Friday, August 20, 2010

Theatrical Trailer Available and Screening Dates Announced!

The time has come! The Official Separation Anxiety Trailer has been released as well as a corresponding web site.

Web Site

The film will screen this fall along with another brand new Glass City Films feature, Happily After, in FOUR CITIES. Here are the dates:


Highland Park, IL
Thursday, October 28 - Highland Park Theatre
Happily After ONLY!
Screening starts at 8:00pm

Chicago, IL
Thursday, November 4 - Portage Theater
Happily After and Separation Anxiety
Screening starts at 7:00pm
***Industry Event Night***

Columbus, OH
Friday, November 12 - Gateway Film Center
Separation Anxiety ONLY
Screening starts at 8:00pm

Toledo, OH
Friday, November 19 - Maumee Indoor Theater
Happily After and Separation Anxiety
Screening starts at 7:00pm

Stay Tuned!


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Topic #4: Influencial Works

First of all, I owe you, fair readers, an apology. It's nigh inexcusable that this be my first blog post in almost a month, and I hope our writer and director - and sound designer, no less - have kept you company in my stead. Chalk it up to procrastination, confusion - I would hardly call myself a successful blogger in general - and a swarm of projects that hit me all at once in the latter stages of January.

We've received a great deal of positive feedback on the teaser for Separation Anxiety, which warms our hearts immensely. It gives us hope that we're making a film that can truly strike a chord with a vast audience. A couple of people have actually asked me what influenced us in terms of previous movies and works of art to shoot it the way we did, to write it the way Jeremy's written it, and so on, and so I thought our next blog topic should be something a little more...accessible, perhaps.

Glass City, on my end at least, had more influences than original ideas, to some extent. The film was loosely based on stories I had lived or experienced vicariously through friends of mine, but certain images, lighting setups, turns of phrase, plot sequences, and themes were unintentionally cobbled together from a dozen of my favorite movies and shows. Cole, after viewing Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (my #1, in case you were wondering), told me that he understood so much more about me after watching it, and I'd argue it's a must-see for anyone who wants to dig a little deeper into the John Klein psyche. I'd also argue it gives you a bit more appreciation of, say, the Toledo montage in Glass City or the argument prior to the bridge. Again, it's unintentional, and in my opinion, understandable. It's the result of a first-time filmmaker falling back on what he knows and loves.

So, here we are. Separation Anxiety. Jeremy will surely have plenty to say about what influences drove him in his screenwriting, but I believe the trailer looks as good as it does because, for once, I was acting on original ideas and instincts. We all were. I didn't think of looks from other movies; I simply took the words on the page and lit them. That is a true testament to Jeremy's ability as a writer. The themes and visuals were already there, not in a shot-by-shot format but in a beautiful sense of feeling.

That said, I still want to talk about a few of the works that have influenced me, because they will always have a stamp on my own work. So, without further adieu...

1) Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (dir. Michel Gondry): Has there ever been a more truthful film about the nature of memory and its effect on our relationships? Has Jim Carrey ever given a more bruising performance? Has any film in recent memory committed so fully and wonderfully to its ideas and themes? The wonder of Eternal Sunshine - as well as another work down this list - is in its ability to mold a very sci-fi concept to a very universal series of thoughts and emotions. We believe that these characters exist. We know them personally. We wish they would understand how not right for each other they are, yet cheer for them to realize how perfect they are together. Pay special attention to the scene in the bookstore near the end: as all the book covers around Joel and Clementine vanish, as they reminisce in regret about their failed time together before she finally disappears, I dare you to find a more perfect scene in any movie of the past ten years. The handheld cinematography in this film, now a staple of mine, has ruined me for other directors who eschew the strategy. Even Cole hated me for it...until he saw this film.

2) Garden State (dir. Zach Braff): Okay, it's flawed. It's too quirky for its own good, it has several technical errors reminiscent of a film student's first masterwork, the plot doesn't have the stakes to back up its melodrama, and it's largely based on elements of Braff's life. Weird how much that sounds like Glass City, don't ya think? But I digress. It's also a wonderful portrayal of how solid dialogue, smartly written characters, brilliant yet unobstrusive cinematography, and a strong independent spirit - Braff wrote, starred, produced, and directed - can make a cult classic out of the slightest material and a movie I still watch when I'm feeling down to this day. Its compositional influence can be felt all over the Separation Anxiety trailer. And its perfect soundtrack, I would argue, inspired us to make sure every movie we ever do has music just as fitting. Anyone who's heard Glass City's soundtrack would wholeheartedly agree, I think.

