Suit Up.

November 30, 2017

Part one of this blog is inspired by the amazing retrospective of Iron Man from the Vanity Fair article. A highly recommended read before reading my look back: 10 Year Retrospective on Iron Man

10 years ago I was hired to work on a tiny indie movie called, “Iron Man”……

….as a member of the crew. My role was what is known as an additional PA. (production assistant)

IRON_MAN

I am Iron Man.

An additional PA is when the crew has a ton of shit going on and need some additional crew members to wrangle things, fly in a cup of coffee when needed and assist in all area’s of the production.

I was only able to get the gig because one of my roommates at the time (Jason) had worked as a PA on Spider-man 3 and most of that crew was moving over to the first ‘Iron Man’ movie.

He put in the call and I was hired!

I was OVER the moon. I was already a HUGE Marvel fan and I absolutely could not wait to work on this. I knew going in that once additional PA’s were no longer needed, they would be cut, but I didn’t care. I was going to fucking hustle and I was going to make sure I was useful for whatever they needed!

Call Time for crew was 5:30 AM on our first day. Jason and I were up and out the door and made the drive down to Playa Vista Studios. In the next soundstage over they were shooting another tiny indie movie called ‘Avatar’.

We pull up into crew parking and I step out of the car into the brisk air. I was fucking ready.

But first, I needed a breakfast burrito.

After I grabbed that, I was fucking READY.

bonesaw-is-ready

I was given a walkie, a call-sheet and an ear piece. For those not in the know, walkie’s and ear pieces is how the crew talks to each other across the sound stages, wardrobe trailers, ect. We’re assigned channels and we can “get eyes” on talent or run a quick errand when needed, quickly and efficiently.

I looked down at the call sheet and at all the crew members running around, getting the very first shot of the day off. The very first ever shot of what would kick off not only the movie, but the MCU as a whole. (although, at the time — MCU was honestly in it’s infancy)

It suddenly hit me. I had only PA’ed like, twice in my fucking life. I froze.

i-have-no-idea-what-im-doing-08

Well, I HAVE made movies for a long time and waaaayyy before all of this, I did a shit ton of background work and also went to film school, so I’m gonna do the most important thing here and shut the fuck up and listen on the walkie for ANY help and I’ll just volunteer to do it.

So — I did.

Anytime people needed anything, other additional PA’s who were pretty tired or burnt out, would shuffle around, but I’d fucking HUSTLE.

WALKIE – (kssst) – Uh, can anyone grab this thing and bring it to that thing?

ME – Copy that. This is Nick, I’m on it.

10 minutes later.

WALKIE – (Ksssst) – We need RDJ on set.

ME – Yup. Nick. On it.

WALKIE – (KSSST) – Can someone grab Jeff Bridges when he lands on set, ple-

ME – I got eyes on Mr. Bridges now, I’m on it.

My first day was ELECTRIC. I couldn’t believe I was working on Iron Man. I ate it up and when I was locking up a position or any time I could, I’d listen and study how they were solving their problems while filming and it dawned on me that big budget movies have a lot of the same problems my micro-budget movies did. At least I knew then that the universal language of making films was the same, regardless of budget. If anything can go wrong, it fucking will and you have to pivot and adjust as quick as you can without tipping the entire ship over.

Sometime after lunch, I started feeling odd.

My entire left leg started to hurt while standing.

The numbing pain shot up past my thigh and oddly into my testicle and into my stomach. Something was way, way off. I tried to shake it off because I was in a lock up position, holding it down. Had a job to do. Would Tony Stark abandon his post? Nope. This was my very first day and I’m going to LOCK DOWN this area no matter WHAT HAPPENS! You hear me? NO. MATTER. WH-….oh shit.

I waved over one of our other additional’s.

“Dude. Can you please cover for me? I’m in a lot of pain and need to go 10-1.”

“You okay?”

“I don’t know, I think so.”

I hobbled to the agonizing 500 feet to the bathroom on the soundstage. Threw open the doors and only made it to the fucking trash can near the sinks before I threw up everywhere. It would NOT stop.

Another PA came in, saw what was up, and sent me to the on-set medic. He took one look at me, sat me down and gave me a trash can to throw up into. Repeatedly throw up into.

I thought I was fine. I thought all I needed to do was throw up whatever this was and I could get right back to work. There was no way I was going to let this stomach-who-hah fuck up my shot here. I remember what Jason told me when I was hired. Additional PA’s are expendable, man.

I wasn’t about to work one half day on Iron Man only to get sick as fuck and never come back.

The second AD poked her head in the door, took one look at me hugging the trash can like I was a five year old hugging my teddy bear.

“Yeah. You’re done. Go home.”

“No. No, I can still work. Let me just throw all this up.”

She smiled at me.

“No, you’re done for the day. Rest up and come back tomorrow. I’ll get a transpo guy to drive you home.”

I nodded. Got some medicine from the on set medic and wobbled over to the truck to catch a ride.

The poor transpo guy, he had to pull over like three additional times so I could puke on the side of the road.

White as a sheet I crawled into my bed and slept for 14 straight hours until call time the next morning.

My eyes shot open when the alarm went off. I looked around and tentatively sat up.

OK. I actually feel, much, much better. Cool. I can do this!

Jason and I drove down to set for Round 2 and my hustle was in over drive.

iron-man-1-robert-downey-jr-1

IRON MAN ONE. CAVE SET.

We were filming the entire cave scene in this sound stage and it was amazing. All week long, I did whatever the production needed. That Friday I was introduced to something I had not seen before. It was called, “Five Dollar Friday” and the art department took a giant five gallon bucket, attached a rope to it, painted it to look cool as hell and would give it to a PA to try and fill up, with you guessed it, money.

Essentially the game works like so. I would go around to all the departments and every single crew person I could think of and that crew person would take a dollar, or five or ten or twenty bucks and write their name and department on it. They would then shove it in the bucket.

Once I talked to everyone, I made sure to make additional circles through out the whole 12 hour shoot day.

“Hey, Nick! What’s the total up to now?”

“About 600. You gonna get in on this again? That’s high, dude.”

They’d smile and throw in even more.

