Monday, December 30, 2013

2013 in Accomplishments

Bought a house.
Started a new job.
Completed two more courses of Improv at UCB and performed on stage.

Finished multiple short scripts.
Won a comedy screenplay competition.

Finished two shorts.

Screened films at several festivals.

Took a creative writing class.

Finished several creative non-fiction pieces.

Became a writing mentor to teen girls for Writegirl.

Managed to shoot another short in Mexico before the year ended.

Fell in love again despite having sworn I would never do it again.

Managed rampart neuroses and felt happy. Really happy.

Life happens, yo.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Happy Halloween!

Last year I spent a fortune on my Halloween costume. This year, I decided to make a fun film paying homage to horror and Halloween instead.

Leave the Light On from Teri Carson on Vimeo.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

My first film with a budget under $100.

I just finished a 15 minute film in September but I decided I wanted to make another one ASAP.

Here’s a breakdown of how it went down:

I tweeted a joke and wrote a script based on the tweet.

Props: $40

Food: $40

Crew: Me, the AD, the AC and one PA.

Lighting package: A lamp with a bright bulb and no shade (pictured above).  The outdoors seen through the double glass doors were filled with the existing practicals and a set of purple and orange holiday lights. I decided I only wanted to light with practicals to see what the camera could do.  I wasn't disappointed.

Camera: Canon 5D Mark III

Lenses:  2 primes and an L-series zoom. 

Sound: Rode shotgun mic mounted on the camera because someone (me) forgot to buy an XLR adapter to attach to the boom.

The script was 4 pages and the shooting schedule was from 6 p.m. to 12:30 a.m.  There were no rehearsals and I decided to withhold the script from the nonprofessional child actor until an hour before the shoot to keep her performance fresh and authentic.  She surprised me when she learned her lines after going through the script only two times.  I let her change her lines so that they could roll off her tongue more easily.  The grown up role was played by a professional.

We didn’t actually start shooting until around 8:00 p.m. but we kept on going until 12:30 with no breaks.  It wasn’t intentional.  It just happened that way.  I was afraid the kid would get cranky and give me a hard time, but surprisingly the crew deflated and she kept on going.

Post production lasted two weeks but it was mostly me thinking and trying to make editing and sound decisions and taking long, long breaks. The total running time is 5 minutes.

From inception to realization, the film took a month.  I have never made a decision to shoot a film this fast.  Once you decide to go, you must go go go and don’t stop.  Make it work.

You can watch the film tomorrow here, on Facebook, Twitter and Vimeo.

Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Audacity + Stupidity + Mental Illness = Filmmaking

I started this blog as a production diary ten years ago on October 16:

I reluctantly begin this journal wondering why anyone would care. In the end, it should be good for something I suppose. Since wisdom is acquired from experience, i.e. falling on your face, then I hope to share that painfully acquired wisdom with other filmmakers.

I remembered only because this morning on NPR they mentioned the 10th anniversary of the fires.  I also remembered I was shooting a film back then.  I remembered I was fearless and very ambitious.  It was only my third film, but I shot with a large crew two super 16mm cameras, 6 actors and many locations all over San Diego.  Also, my shot list was heavy on dolly shots.  Oy vey.  I was audacious because I was stupid.  I didn’t know better even though I should have known better because while shooting my first film, a lot of things went wrong, including the worst thing that could happen.  My lead actress bailed on me the day of the shoot and I had to replace her with a friend of a friend.  My second film was an arduous shoot that amounted to nothing because I cast it wrong.  It was an expensive lesson.

In spite of all the previous difficulties and hardships, I made it worse on myself.  Throughout the shoot, I consoled myself by thinking, “This is my Fitzcarraldo.”  It really was. 


October 26, 2013 Sunday--Last Day of Shooting

As I am getting in my car, I notice there is ash on the ground. The sky looks dark and strange. What the fuck is going on? I arrive at the Civic Center and immediately take a light reading. I am one half stop under what I need. I look up. It is as if there was a giant silk diffusing the sky. I decide to shoot the bus stop and Conformist sequences with the 50D and push it a stop or two. Freddy and the rest of the guys arrive with the phone booth. That thing weighs a ton and it took a lot of effort to get it to the middle of the concourse. I am glad it’s them and not me. Poor guys. Neil has to leave the shoot as soon as he gets there. He is afraid his house would be on the fire’s path. He never comes back, but he calls us to tell us he’s okay.