3) LOST (TV series, prod. J.J. Abrams): The best series on primetime, period. No show blends character and concept more vividly. No matter how shark-jumping the plotlines or how mythologically dense and confusing the show gets, the scripts are always firmly rooted in the characters. This is the sci-fi I want to do someday. Ep. 1x04 "Walkabout" and Ep. 4x05 "The Constant" are must-sees for anyone who appreciates terrific, visual storytelling. Did I mention it's also the most beautiful show on TV? Guess it pays to set a show in Hawaii. I would argue that the WHOOSH sound in the Separation Anxiety trailer during shifting time periods was influenced by LOST, but I leave that to our sound mixer Jordan to speak on. Maybe I just like to think so.

4) The works of Claude Monet. Art historians have said that Monet's Impressionism was a precursor to the moving image. Stare at the Waterlilies series for a good ten minutes and try not to think you see flowing ripples in the water. Stare at the sky in his paintings of Paris and tell me the clouds don't skirt across the sky. His use of light and color to create definition, rather than sharpness, is probably why I don't mind an out-of-focus take now and again and why I prefer saturated higlights to monochrome imagery. In my opinion, color simply makes you feel more. And the lack of it can be equally striking when juxtaposed with it. Even in color-correcting our B&W short Rendezvous, I added a tint of blue to the image. It felt colder, sadder. Much of the way I shot the Bangladesh documentary Strong Bodies Fight (see the opening shots of my reel) came from those thoughts and images.

There are a dozen more, to be sure - the cinematography of Janusz Kaminski, Roger Deakins and Conrad Hall; the Matrix trilogy and Citizen Kane; the very architecture of Chicago - but I'm more interested lately in crafting works that don't directly reference anything. When creating shot lists, I would always have a list at the top of the page of films I watched for visual references. I've stopped doing that of late, and the four projects I shot over the past two weeks felt different from anything I'd done yet. It's great to know where you've come from, but sometimes it's better to wonder where you're going.


Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Art of Sound

Hi everyone, I'll keep this quick. While Cole, John, and I have lots to say about film making and the respective parts that we play in that process, we know that we are incredibly lucky to be surrounded by many talented artists, each an essential piece of an amazing jigsaw puzzle. From time to time, we'll introduce you to some of them and have them share some of their experiences working on Separation Anxiety. That brings us to our first guest blogger. I'm pleased to introduce you to Jordan Fehr.

Hello all, Jordan Fehr here. I am the Sound Designer working with Glass City Films on Separation Anxiety and I have been asked to say a bit about what I do here on the production blog.

First of all, Sound Design is both a technical and creative field, and a Sound Designer can be responsible for everything except the compositional aspects of the film's sound. The term is also now used in Video Games, Theatre, and other multimedia projects.

Anyone who has worked in film or watching some special features on a DVD with unfinished scenes knows that with our current sensibilities, that raw footage is almost unwatchable. It seems boring, flat, and fraught with mistakes. More than 50 percent of this is usually the audio. We are so used to polished film sound, where every little sound in the scene is closely controlled, that when we hear the sound from just the set, it seems cheap and bad. That is where Post Production Audio comes in. We receive the film after it has been edited, and both edit the production audio from the set, and add lots of new sound to sweeten what is there but also add sounds that SHOULD be there, but are not. Backgrounds are put in to establish time and place, Foley is added to sweeten human movement and interaction with objects, and SFX and SPFX are added for other things that make noises, or to enhance the film in some other way. On a large Hollywood movie, all the various roles that I fulfilled when working on this trailer would be done by an entire team of people.

