Monday, June 25, 2012

Toñita Runs Away Premiere Press Release

The lineup is always first rate, but this year looks absolutely fantastic.  I look forward to seeing all my friends and family there.

See below for full press release or click on link below.


MCASD and Muse Chasers present celebrated short-film festival with both new films and a must-see “greatest hits” selection of brilliant shorts from past decade



San Diego, CA –MCASD and the Muse Chasers mark the 10th anniversary of San Diego’s premier short-film showcase alt.pictureshows at its La Jolla location on Thursday, August 30 from 7-10 PM.

Curated and founded by filmmaker and MCASD Film Curator Neil Kendricks, this special installment of alt.pictureshows features more than 20 intelligent, inspirational, and thought-provoking short films guaranteed to challenge, surprise, and engage adventurous film lovers in search of a true alternative to the usual multiplex experience. This one-night-only festival celebrating the storytelling prowess and creative ingenuity of short films is only $5 for general admission and free to MCASD Members.

This year’s short-film extravaganza ranges from Saba Riaza’s realistic drama The Wind is Blowing on My Street shot on location in Tehran, Iran, to British filmmaker Frederic Casella’s award-winning comedy Tooty’s Wedding, which imagines a worst-case scenario of miscommunication at a wedding, triggering hilarious mayhem. This year’s event also includes Anna Musso’s sublime, slide-of-life, urban drama L Train that will break hearts with its poignant, unspoken insights into the human heart. Beasts of the Southern Wild film director Benh Zeitlin’s short film Glory at Sea is among the event’s most powerful and challenging short films.

Part film festival and part art happening with a twist, the always surprising and innovative alt.pictureshows also showcases indie music videos by Nathan Gulick and Aaron Soto and a “greatest hits” selection of shorts from the event’s past decade, including award-winning cinematic works that got their San Diego debut at MCASD.

The event will transform MCASD’s Sherwood Auditorium and select gallery spaces into the supreme micro-cinema spectacle where Museum-goers are free to “physical channel surf” by dipping in and out rooms at will. Like previous installments of alt.pictureshows, this year’s roster of marvelous short films are arranged either by shared thematic concerns, stylistic approaches, or both in a unique night of small, yet powerful, cinematic wonders.

Lineup is subject to change and more films may be announced

OCCUPY MY HEART (Sherwood Auditorium)
The Wind is Blowing on My Street(15 min.) by Sarah Riaza
Glory at Sea(25 min.) by Benh Zeitlin
The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom (39 min.) by Lucy Walker
L Train(11 min.) by Anna Musso

Un Attimo Di Respirro(A Moment to Breathe) (13 min.) by Sara Colangelo
Odysseus’ Gambit(12 min.) by Alex Lora Cercos
Aquadettes (11 min.) by Drea Cooper and Zachary Canepari
Tooty’s Wedding(19 min.) by Frederic Casella

Antarctic…Huh? by Matt Hoyt and Jason Sherry
Carnivalby Cheryl Kanekar
Tonita Runs Away(6 min) by Teri Carson
Robots of Brixton(6 min.) by Kibwe Tavares
Tumult (13 min.) by Johnny Barrington

Eternal Gaze(16 min.) by Sam Chen
Fake Baby (3:04 min.)by Matt Hoyt
Bless Your Pets(12 min.) by Teri Lang and Jim Garry
Loop(3 min.) by Neil Kendricks
Robin’s Big Date(7:19 min.) by James Duffy
Bitch(15 min.) by Lilah Vandenburgh
West Bank Story(22 min.) by Ari Sandel
Late Bloomer(12:44 min.) by Craig McNeill
Insectoby Giancarlo Ruiz
I Love Sarah Jane(14 min.) by Spencer Susser
Spider(9 min.) by Nash Edgarton
Madagascar(11:06 min.) by Bastien Dubois

THE WAILING WALL (Oceanview Terrace)
Silent Lune’s Shades of Red music video (5:07 min.) by Aaron Soto
The Journey Back Down Jump Truth Mountain(2:20 min.) by Nathan Gulick
Inkjet’s Now music video (3:37 min.) by Aaron Soto
Deep Space Traveler(10 min.) by Mark Nielsen