One of the departments I’d hit up was the editing bay.

I remember it was the first time I had even seen RDJ as Tony. When the scene was over Dan the editor turned to me. My jaw was open.

“Holy shit, dude. Robert is a really good Tony Stark. That scene was awesome, man!”

Dan was pretty pleased with it too. I would get to see bits and pieces more as we shot it, usually on additional Five Dollar Friday’s.

Later that same day, I had to grab RDJ from his trailer.

He was pacing back and forth, door open, running lines.

“Hey, Robert? They’re ready for you on set, man.”

“Yeah? Now?”

“…yup.”

“Cool. Lemme grab my jacket and we’ll walk over.”

As we walk, I turn to him and say, “Hey dude! I’m a pretty big Marvel fan and Dan showed me a clip of what we’ve shot and you’re a really good Tony Stark!”

“Great! I’d hate for you to be like, “Yeah, I’m heading to set with Robert now…psssh, he’s a fucking poser.”

The guy was seriously hysterical.

“What’s the bucket up to now?” He asked.

“Almost 850.”

“That’s high.”

“Yeah, I’m hustling.”

He smiled and I dropped him off on set and kept up the rounds for this bucket. By wrap at the end of the day, I had the bucket up to over 1,000 dollars. Usually, for moral, the actors and/or the director would MATCH whatever was in the bucket too.

We all gathered round video village at wrap time, Jon Favareau (the director), Kevin Fiege (producer) RDJ and the rest of the team stood around in a half circle as I reached deep into the bucket and grabbed the winning dollar.

It was a guy nicknamed Scooby from the Grip department. Scooby (and the other G and E peeps) were pleased as punch. They were all gonna go drinking that night. Scooby grabbed a wad of bills and shoved them toward my chest.

“Is that a good bonus?”

I was shocked.

“Uhhh, yeah, man.”

He reached in a grabbed more.

“How’s that?”

“That’s excellent, Scooby. Thanks, dude.”

I couldn’t believe it. This movie was the best. What a week.

I remember as we drove home that night, I was on such a natural high. I absolutely couldn’t believe how amazing this was and how lucky I felt to have been included in a small way on a movie that would ultimately kick off a historic and unprecedented connected film universe.

I turned to Jason.

“Hey, sir. Thank you SO much for this opportunity. I really mean it. Part of this is yours.”

I handed him a cut of the Five Dollar Friday bucket.

“Yeah, man.” he replied in his trademark raspy voice. “You did good. Giselle (the AD) really liked your hustle.”

“Awesome.”

“Just be ready for next week.”

“I get to come back next week too?”

“Yeah.”

“Next week is my birthday! Holy shit, this is the best birthday gift of all time!”

He laughed. I stared out as we headed back to the House of Many. (a name given to the giant house that like, 12 people lived in).

If this was the first week, I couldn’t wait to see what Week 2 had in store.

(TO BE CONTINUED…..)

 

 

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A Christmas miracle.

November 27, 2017

The year was 1996, it was the last week in November…..

…I was an 18 year old kid who very recently transplanted from a small, sleepy mid-western town of Jackson, Missouri (pop. less than 10K at that time), to the bustling metropolis that is Los Angeles.

(you can read all about how that adventure was started in the older blogs here: The start of the LA journey)

The TL:DR version of that is, sold all my stuff, dropped out of my senior year of High School with less than six months left to graduate and made the journey in the dark of night to LA.

I was an artists cliche when I arrived. I was poor and lonely, temporarily sheltered at this dumpy and divey hotel, deep in the heart of grimy, greasy Hollywood, ironically called The Mark Twain Hotel. My dinners were usually cold ravioli and potted meat sandwiches, not only for costs, but because my hotel amenities didn’t include a kitchenette, or fridge — but did have plenty of pushers, users and dealers.

Trust me when I say, that living in Hollywood in 1996 wasn’t the glitzy illusion sold by so many people who were well on their way to being successful in this business. It was a rotting cesspool of crud.

I remember on this particular night, I was walking home and stumbled across the Hollywood Christmas parade. It was gaudy, cheap and frivolous. Watching the parade that night I was pained to remember Christmas back home in Missouri. This would be my first Christmas alone. On my own. 2,000+ miles away from anyone I knew.  I was standing there in the cold LA night, watching the B and C lister TV and Film stars wave to the denizens of the City of Angels. Wishing us holiday cheer as if life is peachy keen.

I wanted so bad for there to be a Christmas miracle during that Christmas of 96.

Tonight is the 2017 Hollywood Christmas parade.

The parade marks 21 years since I’ve stayed out here in LA.

There have been times that I’ve been so broke that I had to choose between bills/rent or food (Bills and rent always wins. Every time.) So broke that I could barely afford the free water at a restaurant.

On the other side of that cycle, there have been times where I’ve been flush from a gig as well and I get to live LIFE. Exploring this lovely city, meeting amazing new friends and staring out at the blinky horizon of twinkly lights of LA and feeling like it really, truly is home.

But most gigs are temporary, and no matter how much you budget, how much you plan, the savings to make it to the next gig dry up — because sometimes it takes 4-6 months to find something else.

Then you hate LA.

You fucking HATE it.

“Fuck you, LA!!”

You’ll say as you flip the bird to the skyline.

“We’re fucking DONE-ZO.”

But the city never changed.

Your financial security did.

Now you’re just scared.

You’re scared that the worst case scenario is now coming true and that because you still can’t find a job and even McDonald’s will not hire you, you’re worthless. Your dreams are worthless. You are unlovable and your wallet may just go ahead and commit seppeku because you no longer need it’s services. It has dishonored you.

Then you start to fall into dangerous thought patterns. Comparing your own journey to other’s success. Comparing your path to others, and you start to find out, that all that does is reinforce your feelings of doubt, uncertainty and abandonment.

And then — without warning to your wallet that just killed it’s dishonored self for being empty and dumb — a job appears! You’re working again! On COOL shit! The shit is SO cool that you feel like even if this job ends, with THIS on your resume, you’re bound to move onto something else that’s comparable or better.

And you live LIFE again.