We go off, guerilla style, into the street. The light changes constantly and it is annoying. We had a blast shooting the bus stop sequences. It was hilarious chasing Dulce down the street. We have to put up lights to shoot the Conformist shot. The Civic Center guards are very helpful and get us additional stingers. Ash starts to fall from the sky and allergies start to flare up. Since all of the characters appear on the last sequence, all of the actors are there. Genaro (make-up artist) asks me if he can make Israel look “prettier,” softer. I say go for it, but the ass and boobs are fine.

The ash gets worse. How can this be happening? San Diego on fire on the last day of my shoot. I will not quit or shut down. I can’t and I won’t. I will finish shooting this film today. I think that if the fire gets close to Hillcrest I will need to go home and get the film we already shot. I have my priorities straight.

I go off to get some water and when I get back I notice Natalia (DP) is crying. I see Freddy (AD) leave in a huff and sit down far away on a bench. I ask one of the grips what happened. He tells me. Major drama. I tell Freddy I cannot have the two people I need the most right now fighting. He is giving me a lot of stress. Laura (Producer) comes over and asks me why Natalia is crying. I cannot believe what is happening. Laura talks to Freddy, then Freddy goes off and talks to Natalia. They come back smiling. I guess they made up. I am surrounded by people, but I feel so alone.  So alone.

It takes forever to shoot the phone booth sequence. It is mostly dolly shots and I have to shoot them without a tripod. My body feels like a pretzel. I look over to our camp, and I see people are having lunch. Burritos from Baja Fresh. Luke is worried about his parents, since their house is on the fire’s path. I tell him to go home. I look at my shot list and storyboards. Nothing makes sense. People talk to me, I hear their voices, but I can’t understand what they are saying to me. Dulce asks me how I am doing. I am worried about her, her allergies, etc. She says she is fine. She has a great attitude. So different than the actor I had to deal with on a certain shitty film I directed that will never see the light of day.

Somehow, we finish shooting the end sequence. Freddy is supposed to take the phone booth back to Stu Segall, but it turns out the workers there are fighting the fire trying to keep it from getting to the studios, so he won’t be able to take it back today. We have three hours until we have to be at the Market Place. Lesley goes home to rest and Dulce, Genaro and Melissa go to my house to get ready for the next scene. I look for my burrito, but there isn’t one. I find a half-eaten burrito on a table and I eat it without shame.

I still have to get the props for the shopping basket at Albertson’s. I will have to cross the picket line. I can’t look the strikers on the eye. The people united, will never be defeated. Fuck it, the film always comes first. I try to pick cinematic vegetables and a baguette, of course. As I am leaving I apologize to the striking workers and I explain why I crossed the picket line. Their expressions say “we don’t give a shit and why are you telling us this?” The shoot at the market goes relatively smooth. I want a shot from inside the shopping cart, no way I will fit, so I put Natalia in there with the camera.

We are exhausted, faces black from the ash, eyes watering and noses running, but we finish one hour under budget.

Lesson: Never schedule to shoot the ending to your film on the last day.


During these past years, I’ve downsized in crew, budget and expectations.  Mostly because I want to keep making films regardless of my resources.  I’ve also become less delusional.  I don’t expect to get into any film festivals and my only hope for my films is that one person that isn’t family or friend sees it, likes it and gets it. 

Agnes Varda said that if she had known anything about filmmaking, she would have never directed her first film.  I think that even if you know something about making films, nothing can prepare you for how hard it really is.  It’s not like child birth.  You don’t forget the pain.  It’s more like raising a puppy.  You never forget the challenges and eventually decide that the rewards are worth it.  You either quit or you keep on going because you have no other choice.  And that, as any director will tell you, is a sickness.

October 29, 2013:

Lesson: Filmmaking is about more than about the finished product. It is about the time you had with your friends and colleagues creating the film.

P.S.  Poly Esther isn’t online because the only copy I have is on DVD.  As soon as I’m finished with Leave the Light On I will have it transferred and I will put it online.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

New Film: Subplot Premiere

My latest film, Subplot, will have its premiere at the Broad Humor Film Festival on September 21, 2013 at 3:00 p.m. in Venice Beach, California.  It will screen with the films below.