Founded in 1941, the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (MCASD) is the preeminent contemporary visual arts institution in San Diego County. The Museum’s collection includes more than 4,000 works of art created since 1950. In addition to presenting exhibitions by international contemporary artists, the Museum serves thousands of children and adults annually at its varied education programs, and offers a rich program of film, performance, and lectures. MCASD is a private, nonprofit organization, with 501c3 tax-exempt status; it is supported by generous contributions and grants from MCASD Members and other individuals, corporations, foundations, and government agencies. Dr. Hugh M. Davies is The David C. Copley Director and CEO at MCASD.

Institutional support for MCASD is provided by the City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Toñita Runs Away: Preview Stills


After being scolded one too many times, mischievous Toñita runs away from home. While on the road, she meets another little girl and together they embark on a frolic through the Mexican countryside. On their way to the rodeo, their fun is interrupted by a gang of bullies and what looks like a covered corpse in the middle of the road.

Shot on super 8mm film and on location at San Antonio de las Minas and Valle de Guadalupe, Baja California Mexico.

All photos property of Dizzydent Films.  All rights reserved.

Friday, June 22, 2012


Damn you day job!

I didn't want to take any chances so I didn't leave it in my car.  Also because I have bad luck with cars and it might get stolen and then I'd lose my film and then what?

Back when I shot Poly Esther during the Great San Diego Fire I told my crew that if the fire approached my house I'd have to leave the shoot and rescue the film we had already shot.

So hopefully the terrorists won't crash a plane into the highrise I work at. 

I can't believe just one week ago I was on my way to Mexico to shoot this film.  This is the fun part because production SUCKS.

Have a good weekend. I will for sure.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Production Journal: Toñita Runs Away (Magic is a bitch.)

I’m dying with anticipation.  The film lab just called to let me know my hard drive is ready for pick up.  I’ve only shot super 16mm before and have always supervised the telecine transfer.  This is the first time I’m not present during the transfer because it’s super 8.  It’s a magical moment akin to seeing the image appear as soon as you submerge the photographic paper in the Dektol.  Except there’s a lot of relief involved too.  When you shoot film you have to trust you got the shot and hope for the best.  You can’t have magic without the fear of failure.  There’s no magic in shooting video.

I did a lot of hoping for the best this past weekend while running around from location to location under the hot sun with a posse of children and only my assistant director to help me.  With a few exceptions, I’ve always been lucky with the quality of my crew.  The good ones are worth several people and this was no exception.  She had never been involved in a film shoot, but she’s a really bossy lady and as a result a natural born AD.  She’s screwed because now that I know what she’s capable of, I will be calling upon her again and again.  She repeatedly said she had no idea filmmaking was so grueling but that she would help me again.

We only shot six hours but it felt like three days.  (Take note: working with kids will do that.)  It’s a different dynamic that feels like you’re walking on a mine field.  One moment they’re into it and the next they’re whining that they’re tired and want to go home.  They can shut down any minute and, if they do, you’re fucked.  One of them wanted to take over the direction and kept on telling me what to do. He also wanted the starring role.  And while we were shooting the opening sequence one of the little girls kept on asking when SHE was going to be in the scene. Actors.

Trained actors know the language.  It’s easier to communicate.  With non-professionals you constantly have to think of ways to make them understand what you want and how to deliver it.  It’s difficult and you can’t let it get to you.  I did a few times and I deeply regret it.  The crazy, amazing thing is that as the shoot progressed, the cast began to understand the process and language of filmmaking.  They eventually started to deliver and, most importantly, to ask questions.  They became engaged and it was wonderful to experience.    

The stars: Caro and Chunga

Towards the end, it was mostly method acting.  The characters were supposed to be tired, thirsty, hot and fed up.  They were.  I was surprised that it was the younger cast members who had an easier time performing.  The teenage kids were incredibly self-conscious and it was a battle to get them to deliver one single emotion in a close up.  I fired the oldest one after I yelled at him in front of everybody.  Later he told a third party that I was a bad director because I couldn’t make him do what I wanted.  He’s right.  I cast him.  Ninety percent of directing is casting.  I should have worked it out instead of losing my patience.  It was a hard lesson to learn, but I will never forget it.