You no longer check your account if you have enough to get that beer or coffee with friends, because you know you do and you’ll subtract it from your budget and life will be good. You start writing again, you start planning the next movie again. You get your friends together and you make that new movie.

The new movie isn’t perfect, it’s rough around the edges, but you did it anyway. You made it for only 2,000 dollars. Sure, most of it was from that money you saved, but you did it. You and your friends could’ve been working on something that actually pays, but they all showed up to work on your story.

This.

This is how it’s suppose to feel!

You’re driving home, late at night from being on set for 14 straight hours, your eyes burn from lack of sleep, but you don’t care. You’re wide awake and the whole world is ahead of you.

Until it’s not.

And the money’s gone.

And now you just have to try and survive.

Do whatever it takes. It’s survival mode.

Get that odd job, work at Coffee Bean, use Task Rabbit to clean very successful TV writer’s toilets for them. You try not to go down that comparing path again. You swallow the lump in your throat, scrub the crap out of that toilet bowl until it GLEAMS and you are happy for the TV writers. It’s their path. Your time will come, one day. Just keep pushing.

Pushing forward.

Patience.

And the cycle repeats.

Rinse. Lather. Repeat.

I’m 39 now and I am back to being that poor 18 year old kid again. Rinse. Lather. Repeat. The job I had that I wanted to be full time, turned out to be freelance and ended. I took the time to focus on the new movie and try and look for something else for a day job.

Nothing has come. For nearly six months.

There have been nights recently where I’ve cried for hours. Just trying to not feel the shame of being in this financial shit-hole again. Hoping that the resume I submit will be the one that I get an  job interview from. Where the shame is so thick that my heart aches and it’s hard to breathe. Here I am, at 39 and I can barely afford to take of myself. And you judge yourself. Harshly and say things about yourself that you would NEVER say to anyone else. Call yourself names that you’d clock someone if they called you that.

And you start to believe all the hurtful things you’re telling yourself.

And those lies become your truth.

And it becomes up to you to stop believing that truth. I am not worthless — I am not a financial failure, my dreams mean something. This is all temporary, this too shall pass. Then I start to think about all the amazing things I HAVE done, all the creative journey’s I have gotten to take and all the good things I want to happen that are just on the horizon! Then that feeling of self-pity starts to dissolve into a much more powerful feeling.

Gratitude.

My heart is bursting at the seams with gratitude.

I am grateful for this journey. I am grateful for my life. I’ve gotten to make some AMAZING films with some absolutely wonderful people and I could NOT have done it without them. Through all the account overdrafts to times where I could absolutely pick up the tab. Through the times I ran out of gas on the freeway to full tanks that got me where I needed to go. Through all the times when I just felt like giving up on directing to the times I tell myself I’ll never leave.

This is my life and my journey and it’s the way it is suppose to be.

21 years after my arrival here, nothing went the way I had hoped or planned.

But I wouldn’t change a step.

And that, is finally the Christmas miracle that 18 year old me needed.

 

 

 

 

Still haven’t found what I’m looking for.

March 8, 2014

“You’re 35 years old, you shouldn’t be a PA.”

A friend told me that, while we were watching the Oscars this past Sunday. This friend was very correct, but, what if that’s the only job I even CAN get at the moment.

It’s hard not to feel judged when you’ve spent 21 years climbing a ladder for your dreams, and you can barely afford the free club soda with lime at the bar.

I’ve been here before.

A TL:DR to catch everyone up. At 18, I dropped out of High School senior year, sold all my possessions and saved up a weekend or two of working at the skating rink money, and just ran away in the middle of the night. No one knew where I was going, but I did. LA. To make movies.

So, where am I today?

I’m in a shaky economy, where I can only get part time PA work at the moment. I have an over drawn bank account. I’m still trying to catch up on February’s rent, when March’s rent is due. My phone will also shut off soon,  I’m running out of food and my Netflix just got canceled. (see overdrawn bank account)

The movie I’ve been trying to finish for four years (yes, four years) is as of yesterday, somehow missing all of it’s synced audio in the AVID timeline. (basically, when you play back the movie, the video is there, but the audio is missing) So, as of now, I don’t have a movie and will probably have to start completely over.

It’s one of those times on the ladder, where all you want to do, is let go.

Fuck, even if I wanted to call it a day, and move away and get a nice small job somewhere, there would always be that part of me that loves movies. That would still go to the movies, that would still want to create those movies.

I can’t turn that part of me off.

That’s the part that says, “Okay, today you’re working on some shit job that you don’t want to do, but at least this is the job that will finish (insert movie title here) that your working on.”

Or the part that goes, “Well, okay, another year has gone by since I’ve been here and I may not be where I want, but at least I’m writing (insert script here).”

It just doesn’t go away, no matter what, it’s a part of my DNA.

Just recently, the little production company that my friends and I made when we were kids in 1993 (Spoon Pictures), celebrated 20 years of movie making.

I went back and cut a trailer to that time capsule.

I watch that sometimes and see that fresh faced teenager with a dream, morph over time to a young man, with the same dream.

Through all of that, through the support of family and friends, I somehow found the strength to keep going. To keep making our own little no budget movies.

When everything seems dark, like it certainly does right now, and every year that passes, I have to dig deeper and deeper to find that strength, I have to keep going.

Even when it seems hopeless.

Especially when it seems hopeless.

It’s not in my core to quit.

Sometimes, when we quit something, when we say “Fuck it. I’m done.” That gives us an illusion of control. An illusion of power back. Because when all the shit has hit the fan, that is one thing we CAN say and CAN do. We can say, “Fuck it. I’m done.”

All that does is give us temporary solace.

I don’t want to have that.

Somehow, I need to just keep going, keep moving forward, keep creating.

It sucks right now, big time.

But, I know that whatever dreams don’t kill me, only make me stronger, and hopefully catch me up on that overdue rent.

The end of wisdom is to dream high enough not to lose the dream in the seeking of it.
William Faulkner

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Top 11 Flicks of 2012

December 27, 2012

What’s better than a free upgrade on your popcorn from small to medium?? Well, lots of shit actually, but for the purposes of theme, it’s my Top 11 of 2012!

