After spending most of the afternoon in some combination of trying to write spec commercials, download a PSP game from a defunct network and sending frantic text messages about my writing group, I figured out what I was going to do to calm me down:
I was going to write right here.
Stupid, right? I mean, this was not actually the solution to any of my problems. The three inept spec treatments I had pathetically scrawled were sure to get torn up at my writing group, which I didn’t know if anyone would attend and which I fretted that was symptomatic of me failing myself after I came to it with nothing last week.
And then there was the PSP game.
And for that one, we should go back a sec.
“So what did you do over July 4th weekend?”
A typical question.
Answer: Pretty much nothing.
It’s true, kind of. When I went into my therapist’s office to talk, I didn’t even have much to say.
She even suggested I leave early to take care of some of my other work.
Which made me feel trenchant even though I knew I wasn’t trying “not to share”, but just frustrated that I didn’t know what to say.
“Didn’t know what to say.” I guess that’s sort of how I have been feeling.
July 3rd was my birthday, which was great. Good food, good friends, good karaoke time.
My best friend Frank cowered in the corner unable to pick a song to sing, but Dan did some good Teddy Pendergrass (which got him ass-grabbed by some bachelorette partiers) and Eva got everyone in on Jay-Z’s “On To The Next One.”
I got a shot of Patron by someone who thought I was Seth Rogen and a shot and a beer from Colin Lime, Karaoke Bar-Host extraordinaire of Planet Rose and all-around good-guy.
I end up drunk and happy, even though many of my friends couldn’t come.
I even avoided the most part of a hangover through a somnambulistic combination of urinating and drinking water ever hour-and-a-half, interrupting my sleeping pattern.
But on July 4th, I just walked around a bit with Eva.
On July 5th, I saw a comedy show at 9pm with her, but that was it.
And then my weekend was over and people were asking me that question.
What’s stranger than not doing anything perhaps, was not needing to do anything.
I read the New Yorker. I finished a short story. I caught up on some Netflix on-demand.
The only thing of substance I felt like I did do was finish a video game I had been ignoring for a while.
It would be easy to say that beating a video-game would take up most of my attention/divert my need to work.
But I feel like that’s too easy.
After all the videogame I beat (Final Fantasy XIII) wasn’t even one I particularly cared about.
And these were days that people were usually out and about, the iconic days even, to do so.
But I just stayed in.
And “beat the heat”.
When I finished the game and was watching the end credits, I didn’t feel the usual sense of dread I feel sometimes either at the end of the game, the feeling of a reader or a junkie, not knowing where their next fix would come from.
I thought to myself, calmly, well maybe now I’ll read more. Maybe I’ll take more walks.
I even bought a new book for my Kindle, optimisitcally.
But come Tuesday night, as I returned to my life and my work, I found myself awake at 12:30am trying to figure out what to do.
I felt wired, without a plug.
I felt loose.
I tried to download a new video game, seeing if it was available, but my account didn’t work.
I tried calling tech support, but it was after midnight.
I tried calling my bank to see if it was a problem on their end, but they were gone too.
I even tried calling the credit card company whose imprint my bank card carries, who were open, but just transferred me back to my closed bank.
I woke up early the next day, but even as I resolved one problem, getting through on a 9:00am phone call, the PlayStation network’s system went down and I was locked out for the rest of the day.
Which I only found out through more phone calls, more wait times, more idling.
I spent some of that time on hold writing treatments for new OtterBox specs, all of which I hated and I didn’t feel much better bringing to my writing group that day than if I had brought nothing at all.
And then, well, then it was time to leave.
Last week I couldn’t talk about my movie.
It was actually done (or a rough cut was anyway) about the time I posted my last post.
I guess I was too tired. Or too sad.
You see, I had done something which I thought I should try when making the movie I made a couple weeks ago now, “TONIGHT”.
It was the first project to come out of my writing group and the first project I had done (not including my OtterBox commercial) that I had tried to do without, well, caring.
It sounds stupid, even as I describe it, especially coming from me.
You see, when I made “LOSER”, my thesis film, I invested so much of myself into it. The film was semi-autobiographical, I pulled together a large crew, worked on my directing, made all these preparations.
It was kind of a multi-month affair.
I mean, jeez, I even took a two-semester class in college where I developed it, sorta.
And I submitted it to 50 film festivals and got in… nowhere.
I got some nice accolades. Some friends liked it. Some directors I admired even saw it and liked it.
Hey, even my girlfriend told me when she saw it, when we had just started going out, it amazed her that someone “[she] knew had made something [she] liked so much.”
So, it got me a wonderful young lady.