Doing Sound Design for a trailer is a bit different than working on an entire film, because there is a lot more music and dialog, with usually no space in between, and the point is to hit them hard and fast and make your audience feel something without getting the whole picture. The trailer for Separation Anxiety came to me with pretty good production sound, and some great local music. I spent more time on the dialog and music edits than I did on anything else, because there were not a ton of SFX and Foley that needed to be done in the trailer. Dialog is the most important thing, and the music provides that much needed emotional push so those were the focus. SFX were added on scene transitions, when text comes up on screen, or to enhance something in a subtle way, like the fireworks or Bai and Jess laughing.

If I did my job right, you probably didn't notice the audio all that much, but you felt something from the trailer, and you believed that these scenes actually took place, instead of thinking about a movie being made. If you are curious about Sound Design, there have been some great DVD features about it in the past 5-8 years. I recommend the featurettes on Wall-E, King Kong and the Lord of the Rings Special Editions.


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Collaboration... from the screenwriter's POV



Two young artists command a table normally reserved for six. One is tall and softening from too much time away from the gym. He is in his late-20s. This is JEREMY. His cohort, sipping on a fresh latte, is the energy of the room. Focused, determined, early-20s, this is COLE.

Two LAPTOPS are opened before them. We join them in mid-conversation.

That's exactly what I was thinking.
And how about we try...

And then we just move this here,
take this over here... yeah... that's
gonna work.

That's one way to look at it. Jeremy here... musing on the symbiotic relationship that is the writer-director. In any film, there is a person (or people) who pen the script. The screenwriter(s). And then there's a director. The one who has to take the pages and put them onto the screen. And both sides of the coin have their own vision of what it will look like. One creates. The other interprets.

And I imagine there are varying levels of interaction between writer and director as you move through the pantheon of film. There are those that option a script, sell it, and step back as new writers come in to rewrite, reinvent, and depending on your viewpoint, destroy or improve your work. And there are those films where the screenwriter stays very, very involved. And perhaps, a few instances that fall along the in between.

Cole recently posted on this topic and brought up an idea that I'm used to seeing in theatre, and excited to see happening in film. Collaboration. As he mentioned, the script has been tightened and trimmed, and in parts, it's already evolved from its staged predecessor. As I began working with Cole and John on adapting the play, we spent hours on Skype, over email, taking up workspace at any local coffee shop that served anything worth drinking, and began to answer some of the big questions that were never fully tackled in the play. I won't give away state secrets here, but rest assured that moments of frustrating ambiguity you might have experienced if you've seen the play have been addressed to offer a more complete story arc that's more suited to film. And that was born out of many, many talks between the three of us.

Going into this new partnership, I (the writer) took a moment to think about how Cole (the director) might approach this. And then I realized two things. I'm not a mind-reader. And he just blogged about it. So, I stopped and thought about how I've directed others' writing in the past.

When I direct for theatre, I aim to realize the script as I feel the writer intended. And that choice effects how I direct actors to emote, how the pacing flows, and everything down to a costume or prop selection. And then I have to wonder if it's what the author even intended. In 2007, I directed a show called "Darkside". And it was well received. Awards were bestowed from the people in Columbus and Ohio who bestow such awards. And then, I went to see that very show, directed by the very man who wrote it, Ken Jones. We clearly had different visions for that story. Some similarities were there—mostly in the set and costumes and the number of actors on stage (actually, even there we found a way to differ).

And so I think, how great would it have been to have had Ken there to bounce ideas around with and get him to talk about why this character does what he does and all that. Make it a dialogue. The kicker? We're now connections on LinkedIn and he sent me three of his plays as a gift.

Point is, there's a want in any artist to produce the best art. Creating a conversation about a script between writer and director is one way to help ensure that happening. So, that brings us to the now, as the screenwriter (me) and the director (Cole) sit down and begin the task of polishing Separation Anxiety to the best it can be.

That's us. Being collaborators.

I was reading an interview recently featuring screenwriter Christopher Wilkinson, who co-wrote Nixon and Ali, among others. And in talking about his writing relationship with Stephen Rivele (Nixon, Ali) he made a wonderful observation about collaboration which I think is at the heart of how we are approaching the final stretch of rewrites for Separation Anxiety: "And we have absolutely no ego about the writing process; we will go with whoever has the best idea, scene to scene and line by line. If we don't agree, we go with whoever can make the most compelling or passionate case for a character, story turn, whatever."