Don’t see your movie on this list? Fear not! I probably just didn’t see it or my “given fucks” account was over drawn! AGAIN! I swear…you make a fucking deposit and before you know it…..

Without further ado, here’s my list! (Although, let it be said, this year was tougher to see everything I wanted to see, cause I find myself once again, shit-balls poor)

 11.)  21 JUMP STREET

After this picture, they were kindly asked to leave the gym.

I know what you’re thinking. DA FUCK?!! Really, Nick?  Yes, dude. Really.

Essentially what everyone involved in this movie did was first, lower every ones expectations, then, punch them as hard as they could in the face….with humorous situations.

It really is a solid movie! Very funny, well acted, slickly shot with a constant wink at the audience to have as much fun as they’re having. Channing Tatum won me over here, I’ll now see everything this dude is in. His brand of comedy teamed with Hill’s is a good match.

You can rent this shit.

You should.

10.) THE EXPENDABLES 2

Back for war, indeed.

I heard some flak a few years back, for including the first movie on my list, stating that you should watch that, and it shouldn’t be missed.

Some people were more than pissed, that I had wasted their precious time, but what you need to know, is I didn’t make the flick, it’s not mine! What did you expect from a kid from the 80’s, who loves Arnold/Sly  and lovin’ the ladies. (hey, it rhymes with 80’s.)

I’ve waited my whole life to see these guys on the screen, and even if it’s thin on plot, they make a great team! If you didn’t like the first, you’ll probably think the second one is the worst, and there’s nothing I can say to change your mind. However, I really had a fantastic time, more explosions, more one-liners, more Van Damme and that’s fine!

They may have a case of male-pattern badness, but I really love both flicks, they’re the raddest!

9.) DEATH GRIP

One helluva grip! http://www.stuntpeople.com

Looking for a refreshing take on martial arts flicks? This is it! What I really dig about this flick, is Eric (writer/director/star/editor) and the Stunt People’s ability to take the tropes of fight scenes and turn them on their head.

Often times, the end result is hilarious and entertaining to watch, while also keeping that sense of danger presented to them. Hoskins gives a performance that could’ve been over done by other actors, but is subtle and well played. Johnny Yong Bosch (from Power Rangers) is a formidable villain and Rebecca Ahn (who also produces) is very natural in front of the camera.

It’s a solid action movie, with a lot of grit, a lot of heart and a lot of independent passion put upon the screen, that most Hollywood flicks wish they could make.

If you love stunts/action movies/Hong Kong style cinema, seek it out!!

8.) DREDD

Only you can prevent…HOLY FUCK!! IS THAT CITY ON FIRE?!!

What saddens me most about this movie, is that it got very favorable reviews when it came out. Everyone who took a chance on it, really liked it and started recommending it, but then- Joe Kansas and Suzy Idaho killed it and went to see stupid fucking “Battleship” instead.

First off, this movie has nothing to do with the Stallone 1995 flick. It’s based more on the source material of the comics, which have been around for decades, but aren’t as main stream as say, “Spidey” or “Garfield”. The movie we end up getting, is a violent, fun, gritty sci-fi/action film! Urban owns Dredd the same way he probably owns 3 houses! But he had to sell one, cause the movie tanked, which SUCKS!

Thanks, “Battleship” goers, D5, you sunk my happiness.

7.) LOOPER

Everyday is a good day when your lower torso is Bruce Willis.

“Looper” is from Rian Johnson, who wrote/directed “Brick”.  JGL is a “Looper”, which rhymes with “Pooper” and “Hooper”. Remember that show, “Hanging with Mr. Cooper”? What the fuck ever happened to that show?

6.) ARGO

Man, someone sure had a lot of time on their hands to tape that shredded poster together…..wait…..

Gotta hand it Affleck! Not only was he da bomb in “Phantoms”, he has become a very, very, solid director!

He’s 3 for 3 in my book, and his latest, “Argo”, could be his best. He feels very comfortable in front of and behind the camera. He knows how to stage and create tension and also drop in natural laughs to give us a break.

This is something Lumet would’ve done in the 70’s. This is amazing filmmaking.

Seek this fucker out!

5.) LINCOLN

Reminds me of my pennies……FUCK! THAT’S BRILLIANT!!

This is the story about how Lincoln, saved us all from Vampires in the cold, undead of night….and….waitaminute….fuck, that didn’t happen at all in this movie.

Everyone bow down to the greatness that is Spiels! (Spielberg, for those not on a nickname basis with him, like me). He really is the mastah (SHO’NUFF) and I’m very convinced that everyone who worked on this film, had a table filled with Oscars next to the craft services table. At the end of the day, they would just take one home.

I’m calling it now. DDL for ‘Best Actor’, and Spiels for ‘Best Director’.

4.) CABIN IN THE WOODS

It’s actually a time-share.

Co-writer/2nd Unit Director Joss Whedon and Co-Writer/Director Drew Goddard have done something pretty damn remarkable. Something that demands repeat viewings!

Something so cool, that I dare not give anything away, for any mention of the plot may spoil something, and this flick is best told going in cold.

Okay, I’ll say one thing about it…..remember “Small Wonder”, the t.v. show with the girl robot from outer space? What the fuck ever happened to that show??

3.) THE AVENGERS

Some “assembly” required.

That tag line right there is probably why “Disney” will never give me the gig to write/direct “Avengers 3”. However, I’m fine with that! Let Whedon do it!

That muther fucker.

Let me tell you how awesome that guy is! He really knocked this one out of the park. How far out of the park?

How about a world-wide gross of 1.5 billon dollars?!! That’s like, all of the fucking money, ever invented.

If you’ve never seen the other movies in Marvel’s “Phase One” plan (all the flicks tied together, leading up to “The Avengers”) I recommend that’s a good place to start, you’ll certainly get more out of it. However, if you want to dive right in, sure! It’s entertaining, fun and gets all the characters equal time to shine and be recognized.

Great film! One of the best comic book movies, I’ve ever seen.

2.) DJANGO UNCHAINED

Which posters yours? The one that says bad muther fucker on it!

QT, you sure are an amazing filmmaker!

