Friday, March 29, 2013



I keep hearing the words Fair Share, and have come to the conclusion most who use this term have no idea what they are talking about.

For some reason, this term has been used as a political object, but when you analyze the use of the term the answer is utterly amusing. If I may be bold enough, here are a few examples.

1.              FAIR to me means: “It is just to ALL parties, equitable and consistent with logic and being direct and to the point. The key word, “all” speaks volumes.

2.              SHARE: Means to take a part, or, more to the point, participate in a portion of the whole.

3.              A Fair Share would amount to everyone’s participation in the whole and, therefore, guide to  what an equitable amount would be.

4.              Participation in the whole is unique in theory because that would suggest everyone would experience a collective collaboration to assist and help each other.

When my grandfather was a young man, he agreed to rent a farm that happened to have a house on the property. He had no job or money, so in lieu of paying rent or buying the property, he agreed to run the farm, sell the crops and share the earning with the landlord. In short my grandfather became a sharecropper.

So what is a Fair Share? Children need a fair share with love, time, teaching, hugging and preparing them for adulthood. This is expected of parents, so that's a fair share, right?

Where does the experience young workers starting out come from? How about we create a fair share department to educate those who need to learn, launch the business doors and welcome new blood in, even those who need a little more time to develop their skills?

What about the young woman growing up in a man’s world? Isn't the female work force entitled to their fair share of salaries paid? What if she’s better than her male counterpart, wouldn’t that make her a candidate for receiving a larger share of the fair share earnings pool?

Young filmmakers, in a business I love and work intensely to keep current, have to learn by trial and error almost every new concept we put on film. Most of us start at the bottom.
At times, we are so far to the right or left we feel as though we’re standing in the alley searching for the door to the world so we can enter. The odd part of the film industry is, you work, learn, have co-workers who give their share of knowledge and therefore you develop, take chances, have a support team behind you and end up earning your fair share of the standard normal. The standard expected is unique in the entertainment industry because you realize what is normal for you and then find a comfort zone of which allows you to share your knowledge with others.

In the real world, you know, the one we live in daily? We raise our children to honor and respect others. We tell them to trust, behave, listen, and love one another. We ask them to share their toys with siblings, and clothes when outgrown. We learn to share books, rides, and instructions. We help fellow students to excel, and we love competition. We learn all of this early on in life, and then we grow up, and nothing is the same. Why? Have you ever asked yourself why we have to grow up and leave all that fun behind? It’s because the fair share slowly slips from our fingers.

Evaluating the Fair Share concept, someone is at fault. Whom do we blame for having to grow up and face reality? Whose fault is it life gets so complicated? We can blame mom, and dad, or grandpa and grandma, but it’s not actually their fault. We can blame the bosses of the world, but in reality they work for someone just like we do. So whom do we blame?

Politicians! It's their fault, isn't it? I mean, they make the laws and then they break them. They spout the truth one moment, you know, the reality we want to hear? Then they turn around and do the real truth, what we don’t want to hear. Regardless of party or alliance, with or without religious belief, with or without sexual orientation, it has to be their fault. We’re on an endless road going nowhere, unless, of course, we get hold of what a Fair Share means and then actually live by it. The politicians, who, by the way, work for us, do not honor or participate in the Fair Share mandate. They exclude themselves from conventional insurance and vote to give themselves a lifetime retirement fund, and I don’t know anyone who has ever been asked if that is okay. I think they should participate in the fair share program. Right now we have a bunch of people who like to argue and solve nothing. That’s not giving us a Fair Share of running the government we hired them to do.

We need to create a Fair Share that will benefit All of us, not just a few. It doesn’t take a financial genius to figure out if everyone paid something on a sliding scale, it would trigger an enormous amount of money that currently doesn’t exist.

I love the country I live in and have never complained when tax time comes, and I must pay my share in taxes. That’s not to say I haven’t used deductions, but there always seems to be an number I owe at the end of the day. I believe we all owe our country something. We owe because life here is exceptional and therefore I came up with a creative idea of what a Fair Share should be.

First, every taxpayer should pay something? Not maybe, but a minimal amount and let’s just call it an trade for the privilege of living in the country. What if the country was a large farm and like my grandpa, all of us were the farmers? What if we paid a fee to maintain the country, the freedom to travel and experience our daily lives? Wouldn’t that amount to a Fair Share?

I know quite a few wealthy people. Some pay taxes and some have never paid a dime. The funny part of saying that is, I know many others who aren’t wealthy but do the same thing in paying no taxes. These people, all of them collectively who pay nothing, owe their Fair Share.

Remember, fair means all, share is to provide or pay a portion. At the end of each year, every single adult should pay something, right?  I know there is an argument that slides up the ladder of logic, and I can hear them screaming that some can’t afford to pay a dime. I don’t agree with that either. I believe in my heart everyone should and can pay something for the privilege of living here.