I value Cole's artistic opinion and he value's mine, so I'm excited about the end result that sits upon the horizon. I'll be honest, Separation Anxiety is intensely personal for me, and so I won't be surprised if there are moments (as Cole mentioned) where I dig in my heels. And those heel-digging nights will be for those compelling cases that Wilkinson talks about. But in the end, I will always pen the words that serve the story in the best possible way. That is my ultimate goal with anything I write. What serves the story and the characters? And this is the one thing that any screenwriter and director need to agree on. Making the best art. Serving the story.

Thanks for reading. Coming up later in the week is a special guest posting from our Sound Designer, Jordan Fehr. Until next time...


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Answers to absences and answers to questions...

Cole here...

First off, I need to apologize for the delay! John, Jeremy, and I looked at each other and took a deep breath, deciding that three updates a week, although eventually routine, would be a little hefty so soon in the process. We decided to set up a time to keep it frequent but not overwhelming. Not a few days after this decision was made, we all became swamped, gleefully in our position...

You see, Jeremy is the playwright in residence at Theatre Daedalus where he mounted a 24 hour playwrights project. He and two of his colleagues literally stayed awake for over 35 hours, writing scripts. rehearsing, and producing a show with the head of the writing department at Kent State.

From the sound of things, the energy was fantastic at this show, and people are eagerly looking forward to the next production which, again, might be a full-length Sony experience.

My excuse? I was amidst week two of The Internationalist with Available Light Theatre in Columbus. In many ways, one of the greatest experiences I’ve had acting in Columbus. Professional troupe (lauded by American Theatre Magazine as one of the hippest companies in the country) and great work done in the shortest rehearsal time I’ve ever experienced. 11 days by opening night... The reviews were wonderful, and the show did exactly as we set out to achieve.

And lastly, but certainly not least... John Klein, our producer, was in Oklahoma for the Trail Dance Film Festival, ranked one of the top 25 festivals in the country. There, Glass City was nominated for best drama, best director, best actress, best actor, and best in festival.

As if that weren’t enough, our short, Rendezvous, was also selected to compete and was VERY well received with wonderful feedback, a gasp at the end, and many filmmakers saying we should make a feature out of it. 

Oh, and Glass City took best drama.

So there we are. Guilty. Our writer being overly in-demand as a writer. Our director finishing up a wonderful experience downtown at the Riffe Center. And our producer, seeing our major vehicle to awards and accolades, and bringing the name of Glass City Films to filmmakers across the country. 

I can’t exactly say we’re sorry for the absence. Just the 24 hour days being so numbered.

But a question was volleyed... in my direction is would seem.

Writers and directors. Directors and writers.

There is a naive notion, it would seem, that writers hand their script off to directors and wave goodbye. The notion is also that the director is handed a script and tells people where to stand, where to set up, and how to say it right.

Any famous play or movie you see comes to you with the finished touches. It has the by line: writer. And the picture line: director. It carries the fact that the production has compartmentalized craft. But along with that, it carries that stigma that it has compartmentalized the responsibilities. 

When the reality is they bleed into each other.

These first revisions of the screenplay involved Jeremy trimming and tightening. Put simply, Jeremy did what he could to subtract. He cut the fat from the muscle. Now that the film is a lot leaner, although still rich, we can see what it’s true strengths are. I developed a concept over a few days last week, which was sent to John as a producer and DP and to Jeremy as a writer. The concept basically focuses the part of the script that I think holds the real story. The strongest part of the animal. The concept can be answered with two things:

A) Complete agreement, where Jeremy would love how I see the piece being stronger, and he would write to enhance those qualities. Here, in essence, he would be adding instead of subtracting.

B) Or he could disagree. At least in part. And I couldn’t hope for anything better.

And that is where the responsibility is shared. Yes, it’s my picture. Yes, it’s Jeremy’s screen-play. But it is our responsibility. And as I tell him to add and subtract to his side of the fulcrum, he will ask me to do the same. And seeing the metaphor all the way through: we achieve a balance. A film that is not too heavy in either way. Where the director does more than tell the DP to his record and tell the actors say the words, but also where the words tell a beautiful story and the director is able to get out of the way and stay behind the camera.