The thing about him, that’s often imitated, but never quite duplicated, is that he took his influences and made his own voice out of that. It shows here, with his latest movie! (The 7th in 20 years! He counts Kill Bill as one movie).

This guy knows how to up his last effort, and it makes all of this films enjoyable in their own right. Is this his best? That depends on who you ask, but the reason it’s not number one for me is length.

While I did love this movie, LOVED it, I feel that it could’ve been a tad tighter. It’s not that it dragged, it’s just the time as a whole, goes on. With the sad absence and untimely passing of his other half, Sally Menke, it feels like he’s left to indulge a bit.

Coming from him though, that’s not always a bad thing.

Seek it out! It’s in theaters now. Especially if you like Tarantino movies!

1.) SKYFALL

Bond. James Bond.

There is a reason this film is number one to me this year. It’s the best Bond film in the Craig era so far to me. It does everything right. Sam Mendes (dir.) and Roger Deakins (Cinematographer) bring some amazing visual story telling to Bond, coupled with a great screen play and powerful performances.

Also, for the first time in a long time, Bond feels human again. He makes mistakes, he’s vulnerable, he bangs only a handful of chicks.

It’s a quintessential Bond flick and does everything right. Bond is definitely back with this, and it’s staying power at the box office with it’s strong word of mouth, speaks volumes.

There are  a lot of great nods to Bonds past and a fantastic direction toward the future of this longest franchise.

That’s my Top 11!

Stop copying me, stop copying me!!

December 3, 2012

Without a doubt, so many executive muther fucker’s lost their cushy jobs at Warner Brothers, after the opening weekend of “The Avengers”.

Executive 1: Boy! I sure do like making awful life choices!!

Executive 2: Don’t worry bro! We can always remake your life! Hold on, I’ll get money on the phone….

Then, “The Avengers” opens and makes all the money. Fun Fact! The national debt crisis was temporarily cured for one weekend afterwards.

It's raining Ben!

It’s raining Ben!

Warner Brothers owns and distributes the “Justice League” and all other DC properties. This is the “JLA”.

Oh, hai!!

Oh, hai!!

Now, WB has had these rights for a few decades now, and have yet to put together a live-action movie featuring all these heroes. A shit-ton of money has already been invested into development. However, for whatever reasons, the folks over at WB have not been able to get it up and running.

Now, Marvel Studios had a different plan. They came up with something called, “Phase One”. In “Phase One”, they figured out that Joe Kansas and Suzie Idaho, probably aren’t that familiar with “Iron Man”, so let’s make a movie with him and start to lead up to our ultimate movie, “The Avengers”.

“Iron Man” comes out in 2008 and is well received. From there, they release “The Incredible Hulk”, “Iron Man 2”, “Thor” and “Captain America”.

All of these movies, were connected, especially in the now famous “Marvel End Credit’s Tag”. Hints were dropped into the films, bridging them into one another. When Disney bought Marvel, they had a power house studio behind them.

Up until this point, Marvel only had other studios make and distribute their flicks, while they held the rights to them. In 2008, with a sizeable loan from a bank (not just any bank, I’m sure they didn’t walk into a BofA and get a co-signer or some shit.) They became “independent” and made the movies in house (starting with “Iron Man”) and got others to distribute them.

This means, the house of “M”, (Marvel, not Disney), got more creative control over their “Phase One”.

Eventually, when “Disney” bought them, they trusted them, cause the box office returns on the other movies showed Marvel knew what was up.

They hired Joss Whedon, fanboy extraordinaire and thus “The Avengers” was born. But, it didn’t just come out of no where. It was all part of the plan, introducing the general public to these super heroes.

In four years (impressive to put them all out like that) we had a good idea who “Iron Man” was, who “Thor” was, who that Natalie Portman girl was.

Most people had already seen one if not all of those films. Thankfully, “The Avengers” was VERY entertaining and a good, solid, comic book movie.

Us mouth breathing comic nerds, (most of us) loved the fuck out of it!

This first kiss symbolizes our love for "The Avengers".

This first kiss symbolizes our love for “The Avengers”.

Any movie that makes 500 million in one weekend, can make any studio worried. Especially, when most Hollywood “insiders”, expected “Avengers” to do well, but not like that.

No one saw this coming.

Especially Warner, who, up to this point had all the time in the world to do nearly the same thing. Instead, they released a “Super-Man” movie that failed to fly, and were concerned on getting Nolan’s “Bat-man” trilogy all wrapped up.

Plus, let us remember, WB nearly killed “Batman” and all super hero movies with their releases of “Batman Forever” and “Batman and Robin”.

I want YOU to fuck right off.

I want YOU to fuck right off.

Your eyes burn yet?

Yeah….in all seriousness, that nearly killed it.

So, maybe WB were a bit gun shy and maybe they underestimated Marvel.

But let’s fast forward to right the fuck now.

Well, right the fuck now, Avengers has dominated the box office and the digital/video market. Marvel is actively moving into “Phase Two” which leads up to “The Avengers 2” in 2015.

But wait…..what’s this happy horse shit? Another movie is also coming out in 2015 too?

What could that be?

That’s right, “JLA”.

Here’s the thing though, WB is all sorts of unsure how to proceed from here. They have a new Super-man movie coming out, but no ones sure if that same dude will even play him in the JLA movie. They don’t know if any of the characters from Nolan’s Bat-verse will make an appearance (that’s the best non-spoiler alert I can give) and on top of that, today they just announced their villain for the JLA movie.

This guy:

I swear I’m not the same guy!

That’s, Darkseid. (pronounced dark side)

Now, this dudes entire back story would take up his own movie.

Avenger’s 2 villain, (who was introduced at the end credits, is SPOILER) this guy:

I swear I'm not the same guy!

I swear I’m not the same guy!

That’s Thanos! Marvel’s Phase 2 will be leading up to him and also include him in other films, so when the all out shit hitting the fan happens in “A2”, most of us will have a good idea who he is.

As a comic-book fan and a movie fan, WB’s move seems desperate. It feels like they are tripping over themselves to compete and rush the JLA movie out before it’s ready.

That’s a sad thing, but it’s the reality and the only real reason behind it all?

Yup.