The Organizer
Spirit in the Sky
Bikini Blues
Little Pen Lost
Good Bitch/Bad Bitch
The Unwritten Rules: Lions & Tigers & Pig, Oh My!

Also, my screenplay, Schlomo’s Night Out, is a finalist.  Scenes from the finalists will be read by professional actors at the screenplay lab on Sunday at 3:00 p.m.
For more information, please visit the festival's website HERE.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Shlomo, asshole, you're a finalist.

A few months ago my aunt posted my new nephew’s first sonogram on Facebook.  He’s almost 3 months but back then he was just a blotch.  But Facebook being Facebook, my aunt went on and on about how beautiful her grandchild was.  He was just a blurry blotch.  She really took what makes Facebook annoying to a new level.  I immediately thought about posting, “Yeah, but he looks like an asshole.” I didn’t because I didn’t want to deal with the aftermath of a public comment making fun of her and the miracle of life.  It’s not easy for me to choke on a good joke but asshole in Spanish sounds a lot worse. 

I didn’t get to call an unborn child an asshole on Facebook and somehow I felt like I needed to get that out.  It’s not just the joke that never was.  I’ve always been creeped out by child birth.  Females carrying a living thing inside them is what horror sci-fi is made of.  I’ve always been disgusted and freaked out about the whole thing.  Maybe I’m alone on this, maybe not, but I’ve never heard another female admit to the freakishness of childbirth.  I needed to work it out.

Almost every story starts with the writer asking herself, “What if?”  What if, in fact, this fetus was an asshole and what if he decided to come out of his mother’s vagina and have a little fun around the house?

So I wrote it for me but submitted to a competition.  I never thought it would get anywhere because the comedy is just too weird and creepy.  Imagining someone’s reaction at reading it was satisfaction enough.  I’ve won that competition three times already and writing a funny script is easy for me.  There are too many people doing the same films with the same shots and the same acting.  I want none of that.  These days I’m only interested in making something that shouldn’t be comedy funny and blurring the lines of genre. 

Yesterday I got notified that I’m a finalist.  That’s nice.  But if you know me you know that doesn’t matter to me.  Only winning does.  I’m pretty sure I was like this as a fetus.

Monday, August 19, 2013

say it

My job is to photograph or appropriate that which others don’t or won’t see.  Beyond that, I may put it in a conceptual or film package. Or not.  It depends if there is something else to say.  There is always so much to say but sometimes the best way to say it is to say as little as possible. Today, I've said too much.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Monday, July 22, 2013

Friday Night Party


Because I spend 15 hours in traffic during the work week, when Friday rolls around I don't feel like doing anything but crashing on the couch and watching Ingmar Bergman movies.  However, as pleasurable as that is, I feel like a loser who's wasting time.  So I've made a compromise.  I crash on my desk chair, drink alcohol and try to conquer my nemesis, PhotoShop.  I figured if I try at least once a week I won't forget what I struggled so hard to achieve.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Subplot: Scene One

I'm editing. Should lock picture at the end of the week if I decide to stop making changes.

Friday, May 03, 2013

We are just a cliché.

To Hollywood, all Hispanic actors can play all Hispanic characters and all Mexicans are the same. Case in point: The new television show The Bridge is shooting on my street today, and yesterday I asked the neighbors what they knew about it. The lady next door told me they were shooting at their house. They are getting $2,000 a day. I asked her why her house and she told me the production designer told them their house looked like a “typical Mexican house.” I wanted to say, “Maybe typical poor people’s house” but I didn’t. Their house is falling apart, and from what I can see from a distance, it’s cluttered with tacky, cheap knick-knacks. Yet, I’m a real Mexican from Mexico and if they had come into my house they would have seen modern art and photographs on the walls and eclectic décor. No clutter or knick knacks or Virgen De Guadalupe altars or plastic covered sofas. I told her that this was LA and any house could be a typical Mexican house. She shrugged.

Hollywood isn’t telling our stories; they are just using us to decorate their warped vision of the world. The production designer probably hasn’t been to Mexico. What he knows of Mexico is what he’s seen in movies. In Hollywood, deviating from formula and type is a no-no.  That’s why Hollywood entertainment is one huge boring fucking cliché. And it’s not going to get better because now they only care about the Chinese box office.