And the beauty of this system is that we can repeat (B) until (A) happens. But that’s where collaboration gets tricky. It is utterly impossible to be objective and fresh in your art unless you come across (B). Otherwise, it’s heavy handed in one way or another. But once you find someone to disagree with you, you need to respect each other enough to achieve (A) before the principal photography. Otherwise, it’s a tug-of-war and nothing can grow out of it.’s like math. 

Let D = director. Let C=concept. Let W= writer. Let S=script. Let A= agree. and let B=disagree.

C(D+S)= (+or-)S(C+W) 

You just have to balance the equation.

Then mutiply by (A) or divide by (B) depending on how you work together.

Jeremy, would you like to explain it better?


Monday, January 12, 2009

Answer #1... When the words aren't making sense

Jeremy here. Answer time. A few days ago, we got a question and Cole was nice enough to field it my way as it had to do with how we approach things in the script that aren't working, or maybe won't ring true at second blush. The short answer? We fix it.

(insert canned laughter here)

And that's where rewrites come into play. For example, if this post were a sitcom, I'd know that the "fix it" line bombed a little bit and I would promptly strike it out of existence. Since this answer deals with rewrites, I posted it AFTER my normal weekly blog, which dealt with creation.

Rewrites. Some writers hate them and other can't get enough. I'm of the latter variety. I want the script to be in top-form. As Cole mentioned, there was a massive rewrite about a week or so ago. Now, that sounds drastic. The story is still very much intact. It's just trimmed. It got liposuction—trimming out the fat to such a degree that it dropped nearly 30 pages. 30 pages that weren't working.

How do I know it's not working? I read it. Over and over and over. And then I have John and Cole read it. Over and over and over. And everyone makes suggestions.

Each time we read the script, we look for the best and the worst of everything. I need to make sure I keep the good stuff, but I also want to continually rid the script of flaws... connect the dots... and make it, you know... boss. So we look for dialogue that's klunky. Or perhaps some scene doesn't work because we moved it or rewrote its lead-in. And any number of things might work in draft 4 but not in draft 31.

The movie script has been changed in numerous ways from its staged counterpart. The screenplay went through several drafts to get itself adapted. And there are scenes we couldn't do on stage that we're free to do now.

So we keep rewriting and polishing. And then there's more reading. And it keeps getting better.

Thanks for the question!


Sunday, January 11, 2009

Characters... one word at a time.

I'm excited to tackle our second blog topic because Separation Anxiety, from the beginning, has always been about the characters. In my last post, I wrote on the evolution the story took from short fiction to stage play to film. The characters themselves have evolved, but I also want to touch on where they come from, and how a writer uses words to define a character to an actor and an audience.

The best films, to me, are built on characters that we, the audience, can identify with. We want to be the hero. Save the day. Find true love. But I don't connect with escapism (there's a reason it's called escapism). I know I'm not John McClain. But maybe I see myself in the Lester Burnams of the world. Or the Tyler Durdens (of the Ed Norton variety).

When creating a character, I sometimes pull from my own experiences, memories, beliefs, and borrow pieces of myself to form someone new. Equally, I will draw from observation—the people around me, friends, strangers, and research. And the third part of the equation is imagination. Putting myself into a situation and living it. Experiencing, or at least projecting an experience.

I don't know how all writers write. Wouldn't claim to and I won't say this is some secret formula for how to write a character in ten days. Just my take.

Quinn was the first. And in the beginning, he was me. I wrote him in a cathartic moment and it wasn't until later that I thought he might have more purpose than I first gave him. So he was slowly and carefully designed to be a facet of me, rather than a mirror. And all that is well and good, but still, most of that is just in my notes. The characters in the film were mapped out and their back stories drawn out. The trick, is to convey that through the words, since a movie script doesn't work like a novel. You don't write the intangible. "Don't write what we can't see." It's a popular idiom in film. And very helpful in forcing a writer to think visually and vocally when putting character down on paper.

Quinn, for example, is described as having a spartan room. He dresses older than he is. He drives a nice car. The things around him in the script are used to define him to both the director and the actor. Hints from the writer as to the man Quinn is, or thinks he is. This comes through in his speech pattern as well. Quinn uses longer words when he can. Not because he needs to, but because he likes to hear himself say them. In a script, the way a person uses words defines him.

