Life in Hollywood, below-the-line

Life in Hollywood, below-the-line
Work gloves at the end of the 2006/2007 television season (photo by Richard Blair)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Wednesday Potpourri

Potpourri -- that’s quite a word. Hearing it (pronounced po-per-ee) has always conjured up the image of a little bird’s nest full of baby popes, eeping and cheeping with their mouths wide open, hungry for food – the holy wafer, maybe (remember: swallow, don’t chew!) -- but that’s just so wrong on so many levels, I really don’t know where to start...

So let’s try the dictionary: securely tucked between “pot pie” and “pot roast” in my twenty-five year old Websters (hey, it was new when I bought it), "potpourri" apparently comes a French term meaning “rotten pot.” At least that’s what it meant in 1749, according to Mr. Webster, whose modern English definition comes as “a mixture of flowers, herbs, and spices that is usually kept in a jar and used for scent.”

I’m not quite sure how “rotten pot” morphed into the ubiquitous bag of dried weeds with the cloying fragrance none of us can escape during the commercial horror of Christmas season (which will soon descend upon us like a tinsel-and-flocked Black Plague), but there are many mysteries in life, and this one falls way down the list. For the purposes of a mid-week post, let’s settle on definition Number Two: “a miscellaneous collection,” because that’s exactly what this is – a few things you might want to see, listen to, and read.

First up is a trailer for a brand new indy documentary called “Official Rejection,” directed by Paul Osborne with help from Scott Storm, who has directed two indy features of his own, including Ten til Noon.

In Paul’s own words: “OFFICIAL REJECTION is a comedic documentary about the harrowing and hilarious challenges independent filmmakers face getting into, and surviving, film festivals. Featuring interviews with such luminaries as Kevin Smith, Jenna Fischer, Andy Dick, Chris Gore, and Bryan Singer, the award winning OFFICIAL REJECTION has been praised by critics, called ‘one of the funniest and best films of the year’ (Edward Havens, Filmjerk).”

I’ve met neither of these gentlemen nor seen their films (yet), but the trailer for “Official Rejection” is a blast to watch. It’s snappy, funny, and very energetic -- and from where I sit, it reverberates with the truth. If the film lives up to this trailer, it’ll be something everybody who has ever dreamed of being an indy film maker should see.


This week’s offering on KCRW’s “The Business” (FM 88.9 on Mondays at 2:30 pm PST) was particularly interesting, leading off with a brief discussion of the impact Irving Thalberg had on Hollywood and the studio system before raising the curtain for the main event: a fascinating interview with producer Jason Blum, who stumbled across the extremely low budget ($15,000) horror feature “Paranormal Activity,” fell in love with it, then took the film under his wing on a roller-coaster ride through the labyrinth of Hollywood to eventual (and current) release. Seriously, you’ve got to listen to this to believe the hoops Blum had to leap through just to complete a seeming simple task -- bring to market a film he really, truly believed in. Even this veteran producer had no idea just how hard it can be to take a non-mainstream “product” from the hinterlands of Obsuristan to a Hollywood release. But here in Tinsel Town, where the one-eyed man is king, nothing is ever simple.

It’s Chinatown, Jake...

The connection here with Official Rejection is that although thrusting your indy labor-of-love into the public eye and up onto the screen may be brutally difficult, it can be done.


The legendary sports writer Red Smith once said “Writing is easy. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open up a vein.” Truth be told, he probably said it more than once, and if I don’t agree with everything this old school hard-ass came up with (notably his low opinion of the great boxer Muhammad Ali), he got this one right.

A while back I recommended you take a good look at the new kid here in Industry Blogville. I’ve been closely following “The Hills Are Burning” ever since, and A.J. has yet to disappoint. In her most recent post, she took a chance – a leap of faith, if you will -- departing from her usual lean and punchy description of the absurdities, inequities, and indignities endemic to this silly business to write something very different indeed. She didn’t just open up a vein this time – she sewed her heart on her sleeve, then sliced open an artery and bled all over the keyboard.

This is something you should read. Anyone already in the biz will understand and resonate with her words, while those of you planning to break into the Industry will get a glimpse of what lies ahead. In the early days of this blog, I offered my own take on the subject, but A.J. tells her story from a woman’s POV, and it’s really good.

If you haven’t already, do yourself a favor and check it out.

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