Money. Duckets. Scrilla. The package.

With Marvel/Disney and “Avengers” doing so damn well, WB wants a slice of the golden pie. The problem is come 2015, the only thing two super-hero team movies are going to do, is divide and confuse us.

My head hurts.

My head hurts.

This blog won’t change anyone’s minds, we’re still going to get both an “Avengers 2” and a rushed “JLA” movie, in the same summer.

What does everyone else think about this? What will the out come be?

Who gives a fuck? I’m going to see “Avengers 2” instead.

I’ll Be Back.

May 12, 2010

I think I could hardly sleep at all that night before. I was too excited and too scared shitless.

The next night, tomorrow, I was going to be able to work on a film, with my childhood hero, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Why yes, I can spell his name correctly.

When I was a kid, a small boy, I was raised in a dysfunctional and very abusive life.

Movies were my creative escape and also made me fall in love with them, from a very young age.

From that age on, I knew what I wanted to do, be a part of them, make them, create them. I just, wasn’t sure how.

When I first saw Ah-nuld on screen, killing bad guys and kicking ass, something clicked for me. Here was a guy, a STRONG guy, who took shit from no one and saved the day and was, a hero.

Arnold was more than just a body builder out of Austria, Arnold, was a role-model and somewhat of a father figure.

I wanted to be like him, kicking ass and being strong and because of my current dysfunctional surroundings, stand up for myself and those I loved.

I’m kinda tearing up right now, writing that.

As I grew older, I started reading about his life, where he came from, how he set his mind on something and didn’t quit, no matter who told him otherwise.

At 12, once puberty hit, I began working on my Arnold impression, which, I still constantly do, to this day.

Fucking randomly too.

Now, in late 1998, I was driving up to the church on Wilshire Blvd., where we would film, ‘End of Days’ and where my hero would be.

I was scared. What if he was a dick or something? What if I caught him on a bad day and he punched my lights out?

This was, intimidating to say the least.

We were directed to extra’s holding and once there, I began walking around the church.

It was empty and massive inside.

Quiet.

I thanked God for getting me here, for giving me this moment. I kept running it in my head, what can I even possibly say to him?

I saw a set of director and cast chairs and emblazoned  across the back of them was ‘Arnold Schwarzenegger’.

Would anyone notice if I carried this to my car?

Probably.

That made it real, because up to this point, I hadn’t seen him.

They fed us early, because it was an all night shoot.

I kept excitedly and animatedly telling people all about Arnold.

This was my “Justin Beiber” moment, but not in a gay way, this was hero worship.

I remember I related to a blonde haired girl my fear of him being a dick. She encouraged me to try and talk to him.

When they needed us, and we were filing outside, I saw a big printout sign that read, “Please do not ask Arnold for pictures or autographs”

Whoa.

Well, that made sense, because they’re filming and if he does it for one person, he has to do it for all of us and we’re a pretty big crowd.

It also, made it harder for me to approach him.

We were filed out into the street, chaos everywhere because this is an action film.

The street looked like it had been blown up into large pieces, but they were actually styrofoam.

It was then, about 2o feet away, out walked the man himself.

Arnold was wearing all black, dual gun shoulder holsters on his sides, he was smoking a cigar of course and he had stubble along his massive jaw.

He began picking up part of the street and making a joke with the crew, who laughed. Everyone laughs for Arnold, he’s funny and he’ll kill you.

We began the scene by running after Arnold and Robin Tunney (The Chick from ‘The Craft’) as they run out of an alleyway.

This is that scene.

About 1:15 seconds into it is the scene I worked on.

We were CHASING Arnold. This is what was going on in my head, we were chasing him?!

That’s fucked up, he should be able to like, take down all of us, “possessed” or not.

It was about the fifth take as we chased him and Robin up the stairs into the church.

Arnold would wait a few beats after the director yelled cut, so we could file down the stairs and away from the door safely, then he would come out and reset with Robin.

It was now or never.

We chased him up the stairs, I always made it up the stairs. The director yells cut, we file down.

I walk slower than normal.

It was when I got to the bottom of the stairs, when I turned around and opening the door, coming down toward me, was Arnold.

He had his giant ass gun and he was BIG.

This was, scary.

I took a deep breath and began to talk to him.

“Excuse me, Mr. Schwarzenegger?”

Arnold shot me a look, a look I have seen a hundred times before, a look right before, he ripped a dudes head off.

“My name is Nick Murphy and I just wanted to know, ever since I was kid, I’ve looked up to you a great deal.”

We were both walking side by side at this point.

Arnold smiled and said, “Thank you.”

Beaming back I said, “And it’s a great honor to finally come out here and to meet you.”

He replied, “Thank you very much.”

“And you’ve inspired me, to come out here, and start…stuff.”

“Thank you.”

“Thank you sir. Take care.”

“You too.”

I walked away, floating on air.

The dude had seriously been cool to me, even after filming all night.

That may have been but a mere blink to him, a moment.

But to me, it meant the world.

Freaks, Geeks and Vampire Slayers.

May 11, 2010

I was on the open road again to California, the year was 1998.

Arnold wasn’t even Governor yet, we were two years out from Y2K.

I had made two flicks in Missouri.

“Why Be Normal?!”

and

“Unrequited Love”

I also made a half finished sequel to “Why Be Normal” A sequel to Mortal Kombat (also unfinished due to a broken camera) and a “Spider-man” trailer, show casing me as your friendly neighborhood web slinger.

Spider-man was still a few years out from being made, and this time, I had an audition tape of sorts.

I was gonna make copies and send them to ‘Stan Lee’ and the CEO of Sony, because at this point, the rights to Spidey, had swung over there.

Pun intended.

I aim high.

Second pun, about Spider-man, also intended.

I also knew who to join for back ground services this time, “Central Casting”.

They were by far the biggest, and the best. Unlimited Casting, they were not.

No more ‘Taco Bell’ Commercials for THIS GUY! No more ‘audience work’ either.

No more gangsta runs, no more rat/roach infested living spaces.

Now it was time to take on Hollywood!

I got a sweet studio apartment, RIGHT across from the ‘Paramount Lot’ by a nice Greek Landlord.