So you start this so called Fair Share Mandate, why can’t we start with say Three Dollars ($3) a month as a first tear on the sliding schedule. Everyone can afford $3. I mean that's only $36. a year for an unbelievable privilege. Doesn't that sound, right? From there, a sliding scale would be created, $5 for some, $10 a month for others and so on. Every dollar levied and collected would be based on gross income solely, before any deductions whatsoever. The more you earn, the more you pay up to a point. This would go for corporations to, and all companies with offices or headquarters in this country. A set minimum would equal a fair share from everyone regardless of how much they make.

This would have nothing to do with deductions or other safety nets we all have and enjoy, this has to do with the crops (or freedom if you will) that we enjoy throughout the year and the rent that’s required for using them. It is for the privilege of living here, but as it is most don't pay for it. Oh wait, yes the actual taxpayers who pay taxes do pay for our privileges, all of us. Sadly those who pay nothing end up with the same gifts as those who pay for them. That’s not a fair share.

The wealthy can’t pay for everything. That’s not fair either. Those who aren’t wealthy, but have the desire to become wealthy, need to keep their dream alive, but like anything else in life that privilege should have a minimum fee so the Fair Share would be paid by everyone.

There are a lot of extremely well educated people who could figure out the exact numbers, so no one in particular gets hurt. If everyone paid something the national debt would melt away, and our freedoms  improve immensely. If every tax return ended with this minimum fee, I believe all of us would feel as though we did our part, however, small it might be.

I hear politicians from all parties talking about how they speak for everyone, but that’s not true. They speak for a handful, and that’s a long way from all of us and it’s not just.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to pay higher taxes either, but there is a reason we all need to participate in the wellbeing of our country. Every country needs this wisdom. What’s the old saying, “There are no free rides.” Well guess again. Last time I read a study, it stated over half of everyone living here paid nothing and to me that’s a free ride.

We will end up with a flat tax eventually, but that is probably miles down the road and around the bend. Wouldn’t it make sense to set up a minimum tax, so all paid their fair share? Come on, $3 bucks a month is affordable, it is. It’s one less pack of cigarettes or giving up a coke or a few cups of coffee. It’s doable.

Until the day comes when we actually elect people who can think for all of us by doing the right thing for all of us, something needs to be done now. When I look at the list of stupid things the government spends our money on, it makes me sick. Shame on us for allowing someone to do this and say it’s on our behalf. Shame on us for not speaking up and demanding the fair share should be for everyone.

At times, we are like the blind leading the blind, and we accept whatever is said to be the truth. Participating in a Fair Share program would eliminate cheaters, would stop those taking a free ride at our expense and force the responsibility of everyone to participate in keeping the country sound and maybe to get us out of debt. It doesn’t take a financial genius to figure out if everyone paid something, it would create a substantial amount of money. A resource that currently doesn’t exist. With a constant and continuous stream of expected revenue, it would improve our lives. More importantly, this would be a fantastic thing for all of us when the constant flow of new revenue reduced the national debt. I’m just saying … a fair share should be fair.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Dressing a Movie

 Dressing A Movie

One of my favorite things to do as a film director is to dress a movie before production begins. So many people from all over the world ask me how this is done and how I do it. While there are many aspects of filmmaking that are fun, this happens to be one of my favorites.

It’s hard to put things you enjoy in an order you can explain. As for me, filmmaking from the beginning to the end is still and will always be exhilarating to me. Casting, locations, set dressing, rehearsing, and then principal photography. Once you get underway, nothing will stop the progress. After principal photography ends, more fun begins in the editing room where you reconstruct the movie again from the ground up. You get to move things around. Like a big puzzle, you can use the “little shots” you created and see if they work. Soon you become thoroughly immersed in the task of completing the director's final cut. This may not be the final-final cut as you might test it with an audience or the studio or distributor may, and most likely will, ask for changes. When it’s all done, you sit in the back of a theatre and watch and listen to the audience. There is nothing more rewarding than to hear them giggle in the right places, scream or cry in others that you planned and designed from the ground up.

When the action begins.

You acquire or write a brilliant script. You are the director and team with a group of people who say they are producers. They raise production funds and prove their worth by getting you a green light for production and distribution.

You start pre-production, and that means you have a whole lot of work to do. It’s like an architect planning a building. He needs a blueprint, and the filmmaker must create the look of the film. Some significant casting may already be in place, but the roles still open will lay the groundwork for how the outcome of the film will look. As casting begins and interviews are lined up, you go back to the production look you want on the film.