Bailey, conversely, doesn't use big words unless they're the right words. He's more casual with his language. And more straightforward. He doesn't talk around things. The only time in the script he is not completely himself is when he's trying to talk about Jess to Quinn. She makes it tough for him to say what's on his mind, and when a character is otherwise great at speaking his mind, when he can't, there's reason for that.

Jess uses a mix of phrases in her speech, little saying that she makes up. Her way of playing with words. If there's something she doesn't want to talk about, she'll say it another way. Not passive, but subtle.

Mr. Palmer words skew older than the three youngsters. For him I has to go listening. I'm not his age. I didn't grow up in his life. His words needed to showcase his midwestern, blue-collar life. So as a writer, one of my first responsibilities is to listen, to read, to hear. How people talk. Go sit in a bar for a while and nurse a drink (at a bar that reflects the people you're trying to recreate). You'll be amazed at the gems you'll pick up. I heard one today at a skating party of my youngest cousin. You'll no doubt see it appear in something of mine one day (I'll let you know when that happens).

Lily was another character that required research. She speaks in languid sentences. Lots of words that give her the sense of being someone who counsels people. She asks questions and has a mix of compassion and bluntness that keeps her honest. To that end, she doesn't speak in specifics until forced. Most of her words bring us back to Quinn. She uses phrases to redirect conversation away from her in an attempt to protect herself.

One of the great challenges of any script, is creating a universe of characters that speak independently of each other. Different lilts, tones, cadence, and especially word choice will create a script full of different characters, rather than a group of people that all talk like the screenwriter.

Jess began in another play. She and her mother Ruth have their own story and I realized about three pages into it, that she knew Bailey too. That she was going through the same thing Quinn was. And that'll happen when a writer starts two project at the same time. You realize quickly that you're just writing one project and the second isn't going to make it. So you pull from it what you can and keep going.

But for all the character work a writer does, there's a group of people coming along who will take those characters and give them life. I love working with actors on a script. Listening to an actor read a line can give me a view of that character I hadn't seen. And that gets the juices flowing and then sometimes the character changes. But then I'm a collaborative writer. I know that eventually an actor will put his or her own spin onto a character I conceptualize. It's like potential and kinetic energy. I just need to make sure from my end that I give the actor the most potential possible for putting a brilliant character on the screen.

This past weekend I watched a short piece of theatre where an actress took on a role originally meant for a man. The last-minute gender switch brought such a level of importance to one line later in the show, that I can't see it written any other way. And I encouraged the writer to make the switch permanent. Because of one actress.

With another draft done for "Separation Anxiety", I'm working with Cole and Kiana to fine-tune the characters of Bailey and Jess in the film and each subsequent draft. They have both taken great care to examine the text, the words these people use, the actions they take through these words, and talk with me about them. Their motives. Their tenets. Their throughlines. A strong actor knows how to study a character, and that is invaluable to a writer.

I think all writers should take acting classes. Being on a stage, and not just to be there, but to engage and bring a piece to realization, is amazing and has, through my own experience in theatre work, taught me a bit about how actors approach their characters. How they might interpret someone I create.

Different actors have different speech patterns and different facials and movement, and that all goes into how they build the characters. And sometimes a word might work better for this actor than a different one. So lines are tweaked to play to a strength.

At the same time, every word a character says has to be carefully considered. A hesitation in the wrong place and they look weak when you wanted them to look strong. A vulgarity for no reason in a character that doesn't use them looks sloppy. Hip new phrases rolling off the tongue of an old fashioned guy (not being used for comedy or effect) looks odd. The words they use in dialogue, and the words I use for their description, should shape them, grow them, and more than anything, define them.

So like the actors, I go through the script. A pass for each character. Tracing their steps. And each time through I see something new. Something I missed before or just caught in a different light.

Overall, I look to give each character a distinct voice. A clear motive in what they do—a character says one thing but does another, and that incongruity grates against the audience. And honestly, they just need to speak to me. I identify with each of them, and through that I keep developing them. My goal is to make them real. Because if they're ever displaying anything that makes the actors and audience question that, then I've missed a step in their development.

Great topic... but now I'm going to answer our first question. Look for the posting tonight as well. More next week.


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