I joined ‘Central Casting’ right away. Since I was now 20, but I looked like I could still be in High School, I started getting work A LOT.

See, most productions that are in High School, need what’s called, “18 to look younger” roles.

That means, you’re 18 or over, but look much younger and if you’re moving too fast in the back ground, it won’t matter. The big thing though, are those pesky child labor laws. If all of your background performers are all adults, you’re covered.

Suddenly, I started popping up ALL over in films or teevee or commercials. I would call back home and tell friends and family to look out for certain episodes/scenes/ ect. I’d be in.

Sometimes it was a bust, but sometimes, you’d get gold.

I was able to work on a show, for a week straight, called, “Freaks and Geeks”.

I was in the pilot episode, big time.

Now you too can play along at home. Watch this You Tube video and then fast forward to:

Four minutes and twelve seconds. 4:12

Watch BEHIND the three main actors, walking directly behind them, in a sweet brown corduroy jacket, that was actually my own, with his arm around his band geek girlfriend is me at 20.

I was also featured heavily in “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”. I worked Buffy all the time, but the episode I got the most mugging time on was, “The Prom” episode in Season 3.

I didn’t get to keep the tux, I barely knew my “date” that night and they kept playing Fatboy Slim over and over that night for us to dance to, because it would be featured in the show.

Here’s a screen shot of the episode:

The thing in movies and teevee, if you’re at home and you hear a cool song, and people are grooving to it, two things are happening. One, they people grooving have heard this song, over and over again, for 6 hours or more.

Two, you’re hearing it, by just a few minutes.

It was also during this time that I got one of the biggest and best jobs, I ever had in my entire career.

I had a calling service. A calling service is a service that you pay a certain amount per month to.

Instead of you having to call the “work” line at Central Casting all day (and trust me, that’s A LOT of calling on your part. Sometimes it would take a whole day of calling to hear the various jobs posted up, just to get a days work the following day) you could have the calling service book work for you.

I got in real good with my calling service and I will always be thankful to the two people who ran it out of their home offices. Dan and Cynthia, were two cool peeps.

This was not shady, they were able book me all the time.

One night, I got a phone call from Cynthia.

“Nick?”

“Yeah?”

“It’s Cynthia. Are you sitting down?”

“Yes.”

“We were able to book you on ‘End of Days’!!”

Silence.

“WHAAATT??!!! NO WAY!?!!! THANK YOU SO, SO, SO, MUCH!!! OHMYGOD! OHMYGOD! WOW! THANK YOU!”

We hung up and I called everyone I knew, and I mean, EVERYONE, because tomorrow night, for an all night shoot, I would be working on ‘End of Days’.

An action film starring an up and comer: Arnold Schwarzenegger……..

Hurricane Whatnow?

May 11, 2010

It was the summer of 1998.

I had just left Missouri after going back to High School and getting my degree, thus, up till this point, becoming one of the first people in my immediate family to have graduated High School.

I was working two jobs, one full time and one part time in Biloxi and Gulfport, Mississippi respectively.

The full time one was at “The President” Casino, in Biloxi, MS.

The other one was at Hollywood, Theater, which was a dollar movie theater in a parking mall.

Unfortunately, the Hollywood Theater was destroyed by 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, so there are no pictures.

But, the manager was a douche, so…..

My summer’s were spent, living with my mom again, while working my ass off at these two jobs, while saving as much money as I could muster.

I was a Valet Parker at “The President Casino”, so it was my job to help valet the rides that came up to our place.

Tips were allocated not by personal, but by collective and re-incorporated back into our checks.

I remember it was a big deal down there, because ‘Al Pacino’ and a then not quite as famous, ‘Russell Crowe’ were down there on the Coast filming a little flick called, ‘The Insider’.

Dad recommended I take out 25 bucks a week and go see a movie or something, so I wouldn’t go insane. Since I was re-living with my Mother, this was a good idea.

I was working 7 days a week, with minimal days off. The plan was, to save as much money as possible and head out to California in September.

It was September, and I had just over 2 grand saved.

I heard on the news that ‘Hurricane George’ was moving into the coast.

This is George. Smiling for the camera.

Now, here’s the thing about Hurricanes. When I was a kid, I lived with my Mom down here.

I’ve been through my share of Hurricane’s and Tropical Storms. I’ll never forget surviving ‘Hurricane Elena’ as a kid.

We had boarded up the house, and it was moving in fast. Across the street was the Baptist Church I use to go to. We ran there for shelter, but it was closed.

The underground storage unit was locked too. We were circling the church, trying every door we could and then went back to the storage doors.

They were unlocked.

We went in there and set up camp. I fell fast asleep.

My Mom woke me up when ‘The Eye’, known as the most calm part of the Hurricane, was over us.

I went outside and we all stood on the cellar steps, looking up at the swirling sky above us, but is was really as they had said, calm.

So, flash forward to 1998 and I got word there was another Hurricane moving in.

Fuck that.

No standing under ‘The Eye” again for me. This must be God’s way of telling me to get my ass back to California.

The rain started coming down, I hustled to my ATM and grabbed as much money as I could muster and drove back to Mom’s house.

In the middle of the rain, I loaded up all my stuff as quickly as possible, said good bye to Mom and took off on Interstate 10, which, once again, would lead me all the way back to California.

It had been just over a year since I left briefly in 1997, this time, I was ready. I had money and everything.

I was ready.

Right?

Why Be Normal?!

May 5, 2010

Let’s get this out of the way now, for those that came late to the show.

In 1996, with six months left to graduate my senior year, I dropped out of High School, sold all of my possessions (I’m looking at YOU Super Nintendo!) and with 600 bucks in my pocket, plus without telling anyone, I drove to California in the middle of the night at 18. (*see previous blogs)

Now, on another impromptu “visit” back, I was convinced to go back to school and get a job and actually save money this time before my second trip back to LA.

Instead of being able to graduate with my current class, I was told I’d have to come back a whole ‘nother year.

Cool, now it’s 1997, I’m 19 years old and I’m starting my senior year ALL over again.

