Bret Wood's Efforts and Exploits

An updated guide to film and DVD work.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Big Wheels

Spent the weekend a.d.'ing Tracy Martin's short film Wheels (from my script). Tracy was the producer of Psychopathia Sexualis, and this short was made as part of The Woman's Angle Film Project, which is designed to encourage and support women filmmakers.

It was a three-day (12-hour per) shoot and, remarkably, we finished ahead of schedule (though filthy and exhausted after shooting at a car impound lot).

LaLa Cochran in Wheels, photo by Terry Thomas

Someone pointed out that I'm on a wheelchair kick (because the male lead of The Other Half is in a wheelchair, but it's purely a coincidence.

Actually, the characters in Wheels come from a different script altogether, written by Anthony Montoya. Tracy decided not to shoot that version, but liked the characters and asked me to come up with an alternate version. In the original script, the main character (Bianca) was a woman whose marriage was crumbling because an accident had left her paralyzed. It was an effective metaphor for relationship entrapment, but Tracy wanted a more independent and active female protagonist.

When I inherited the script, I thought WWLCD? (What Would Lon Chaney Do?). A light went on, the script was writ, shot, and is now headed for post. Congrats to Tracy and crew, and a big salute to LaLa Cochran in the lead role.

So, no one knows it, but Wheels is an homage to Lon Chaney in Tod Browning's West of Zanzibar [1928] (and, by extension, Walter Huston in Kongo [1932]). Wish I had a decent picture of "Dead Legs" Flint from WoZ, but you'll have to make do with this:

If you've ever seen WoZ you know the "crawl." Here's me on the set, trying to demonstrate the "Chaney Crawl" (and not doing such a good job, as you can tell by everyone's confused stares):

I'll update when the film is done and ready to screen (circa February 2009).

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Abandon All Hope

No, I'm not talking about the Presidential election... I'm misquoting Dante.

It made a catchy title for a post regarding a film and arts collective that has recently honored me with a membership: Cinema Purgatorio.

The heart, soul and brains behind this operation belong to Ray Privett, the influential cineaste who used to program the Pioneer Theater in Manhattan, and has recently signed on to crank up the Queensbridge Theater (QBT) in Long Island City, while also working as a writer, distribution consultant, indie producer.... Apparently he doesn't need sleep.

Anyway, I just wanted to spread the good word, and encourage my people to delve into Purgatorio (where you can currently view the ultra-bizarre trailer for Christmas on Mars featuring the Flaming Lips. Explore the works of other filmmakers, theatremakers, writers. You're guaranteed to get a kick out of it.

Hand over heart. I hereby vow to remain active and creative (and preserve my off-kilter sensibility), so that my membership in Purgatorio will prove beneficial to the organization. Hereby sworn on the 10th day of September, anno domini 2008.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008


Dear diary,

Against my better judgement, I'm opening up the public gate to my latest experiment, briefly discussed in the previous blog post.

I've lately been frustrated by the amount of time/resources it takes to shoot even a relatively simple film. It's largely my own fault -- having gotten obsessed with the look of the film, settings, costumes, light... but then why shouldn't I be? But it's gotten to the point that the high cost of filmmaking is keeping me from making films, even from picking up a camera.


Tentatively titled THE WARD, this is my first effort at getting past that obstacle. Instead of mounting the herculean production, I'm storyboarding the film as I go -- sort of in graphic novel form -- just so I can see and feel the texture of the film. Also (as previously discussed) a workshop I conducted on directing reminded me of the degree to which storyboarding makes you contemplate every detail of a script... and visualize it down to the most minute detail. Why leave this to the day before the shoot? Why not apply the fine-tooth comb in the writing stage? Maybe it's putting the car in front of the proverbial horse, but what have I got to lose? It's just paper. And time.

Time. Boy it's taking me forever to sketch these out... and they STILL look like crap. Oh well... guess graphic novelist wasn't my calling. It's taken several days to do the first twenty strips... and that accounts for only 2 1/2 pages of screenplay. I'd hate to think how long it would take to actually shoot this sequence. The script is already 25 + pages... and already I'm wondering... do I really want to follow this through to completion?

So follow the above link to Part 1: PICKUP. I'll post a blog when another installment hits the web.

To you gender-politically-conscious critics... don't slam me for sexism. This is chapter one. What you think is going on -- isn't going on. Well, not exactly.

Speaking of clearing obstacles, I am working on another exercise/activity to get back in the filmmaking groove. It's too early to blow the trumpet, but I'll provide details once they start to firm up. Code name: Black Box. And it involves an actual camera, actors... hush up now.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Back in Gear

Sorry I haven't been blogging with any regularity, but it's been a fairly busy and (fortunately) productive summer. Let's see... what was happening last time I spoke....?

Oh yeah. I finished cutting my short film, The Other Half. It's kind of stalled in post, awaiting the completion of color correction, sound design and score. To me, trudging through those last few stages of post are the hardest to stay motivated through.

As I may have mentioned, The Other Half was undertaken as an effort to recharge my creative batteries, and I'm relieved to say that, in that regard, it has been quite successful.

It inspired me to pick up a script I've been wrestling with for a couple of years, work out its major problems, and write the entire thing from scratch. Although it bears resemblances to some of my uncompleted scripts (specifically Eden, Alabama and The Cuckold), it is its own animal.

My goal was to write something that takes place more or less in the present (not a historical drama), has some degree of comedy, and could be shot on a minimal budget. It is all those things, though the year 1966 is as close as I can come to contemporary.

Is it any good? When you're writing something, it always seems brilliant, and then the next morning it makes you cringe to even look at it. So I've put it in a drawer for the time being... and I'm letting a couple of people read it... who knows. It's called Shangri-La, for now at least.

But then, as soon as I finished writing Shangri-La, I started working on yet another script. See? It's been a productive summer.

This one is tentatively called The Ward, and I'm about 30 pages deep. I'll provide more details later, but I decided to experiment a little with this script (since they're pouring out of me -- why not?). The idea hit me when -- last weekend -- I taught a workshop at the Atlanta Film Festival 365 (formerly Image Film & Video): Intro to Directing Part I. One of the exercises we did was storyboarding a couple of sequences, and it was fascinating to see how it makes you completely deconstruct your script and consider every little word and gesture. So what I'm doing is storyboarding this script as I write, and seeing if it shapes the story any differently than if I were writing it without graphic accompaniment. Then I thought, rather than just storyboard it, why not present it more as a graphic novel? The idea was thus born.

I'm now creating a website to host the storyboard/graphic novel, so any interested parties will be able to see a graphic representation of the whole script, as I write it. I'm not trying to be a graphic novelist, I'm not claiming to have mad ink skills (my people always look different from frame to frame, and the graphic style is like Jack Chick with a palsied hand, trying to imitate Will Eisner). It's just something I wanted to try. When the creative wheels spin, sometimes I let 'em jump off the tracks.

Oh yeah, and I wrote a short script called Wheels, that Tracy Martin is going to direct in the Fall.

Speaking of the Atlanta Film Festival (scroll up if you missed it)... the deadlines for the 2nd Annual A.F.F. Screenplay Competition is upon us. If you have a script, I urge you to submit it. It was a wonderful experience and I want someone cool to take advantage of it. I thought about entering Shangri-La but, for various reasons, decided against it.

Special thanks are due Wayne Barksdale for sharing with me the secret to removing writer's block. Without his advice, none of this would have happened... I'd still be sitting at the keyboard... staring into space... wondering when the ideas would come.