Yes, I’m a proud Mexican and I resent having to tell people how wonderful and beautiful my country is, but that’s not the only reason it bothers me. This view of the world perpetuates Americans’ ignorant view of the world. Hollywood is aiding and abetting perception of world affairs and U.S. government involvement. This is why there’s violence and death and suffering everywhere and when it happens on US soil Americans are like, “Huh, whuut happened, dude? Like, what did we do to them? It’s so sad, bro. WHY DO THEY HATE US SO MUCH?!”

This brings me to this excellent article a friend sent me a few days ago which you should read.

10 Things Most Americans Don’t Know About America

I direct your attention to No.6: The Rest Of The World Is Not A Slum-Ridden Shithole Compared To Us

“As Americans, we have this naïve assumption that people all over the world are struggling and way behind us. They’re not. Sweden and South Korea have more advanced high speed internet networks. Japan has the most advanced trains and transportation systems. Norwegians make more money. The biggest and most advanced plane in the world is flown out of Singapore. The tallest buildings in the world are now in Dubai and Shanghai. Meanwhile, the US has the highest incarceration rate in the world.”

And guess what? Migration of Mexicans is at net zero. That means just as many go in as go out of the U.S. And you know why? Because the Mexican economy is growing and the U.S.’s is still shrinking. And guess what else? We’ll be paying $20/lb. of tomatoes any time now.

Americans need to step back and take a wider look at the world. Just the way the author of the article describes in his intro:

“You know when you move out of your parents’ house and live on your own, how you start hanging out with your friends’ families and you realize that actually, your family was a little screwed up? Stuff you always assumed was normal your entire childhood, it turns out was pretty weird and may have actually fucked you up a little bit. You know, dad thinking it was funny to wear a Santa Claus hat in his underwear every Christmas or the fact that you and your sister slept in the same bed until you were 22, or that your mother routinely cried over a bottle of wine while listening to Elton John.

The point is we don’t really get perspective on what’s close to us until we spend time away from it. Just like you didn’t realize the weird quirks and nuances of your family until you left and spent time with others, the same is true for country and culture. You often don’t see what’s messed up about your country and culture until you step outside of it.”

I guess what I’m trying to say is: don’t watch Hollywood shit because it’s shrinking your brain. Subtitle reading is good for you. Trust me.

I also asked my neighbor where else in the neighborhood they were shooting. She said down the road because it looked like a typical Mexican road. I responded, “Yeah, a typical road with the LA skyline in the background.” I bet the only reason they cast Demián Bichir, a real Mexican, it's because he was nominated for an Oscar. Otherwise, they would have resurrected Jimmy Smits from wherever he is.
Like they say in typical Mexico, que chinguen a su puta madre.

Friday, March 29, 2013

War on a Good Friday

I spent my lunch hour today at the Annenberg Space for Photography at their WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY: Images of Armed Conflict and Its Aftermath exhibit. I work 50 steps away and I couldn’t be happier. One hour wasn't enough time and it's going to take several visits to absorb it all. It's first rate. They even have prints by W. Eugene Smith and Robert Capa, among other legendary photographers.

I wasn't prepared at how visceral the experience would be and I actually reached for a tissue. (I'm not a crybaby. I didn't even cry when E.T. was dying.) I urge to check it out. If you don’t live in Los Angeles, wait. It might come to you eventually. And if you do go, focus on the subjects' eyes. This exhibit would make a pacifist out of Kim Jong Un.

Have a great Good Friday.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Toñita Runs Away at the Vail Film Festival

I think this is probably the last festival screening and then I will put online.  But if you happen to be in Vail... Unfortunately, I can't attend.  I normally don't submit to festivals I can't afford to attend, but the festival programmers contacted me because they saw my film when they were programming the Baja Film Festival and asked me if they could program it at Vail.  I'm bummed because it looks like a fun festival, but it also looks very ritzy and the filmmaker rate at the Four Seasons is $400.  Gulp. I really wish I could go.

Vail Film Festival Screenings:
March 29, 2013 @ 1:30 p.m. (Piney Theater at Four Seasons)
March 30, 2013 @ 1:00 p.m. (Piney Theater at Four Seasons)

Shorts Block 1

Toñita Runs Away
Dir: Teri Carson 2012
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.