So, not a total bust. :p
But, it did take its emotional toll on me, going through so much rejection with something so personal.
When you are a filmmaker, really just starting out, it’s hard to be told by so many people that you suck.
Kind of like a tornado hitting a chickadee.
Or a bunch of hipsters pissing on a tree, somewhere drunk in Brooklyn.
So when I set out to make “TONIGHT”, a short mixed-media piece on connection, disappointment and nerdy games, I decided to do something different: “radical detachment”.
This time, I’d let other people take care of everything. I’d delegate. I would think only about creative choices, if that. And see what I got.
We made the movie, with some snafus.
Some friends put in some good times.
General fun was had.
And it was interesting.
And I couldn’t bring myself to watch the rough cut my friend had put together before he went to Nashville.
I skimmed through parts. And I sent it to friends.
“At some point, not watching it,” Eva told me at my birthday dinner. “You just become an asshole.”
And as I sat in my office trying to repeatedly download a PSP game, I felt that’s sort of what I had become.
I got an email back from Chadd Harbold, who’d seen the rough TONIGHT and who I had collaborated on my last movie with, trying to be nice, but really telling me it was best seen as a “learning experience”.
And I knew as I showed it to more people, this is what they would say.
Radical detachment, I thought, bull-shit.
How do you make a movie without caring about it? How do you write and direct without putting yourself in it?
If you’re an actor, you’re vulnerable when you are in front of the camera. But if you’re a director, you’re vulnerable all the time. You can’t help it, it would seem.
And you can act tough or careless, but in the end you live with what you got.
I guess what I’ve realized maybe, is that I don’t know how to make a movie. That I’m sort of blindly reaching. That maybe I’m just wasting people’s time.
Even saying all of this feels self-serving to me, some way of justifying making people work for you for free, or donating things or doing you a favor.
But I don’t know.
I’m sure Chadd’s right when he’s telling me it’s “a learning experience”. I’m sure I learned things on set and will continue to learn things.
But maybe when I sit and home and do nothing for a while, maybe when I decide it might be smart to hold back on a movie, maybe when I talk almost-boastfully about how I “stupid” my way into things–
Maybe I don’t want to learn anything right now. Maybe I’m scared.
It’s juvenile and it’s a problem.
But I still haven’t sat down and watched my film.
Because I don’t know what I’d want to take away.
Maybe that nothing was an exaggeration this weekend.
I did join a social-networking circuit.
“Foursquare”, an iPhone application that turns NYC into a giant game of monopoly always seemed pointless to me. After all, you didn’t make money or get anything redeemable from it. You just got virtual badges to show off to your friends that you went to five bars in a night.
The way it works is you “check in” at somewhere when you go there, using your smartphone, and the app awards you points based on certain criteria (did you discover it? is it your first time there? is this the eighth place you’ve been today?”).
I admit, it is mostly stupid. But it does give you that small sense of satisfaction you get by “checking things off” (obviously a bullshit capitalist trick) but it also gives you a small incentive to find new places and champion them as you become “the mayor” of a certain location if you go there enough and while new players often cannot become the “mayor” of somewhere established like “Think Coffee”, I became the mayor of Curry Kitchen the other day when I discovered it.
Curry Kitchen is the new place inhabiting a cursed space on 8th St, which housed Planet Action! (previously featured in this blog) and an Indian sandwich place I thought was pretty cool when I went there freshman year (since closed and pre-blog). The new place is a rather standard Indian place, which actually makes it somewhat remarkable for the neighborhood, blighted by bad take-out. The owners were formerly of the recently closed West 4th St Baluchi’s (average) and the terrific Murray Hill take-out “Curry and Curry” over by NYU Medical Center.
Curry Kitchen is not Curry and Curry, a restaurant notable for it’s hotplates and authenticity, but it is certainly an above average Amero-Indian in a way that reminded me somewhat of Sam Sifton’s review of Wo-Hop. The Ka-Chori appetizer I got came with some notably spicy chutneys and were a good combination of texture and crunch. And the unadventurous Chicken Tikka Masala I found was voluminous without being overly thick or creamy.
When I check out of there, I told the woman-manager of the understaffed restaurant about FourSquare, when she handed me a 10 percent off coupon.
“Do I need to do anything?” She asked me, looking anxiously at her computer.
“Don’t sweat, I took care of it.” I told her.
“After all, I am the mayor.”
Chicken Tikka Masala and Ka-Chori Dinner- approx $20 dollars (8 or so bucks at lunch)
West 8th Street between 6th Avenue and MacDougal St.
ACEBDFM to West 4th St.