Colombo episodes, puttering around, and eating too much during the time of the pandemic.  But I still want to follow through on my projects, especially those I have been pushing up the mountain for more than ten years.

Writing, drawing shots, reading…. but this short project just had such a simple premise that it couldn’t choke under its own weight.  If I were to do it over I would not use a cell at all.  I wasn’t even 100% sure that was a stipulation or whether it was just a suggestion that everyone has the minimum resources to make some kind of short.  At least the contest got me up early one day and had me solving little problems and causing them. At least we were not required to type the script on a Smith-Corona.

 

 

 

Community Standards

I got a message from an actor who had featured in a number of my shorts and videos asking what happened to the youtube channel associated with it.  Almost all of the shorts and monologues were on it.  I checked and it was gone.  The channel itself had been up since 2009.  A couple of the shorts were older, the original from 2007 and a simpler one from 2008.  I hadn’t logged in to it for a long time, and had only used it to get the links for sharing the shorts wherever appropriate.  I checked the associated e-mail account and sure enough that same day I had received a notice that the account had been suspended for reports of “violating community standards.”  I followed the link to their form to post an appeal, and apparently got an automated acknowledgement of the appeal’s receipt with an “as soon as possible” reassurance of processing it.

No doubt that having more people sit at home during the Covid-19 lockdown has attracted more busybodies false flagging anything that doesn’t suit their own tastes ostensibly as volunteers helping youtube improve the site.  It gives the lie to the concept of community standards.  Is youtube a resource of a community?  Like Twitter, the comment sections can be a cesspool.  But ideally if it were a community that might mean that your neighbor two doors down could be watching content that is not to your taste and that should be okay.  The one gray area in this is that having not logged in to the account for a few years I did not get the alert and link to click “not intended for children” which has been a recent addition to youtube because they got fined for hosting a video that drew complaints from the usual busybodies.  If the channel is restored I will see to clicking that, although the problem would not exist if the DEFAULT were “not intended for children” so that in the rare case that something is meant to be kid-friendly the content creator posting it can designate it as such.

I’m still crossing my fingers at the time of this blog entry.  We will see.  Maybe faith will be restored in reason and comprehension.  Content creators should be protected from busybodies and also perhaps from our personal enemies and rivals.  We sometimes hear about self-styled pundits on youtube getting false flagged by each other.    When a channel is “reviewed” we, the users, content creators, or community, don’t know by whom and what that review entailed.  Was an individual or team playing back each of the sorts and monologues on my channel?  Because if they did, and they were all adults, they would have recognized that even though the channel centers around Porno the Clown (played by Jay Ould) and is called pornotheclownDOTcom it does not contain porn. They would see that it is all satirical and motivated by a sense of whimsical mischief that is becoming more and more rare in hyper-sensitive times.  The channel has been up for 11 years, even beyond 2013 when colleges began to takes seriously the quirks and the demands of the lunatic fringe and pander to them and when that began to seep into pop culture in general.  Dexter and Breaking Bad ended in 2013.  Robin Williams and Harold Ramis died in 2014, as did Bill Cosby’s public persona. So it becomes a different world every few years.

One person’s food is another person’s poison.  As I have said before, since we are likely not sharing the same screen or monitor I can enjoy Dave Chappelle’s latest video and you can enjoy RuPaul’s Drag Race and neither of us has to interfere with the other.  There is so much content out there it is almost impossible to catch up.  We all usually want to reinforce or validate our own views, even if we pay lip service to the importance of exposure to conflicting opinions to “sharpen the blade.”  You can agree with someone on most every issue and get unfriended (as recently happened to me) by someone you have been supportive to and stood up for….. and the transgression in my case was telling someone there is no reason to blame Bernie Sanders if the DNC chooses a mediocre nominee to support and Agent Orange gets a second term.  People have to vote FOR something more than AGAINST something to be engaged and committed.