Whitely Goes to Compton
Dir: Alen Aivazian, Reese Avanessian 2013
Logline: Whitey is a hip rapper who has to go to Compton with his best friend Sky to steal marijuana from a crack house, disguised as an orphanage, to make his crazy girlfriend happy.

Dir: Oren Hod 2012
Logline: After Zvi , an 80 year-old retired general, is being told he doesn't have much time left, he returns home to plan his next steps. An interaction with his son Amir make him re-think his plans.

Juan Pablo Zaramella
Logline: In a world controlled and timed by light, an ordinary man has a plan that could change the natural order of things.

If You’re Serious
Dir: Zhi Li 2012
Logline: (Yeah, they’re serious. This is their logline. The Chinese version is only five words. Probably.)

Close up on the young face with heavy make-up. Her name is MENGMENG, 17 years old. There are two men lying by her side. Wearing a worried frown and wry smile is the younger of the two, XU HUAN; the other man looks quiet and mature, who is much elder and named WANG DAZHI. After more than half an hour of lying down on the tracks, the train"۪s whistle finally comes closer and closer""_Mengmeng insists that they should never die in such an ugly way after she sees her stuffed bear """which fell when she was pulled of the tracks-be terribly deformed by the passing train. They try to come up with a new way to commit suicide.Mengmeng, Xu Huan, and Wang Dazhi know each other through an INTERNET SUICIDE GROUP, but none of them had seen each other before. Other than getting together to die, they decide and promise each other never to ask their own backgrounds or reasons for wanting to die. When they arrive in FENGHUANG, a charming little town, the three agree on a beautiful way of committing suicide---the next night, with sleeping pills, they would depart the world painlessly and silently on a rented boat over River Tuo.Once checked in a small hotel with her partners, Mengmeng decides to get out. She wanders the streets, but inadvertently sees Wang Dazhi getting in a bus leaving for Tongren and getting off when the bus is about to depart. Acting as weird as him, Xu Huan runs into Mengmeng when he carries several bags stepping out of a costume shop and doesn"۪t say a single word. Mengmeng is curious about them, but the only thing she can think about is her own grief and sadness. Afterwards she gets drunk and gradually falls asleep along the ancient city wall.Next morning, Wang Dazhi"۪s concern over the fact that she (Mengmeng) hasn"۪t returned all night surprises her, and her curiosity drives her to look for, step by step, the reason why Wang Dazhi wants to die. Later that day, she succeeds; but doesn"۪t say anything. The three walk quietly along the city wall, in contrast to the excited tourists passing by. Mengmeng suggests playing a game to get rid of the boredom. During the game, she tentatively tries to mention Wang Dazhi"۪s secrets, but only gets his alarmed eye contact as a response.During the second night in Fenghuang, Mengmeng dials a familiar number with Xu Huan"۪s cellphone and tells the boy on the other end of the line,that she is not going to the school anymore because she has to move to another city. She coolly finishes the phone call, but collapses after hanging up. Wang Dazhi and Xu Huan break into Mengmeng"۪s room after hearing her crying and the noise she made while throwing things around. Their appearance and concern accidently makes Mengmeng calm down, especially because of Xu Huan is wearing woman"۪s dress. She decides to do something for both of her suicide partners. The things the three of them do and talk about later that night subtly makes them, for the first time, feel very close to each other.Things start to go smoothly. Ready with the sleeping pills, beer, and wine, the trio finally get on board of the boat, happily and peacefully. In the colorful reflection of River Tuo, Mengmeng, Xu Huan, and Wang Dazhi, drink, joke, and smile groggily until falling asleep, with the hopes of a dream of their next life. While cleaning, the owner of the hotel room finds a lot of white pills inside the garbage can of Mengmeng's room.When Mengmeng wakes up next morning in the hospital, Xu Huan and Wang Dazhi have already left. The only thing that looks familiar around her is the stuffed bear that has been fixed. Before she walks out of the hospital, the doctor tells Mengmeng that she should never drink that much wine. After that day, Mengmeng never see the two men again. Also, no one knows who replaced those sleeping pills before they got onto the boat that night. It could have been any one of the three; but nobody asks anymore. related links

You can check out the full program HERE.