Canine Cast

As I anticipated, I didn’t need a script.  I had to go off the outline a few times because of location needs and certain opportunities that presented themselves.  It turned out that the town (San Antonio de las Minas) was celebrating their yearly celebration, or Fiestas Patronales.  The main event was the rodeo which happened to be just up the road from where I was staying.  I rewrote my ending and set it at the rodeo.  I hope none of the cowboys or horses looked into the camera.  It was weird, but no one in the tiny town seemed to care that we were running around shooting.  It was as if we weren’t even there.

It was stressful and it was a blast.  Mistakes were made.  By me.  When I went to the lab on Tuesday I noticed one of the cartridges was color film.  What the fuck.  I was handed color film and I didn’t even notice it.  No biggie. Desaturation is easy.  However, the first roll was not exposed to the end and I have no idea what happened.  Obviously the camera was working because the other rolls were exposed but I just don’t remember.  I may be missing shots and that’s a big fuck up.  I just hope they’re not crucial shots and I can rework it in the editing.


Tomorrow morning I pick up my footage and I won’t know what I have until I get home from work.  I’m anxious, excited and afraid.  I put myself in this situation.  Good or bad, it’s still magic.  And there’s no growth without pain. Right?

Ginormous Jesus on my way home.

* The messed up font wasn't my idea. Blogger sucks that's all.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Rebel without a crew (I’m fucking serious)

Tomorrow night I leave to shoot Toñita Runs Away in Mexico.  I have no crew except for a couple of non-filmmaker helpers aka family.  Luckily, it’s Mexico, so I can just hire people off the street.  My entire cast is made up of children, so I’ll need a good wrangler.  Luckily, it’s Mexico, and there are no child labor laws.  (Settle down. It’s not like I’m making them sell Chiclets at the border.)  This is an international production, yes it is.

This film was born in my head and as soon as I started to write it down, it started to die. So I stopped writing and just made a list of all the shots and events I will try to film.  (No wonder Truffaut did it this way.)  A film dies and is reborn many times on its way from the mind to the audience, and as soon as the filmmaker realizes and accepts this, her anxiety over the process will be alleviated.  Well, to some extent. There are plenty of other things to agonize about.  

This film is a complete mystery to me.  I’m shooting film so I will not be able to see the shot right after I shoot it.  I’m directing non-professional children and I can’t control what they will do in front of the camera.  I’m calling it a creepy comedy because the genre hasn’t been determined yet.  It won’t be until I’ve seen the footage and have to make editing decisions. And then there’s the sound design. Oy vey.

This is definitely a scary way of working that’s very new and exciting to me.  It’s an experiment and a gamble that may fail.  I’m scared.  Luckily I have my heroes to turn to for comfort.  Like Robert Bresson who said, “When you do not know what you are doing and what you are doing is the best - that is inspiration.”  It’s not like I haven’t fucked up a film before, so I’m going to go with what he said and see what happens. 

“An old thing becomes new if you detach it from what usually surrounds it.”—Robert Bresson

Monday, June 11, 2012

My mortal enemy

is Photoshop.

Neither design is our brand, but if I don't practice I'll never learn it. Back to the drawing board.

Monday, June 04, 2012

I want to know you, but I'm a coward.

It happens once in a while.  I’ll spot a stranger and become enthralled with her appearance.  I’ll scrutinize every inch of every choice she has made that she's displaying on the outside.  I’ll imagine his life and write that script for him.  Then, I try to read her face—his eyes.  It’s never happiness I see.  They’re always blurry, dark and lurid images.  Old eyes wear exhaustion and young ones confusion.  “You’re confused now little girl but in a few years you’ll be exhausted ma’am.”  I never see hope.  I feel I’m staring at some degree of suffering dressed up in a unique armor.