Being a senior twice, is NOT as bad as it sounds. For one, you get to take all those cool after school activities that you never got to take before. You get ANOTHER Senior Skip day. You get to hit on the Junior classmen before you, who are now Seniors but were previously Juniors, and you get to be in ‘Pop Concert’ and ‘Drama’ again!

Plus, the best part about being back home, I got to make movies again!

That year, I got to make one of the definitive movies in ‘Spoon Pictures’ (our production company since we were 15) library. I made a flick, called, ‘Why Be Normal?!’

‘Why Be Normal?!’ didn’t really have much of a plot, but it was funny, especially to us. We made ‘alter-ego’s’ of our selves and put them in this film. Loosely, the plot follows our alter-ego’s around for a day.

It was pretty ambitious for us at the time, I had recently gotten a new video camera, I had written a script, and we were gonna shoot it over the course of the summer. It was also around that time that I had stopped editing in camera and moving more toward editing with two V.C.R.’s.

In camera, we had to shoot more linerally, and what we would do was, after we had the shot we wanted, I would look into the camera, switch it playback mode, and rewind it to the exact spot I wanted the next edit or cut to be (a medium shot, a close up, ect.) and we would then film that.

Of course, I at that age, I had no fucking clue what film speak was, I had a basic idea what a wide shot was and a medium, but I didn’t speak the language, cause I never bothered to learn.

It was a beautiful time, because I got to shoot from my gut, and make my own mistakes.

When two V.C.R.’s came along, it opened us up to shooting more freely. We could actually shoot out of order (again, no one taught us how, we never read any books on filmmaking or anything) and then I could use the two V.C.R.’s to edit together the footage.

Of course, I had to do this quickly, because if I messed up or took too long, the VCR would shut off and leave a glitch in it.

Once we completed our comedy opus, I decided to go big with it.

This was 1997, internet was still kinda new and there was no YouTube or Facebook or anything really.

I released the video, proudly in our local video store that summer, called, ‘Super Video’. Of course, ‘Super Video’ is no longer around, but to us, going into the store and seeing our crudely but lovingly made video box art in the store made us feel pretty damn good about ourselves. This is the box art.

This is the front:

That’s 19 year old us-s’.  Trace is on the left, David is in the middle and I’m on the right with the long hair.

And this is the back:

I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for ‘Why Be Normal?!’ Maybe because it was the last movie Pat, David, Trace, and Adam and I made together? (they were the original OG’s. There from the start.) Maybe it’s because it taught me to be a better filmmaker? Maybe it’s because it rented 68 times while in release?

All I know is, it’s special to me, because it captured a moment in our lives before everything else changed and I’m really proud of that flick.

You can watch it at: http://www.spoonpictures.com, and that’s pretty cool too.

After I graduated, I was going to head back down to Mississippi to live with Mom for that Summer in 1998 and get a job at a Casino to save money. (Mom lived on the Gulf Coast).

I’ll never forget Trace and I, sitting on the curb outside Grandma’s house. The Batmobile was packed up and I was gonna leave the next day. Trace turned to me and said:

“You know, no one ever told you where to place that camera. You always just seemed to know. That’s not something a lot of people can do. I know you’re going to make it.”

Those words meant a lot to me. His friendship means a lot to me, to this day.

The next morning, I backed ‘The Batmobile’ out of the drive way, but things were different this time. People knew I was leaving, which made it even harder.

I saw Grandma, standing by the front door and with tears in my eyes, I hit the open road again, heading down to finish the summer of 1998 in Mississippi on the Gulf Coast, at a new job, and then, to Los Angeles, nearly two years later.

But first, I’d have to survive the Hurricane. No, a literal Hurricane that would hit the Gulf Coast, where I would be…..

Home again, home again.

May 3, 2010

I remember running upstairs and grabbing the drug money I had earned and running back to the car with only a pillow to sit on for the long drive.

It had been nearly 6 months since I had been home and I was desperately home sick.

In my mind, I was only going to show up for a visit, that’s why I left all my stuff back at the apartment and didn’t pack anything.

I began driving late in the evening, this time, I was gonna drive straight through, without stopping. (one of the many times this has happened).

The next morning, in Colorado, it was snowing too much, and getting stuck all over my windshield. From the sky, from the road, and then I couldn’t see anymore.

I pulled over and looked for the ice scraper I didn’t really have.

I found something in my car that could work-ish and began scrapping away. Problem was, I was scrapping away snow and ice that had been on the side of the road too.  This was salted to melt faster, although, I didn’t think about that.

As I drove away and got tired, my eyes began burning, badly after I had wiped them with my hands.

Now, I couldn’t see because my eyes were watering. I had to pull over to a gas station and flush them out in the bathroom sink.

Back on the road, I drove and drove.

Finally, 28 LONG hours later, I had arrived.

Home.
Jackson, Missouri.

Except, imagine that picture at night, because that’s when I arrived.

I drove up to Grandma’s house in the middle of the night, much like how I had left the first time.

I knocked on the door, it opens, and there’s Grandma, shocked.

“Hi Grandma!”

“Nick!? What are you doing back here?”

“I drove, all night, I came home to visit.”

I walked in and hugged her and she cried and I cried too. I missed Grandma so much.

We talked in the kitchen that night and I told her how I had come back to visit and I missed everyone and I planned on leaving to go back in a week or two because my stuff was still there.

The next day, I drove to see my friends. They all began telling me the same thing.

“Dude. You should go back to school, save money and then go back.”

After I thought about it for awhile, that’s exactly what I ended up doing. The prospects seemed nice.

I could get my GED, get a job, SAVE money and most importantly, make movies. What I needed though, was personal insurance that I would go BACK to California. I wouldn’t get stuck out here.

After acing the first GED class, I realized it wasn’t good enough, I wanted my diploma.

My school counselor, who was a renowned lush,  and very comfortable in her job, told me that I couldn’t just re-take the finals I had missed 6 months ago and take correspondence courses and go to summer school to graduate with my class of 1997. The people I had known since Jr. High.

If I wanted my diploma, I would have to go back a whole year more.

So, at 19 years old (20 when I would finally graduate), I went back to Jackson High School.

I had come full circle.

California seemed even further away now…..