My initial plan was that the shorts and monologues would continue and the channel would have been used to help increase awareness of the character Porno the Clown in anticipation of the feature length movie I had written and story boarded.  My impulse is to double down and still do it.  That may still happen.  But something has to be adjusted on the “community standards” end of things.  A cycle of content being created and unceremoniously deleted is unworkable.  It was bad enough during the Stephen Harper years of Canada that Canadian production companies got spooked by a pending bill that could see TV shows or movies denied a tax credit if the resulting project was deemed to not fit the community standards of the time.  Content can not be one size fits all.  Too many cooks do spoil the soup.     There is something to offend everybody.  Unless the reactionary trend snaps under its own weight even the most low budget and independent content will be suffocated.

 

 

Stuff Buried on the Internet

Some people have a strategy or an expert on getting new titles listed on imdb. I know someone who started a festival and once it got a letter from a deputy mayor making it seem official enough imdb accepted it and so the festival could be shown as the programmer who screened her films and a few others she appeared to be connected to. So suddenly there were at least ten more recent credits on her page, as pointed out to me by a friend who liked to rub my nose in bad news. I don’t know the ethics of that, but it worked.  Some might be given an official production code number, some get listed as union productions possibly. Worth looking into.  Otherwise you will have a short list of directorial credits like mine at the time of this writing.

https://www.imdb.com/name/nm1077135/?ref_=nv_sr_1

I thought I may as well dedicate a blog entry to assembling a few key links to shorts that are still on-line somewhere and might be languishing without enough eyes on them, even if that may be for the best.  Some are done just for fun, others might not be up to any standard that would help me raise funding for something bigger.  But I think they are still amusing.  I guess I just don’t like to let anything die.

https://vimeo.com/user2402483

Stranded on the Sturgeon Stretch (Early Nineties)

 

Break-In

 

Big Babies (2004)

 

 

 

Working With Murphy 2:Beyond College

More Moviesplaining out of me.  On the day of graduation, one of my instructors asked if I had anyone there to see me get me go up. I told him my mom would be there so he deemed it worthwhile to point out that my shirt buttons were out of alignment.  Good save. I have finally learned something worthwhile from him. Our previous conversation days before in his office found him asking me what I plan to do after school with my life and I said I’ll write my screenplays and direct them.  He said, “So you plan to pass yourself off as a writer-director, eh?” There might not have been an eh but it’s there for the tone.  I honestly do not remember what I said in response.  I found irritation boiling up.  Had I not believed he still could lower my mark or something, I might have said, “Better than passing myself off as a writing and directing teacher!”  Or, “Yes, I’ll fool people by writing the script and then directing it.” To this day, that mind fu*k still bothers me.  It makes me potentially a control freak.  I don’t want to put an asterisk beside my credits.  A screenwriter gets feedback on a script so it might not be word for word dictated to me by the Archangel Gabriel.  But even if someone points out an “issue” with  script, I like to solve it myself. In directing, I do like to storyboard everything and follow that as closely as possible.  There are so many ways Murphy’s Law can trip you up but the only way I feel vindicated for my vision is if I follow it.

After graduation, I had a health problem that made walking difficult and ran me down so I returned home from the big city and recuperated at my dad’s house. I found myself writing out monologues that had only been glimmers of ideas a year before.  Something had opened up in my mind after downshifting and beginning to convalesce.  Organized and performed in a couple of monologue shows, and for the community channel 12 Halloween show that year I knuckled down and made a short called The Basement about a young woman who has car trouble and asks a nice old gentleman to use his phone and he traps her in his basement.  We shot it at my dad’s place. Used equipment from Cable 12, shot on 3/4 inch.  The old man was played by a nice man who had operated camera for a one-woman show I had recorded in the studio.  A couple of local theater actors had turned me down.  The heroine was played by a girl I met in a production of Dark of the Moon.  The lead of that production had said no. A lot of this movie turned out quite nicely. The actors were enthusiastic.  It had some dark humor and suspense.  As written, it had a great turning of the tables and escape.  Unfortunately, this was a two day shoot and the second day would have been a coffee scene for character development and then the escape from the basement but my actress was a no show.  Cell phones being less common then, I heard nothing until a week later.  So I only shot the bad-guy’s side and implied the death of the girl he had locked in the basement washroom.  One joke is, “Did you die in there?” I was told finally that the reason she was AWOL on day two was that she stayed with a girlfriend who had been suicidal.  My unspoken reaction to that was “so… did her place have a phone?” But maybe she didn’t have my number and I just let it go. Years later, since we know some of the same people, I met that actress in Toronto and then later on Facebook we touched base.  Bottom line was that she asked me not to post The Basement on-line.  Annoying.  But I have been re-adapting it off and on for a possible remake that I can share in the future.