This Saturday I decided to take the subway to the Egyptian Theater.  I didn’t want to deal with finding parking in Hollywood and, even worse, in my neighborhood at midnight.  It was a tough choice.  I hate the walk from the Highland station to the Egyptian.  I hate Hollywood Boulevard even though I  chuckle when I think of all the people who have never been there and think it’s a glamorous and exciting place.  It’s one of the worst places I’ve ever been to.  It’s tacky, ridiculous, sad and pathetic.

The guy in front of the Pig & Whistle holding the cardboard sign that says “A penny is okay” probably was convinced he was going to make it big as a screenwriter of tentpole action movies or, at the very least, showrunner of mediocre network television.  The girl holding the sign that says “$1 I want to go to the movies” doesn’t want to get a job so she’s peddling fake quirkiness instead.  The way I feel about them is in between pity and annoyance and I don’t like it.  I can’t be inside the theater soon enough.  It’s the safe place.  I can’t reconcile what is happening outside with what‘s about to happen inside this sanctuary.  Fassbinder.

After the films I rush to the subway station.  The boulevard is bustling with nighttime activities.  All the men look alike.  All the women look alike. Everyone behaves the same way. Disrespect permeates the atmosphere and I want to be below ground immediately.  I must have left my sense of humor with Fassbinder because the Mexicans showing off their parked, loud, sparkly, neon slick cars don’t make me laugh.  I’m just horrified these people actually exist.

Inside the train I begin to examine the faces one by one until the one-legged boy in crutches gets on at Hollywood and Vine.  His companion is a girl right out of a kibbutz, or rather, the kibbutzs I’ve seen represented in movies.  Her name might as well be Rachael.  A bandana holds back her frizzy curls.  She wears an oversize plaid shirt over a t-shirt, khakis and flip flops.  But I’m not really interested in her.  My eyes are on the one-legged boy.  He leans his shoulder against the pole.  They talk to each other for a bit but I’m not listening.  My eyes are on his pretty face and delicate hands holding the crutches.  He has tried to hide his mask with Caterpillar work boots, dirty blond, short dreadlocks spilling from under a brown trucker hat, an oversized, vintage black leather vest, a grey t-shirt, long shorts that are too big at the waist and that show off the white elastic of band of his underwear.  He knows his looks are delicate and has gone through a lot of effort to hide them.  He possesses both natural and manufactured masculinity; many strengths but one big weakness that has doomed him to a miserable life.  He catches me looking at him but he does not reciprocate with attitude.  He must have seen the interest in my face because he seems confused.  I look away and pretend I’m spacing out but I know he’s scrutinizing me now.  My instinct tells me that knowing someone like him leads to trouble but I still want to.

It’s always at this point of interest that I wish I had the balls to be a documentarian.  I don’t so I don’t talk to him or ask him questions.  That would be exposing myself and what’s in my head. I'm about to take out my phone to steal a picture but I imagine him beating me with his crutches.  I’m always concerned to seem exploitative. It’s a fine line and I don’t have the courage.  Regular people with real problems usually don’t give a shit about film and art. Bresson would have put her in a movie.

The train stops at Western and Hollywood and as he turns around to exit I see them.  Weird that I didn’t notice them when he walked in.  Well, that explains the ridiculous leather vest.  The breasts—young, round and bigger than mine.  I will never know what happened to her and how she lost her leg because I’ll never see her again.  All I can do is fabricate a character based on my memories of her.  She’ll never know that someone was genuinely interested in knowing about her life.  

As always, when I ride the escalator up to meet up with the outside world again, I desperately try to find a moment to photograph to make up for the ones I missed.  I ride and think about the character I just encountered when my thoughts are interrupted by a continuous slapping sound.  I look up.  It’s a young man slapping his girl’s ass repeatedly.  I know she doesn’t like it but she does nothing to stop it.  It just won’t stop.  It's a long, awkward ride up.

I don’t want to know them.  I want to forget they exist.  The one-legged girl didn't ask to be damaged but this one is and it doesn't seem fair.

I take their picture stealing something from them and they will never know.  Serves them right.