You go on a tech scout, that’s where you check locations, find the perfect place to shoot and lay out each shot so they can be effortlessly edited into the final cut of the film. Sometimes you have a storyboard drawn up for each major shot, and sometimes you just make lots of notes.

While you examine each area of each interior location, you also think about how they should look when fully dressed. What might be in the background and what products, if any, would be used by each of your characters. This also helps with how your characters look and what they wear and more importantly how YOU want them dressed.

On a desk in a location office, for example, would they have a computer? If so would it be a desktop or laptop? With each decision comes more choices such as, should you use a wide screen iMac, or smaller Windows component? Maybe the characters use a tablet like an iPad, Google or Samsung product, and that creates more choices. If the character has a Mac computer, he most likely would also use an iPad and have an iPhone on the desk and one in hand. If the character uses a Windows or Android product, a multitude of choices open. With all these choices and the time needed to watch over each one, you realize you needed help from a product placement company. A real pro who can and will shorten the process. Without help,  this chore could take months instead of days.

There are lots of product placement companies, and some require you use their client’s products exclusively while other companies just want their clients goodies to be seen on the big screen. Some large companies manage their own product placement, which requires a phone call from the producer or director.

For example, if two of your characters wear tennis shoes and you as the filmmaker want them to be unique. Your first thought is Nike or Reebok but then you start looking around at K-Swiss, Rockport, Jordan, Adidas, Puma, New-Balance and get dizzy. You end up discussing this with your wardrobe people and they eventually bring you various shoes and styles to choose from.

Does the script call for a car in the garage or a motor home in the driveway? Are the characters well off and live in a spacious house luxury condo or is your cast regular blue-collar workers? It’s essential to know your characters and their backgrounds. Even in the make believe world, much depends on the end look. If you over dress them, and have them drive a Mercedes or BMW when they are written in the screenplay as a hard working middle income family, they would look utterly ridiculous driving an expensive car they couldn’t afford. General Motors, Ford, Hyundai, Nissan and Toyota all have product placement offices along with several other companies and they all want screen time. As for motor homes, that’s a different story.

A few years ago I called Winnabego, and they said yes. It looked fantastic on screen, and the company was frightfully happy. They even gave me a loaner when we finished the picture to spend a couple of weeks and enjoy the road. Over the years,  we’ve used Lazy Daze, Fleetwood and Newmar products and found them all extremely accommodating and were thrilled with the end results.

You end up with lots of choices from furniture, bedding, televisions and kitchen products. You have clothes to deal with, along with shoes and other personal items. Your characters might wear Levi’s or Wrangler at home and fancy suits at the office. The look changes much of the final look, and this too can easily be overdone with the use of too much.

As you move around each location and understand each one has a different look, and then you might face the need for multiple diverse ways to decorate each set. You have, of course, the professionals of your crew to depend on, but most directors have certain things they want to allow their vision the satisfaction and nature of the director’s identity. A look that’s only in their head and at times the needs pops up, and you must reach out for help in unlikely places.

Your Set Dresser and Art Director help with most items seen on the set unless you have a plan and then you must talk to them and share the vision you have in your head so they can help to clarify that look. Thankfully most professionals know the shortcuts needed to prepare a kitchen with current products from food, to soft drinks, beer and spirits. What’s on the counter or in the fridge? If they have s bar, what kind of alcohol would be stocked on the shelves?

Your Costume personnel know ways to dress your characters with jeans, shoes, shirts, jackets and most of the time you put things in their competent hands. Once again, the director may demand that look. A fabric or color or one that doesn’t exist and in comes the Wardrobe pro to help out or arrange to have what you want created and produced.

We talked about a storyboard and sometimes they genuinely help define the look and vision of the director. Of course, you always have to have permission and release forms to use most products even though it’s advertising and in some cases a boost to the industry as it might create a new fad. You still need the right to use and to avoid a liability lawsuit.

Before you begin principal photography, hopefully you get most if not all of these movie dressing needs out of the way because once you get started it’s most likely too late to change or add something new. Time becomes treasured, and you quickly realize you have none to waste. The cost of production, when broken down by the hour, can swiftly wake you up. The pace you specify will make or break the result of your film.

When you make a studio film, much of this is done in-house, but when you are independent and raise the production funds on your own, all of the above falls into your lap. If you slow down and take a few deep breaths, the fun of it all is unexplainable.

The whole idea of dressing a movie is to make sure the look and inspiration you started out with are completed when it’s all over. It’s a whole lot of work, but boy is it fun. To prep is the beginning of your creation, to shoot becomes pure excitement, and then comes the editing and music score during post-production, and when you put it all together … that’s what filmmaking is all about. There is certainly nothing else in the world that consumes you with the adrenaline rush that comes from starting with nothing and ending with a motion picture you created from the ground up.