The next year I wrote a short called Forty Winks, about a charm a child wears to bed that will freeze time while he is asleep and because his babysitter is in contact at the moment he conks out, she is able to roam around find the neighborhood in stasis. There are some tableaux moments she re-positions.  I started shooting with a friend of the family, and still used a couple of shots where she could not be identified.  But I ended up with an actress who was very good despite her reputation for maybe starting a fire at school.  The boy arguably was a little too old to be told bedtime stories.  While some of the movie might have been clunky, it mostly turned out.  There had been a written enactment of a legend of Forty Winks that involved a harem and a pharaoh winking at each wife before he slept and them clinging to his garment as time froze.  I cast the pharaoh with one of my home town’s strongest young actors and he was in a robe on a throne in the studio and ready but the sisters who had played the friends of the lead in another scene were supposed to be featured harem girls and they did not show up.  So a chunk of the movie is more telling than showing. And it may not have made me look good for the actor who did show up.  His father had turned down the role of the psycho in the previous year’s short.  When I made the leap back to Toronto permanently, I showed that actor a terrible draft of another script (where I tried to combine two of my ideas and it was too busy). He showed up drunk outside the place where I was staying and just yelled in passing, “It’s garbage!  It’s garbage!”  So he’s gone on to better things but as far as I’m concerned he is in the a-hole file.

I did another community TV Halloween short, this time called Maniac Wannabe about various horror situations going wrong because the prospective victim is smarter or the would-be killer is accident prone.  In hindsight it was pretty ambitious.  One exterior scene was compromised because I had the wrong filter on.  It was yet another camera borrowed from the station and I had overlooked why the image seemed so easy to see in the viewfinder.  It was over-exposed, but I was able to take out some of the light in post. The killer is a successful stand-up comic and MC in Toronto now.  No thanks to me.  We also did a strange short about wandering around the public library fearing he is being watched or followed.  It allowed for some good editing gimmicks and represents the one time I got some production value by getting the library to allow us to film during the closed morning of “Rae Days” when the Provincial government cut back on library hours.

I visited Toronto to help a couple of other filmmakers in a minor capacity.  I was continuity and second assistant camera on an “erotic” anthology.  I was continuity and a production assistant on a Humber classmate’s black and white feature.  That was another case where one of the actresses did not want to sign a release after shooting had started.  That made for some nerves but must have been resolved.  That movie was not finally edited until more than a decade when a couple of us really badgered the director, but he finally had a screening and we got closure and a copy and he is still the one of us that has directed a feature at the time of this writing.  One danger is that right after shooting something you might hear the dialogue differently.  There might be a temptation to lose passion for a project once some of the steam pressure has vented.  However imperfect a movie might be, better to complete it near the time of shooting.

In the year 2000, a school friend from the same project who had encouraged me to make a more permanent leap back to Toronto sold me a roll of 16mm film stock that required an exterior shoot.  I had sat down to type up a batch of short scripts with the intention of gradually shooting them all.  One was “Klepto the Clown” and one was called “Support Group” and one was “Nic Fit” of the few that actually got shot.  I had met a random character named Sterling in a Second Cup who noticed I was storyboarding Nic Fit and let me know he had a Bollex camera he had not yet used to shoot anything.  He had spend enough money on the camera that it put a strain on his marriage, and yet it sat there.  Many of us buy cameras and then don’t dive into projects.  They can be monuments to inertia.  Another friend (brother of the guy who sold the stock) agreed to help load the film.  A magazine was rented from LIFT (Liaison of Independent Filmmakers of Toronto) as well as a tripod but I neglected to test the mount and it didn’t fit.  Found out on the location, a lot behind my cousin Linda’s apartment building.  The behind the scenes account is a little more elaborate in the following commentary video.