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Mar 01

by lunchtime, i found myself with, for the first time in years, absolutely nothing to do.

so i decided i’d return to one of my favorite places — downtown Memphis — and be a tourist. i’d lived there, but never explored it as a stranger, really, so i’d seen the movieplex and the Denny’s, but often missed out on a lot of the history.

i moseyed down Beale Street and read every sign, every historical marker, every cement-bound time capsule of a Memphis of the past. some things i knew, some i didn’t. i went to the river and watched it go by. i watched the trolley make its trek down Main Street. i went to see if Eddie was playing guitar in front of the Walgreen’s; he wasn’t. maybe i got a bite to eat. or not. i don’t remember. i just remember how unnatural — but wonderful — it felt to mosey.

about 4:30, with the sun getting lower in the summer afternoon sky, i found a little cheesecake place near the Arcade diner. i went in and ordered a piece of cheesecake and a cup of coffee. i almost choked at the $8.32 price, but didn’t want to seem a dolt, so i handed over my debit card. he told me i could sit wherever i liked, that he’d bring it out to me.

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Feb 27

as with many of the stories i will post here, this story may be rooted in some truth like all fiction, but is still fiction. and though it may be in first person, the narrator is not necessarily myself.

Owen

Owen lives down the street from my parents. every time i go visit, we walk the dogs around the historic neighborhood, and Owen’s house is one of the first and last houses we see. i don’t know how someone lives in that house. it was once a beautiful two-story, southern plantation style home, but i now cannot tell if it was once covered in white siding, or if it’s that i can actually see the termites.

the roof looks like it’s about to fall in. above the front porch sits a bench and a step ladder; it looks like maybe there was a nice patio-style landing maybe sixty years ago, but whatever floor may still be there now rests at the same angle as the rest of the roof.

the yard is unkempt, and what’s there wouldn’t look good if it were kempt — palm trees, cacti, magnolia, dogwood, pea gravel, mismatched grasses, cement decor… it’s all kind of a mess, made worse by being covered in leaves, dirt, litter, and the eccentric collection that only good Southern white trash can effectively straw strow (what’s the present tense of strewn?) across the half-acre corner property.

and it’s this mishmash of a lawn that serves as the home of Owen’s many yard sales. i’m not sure exactly what the yard sale laws are in this little hamlet, but they obviously don’t apply to Owen, at least in his mind. he has them every few hours i think. where he digs up this junk is a compete mystery to me. i guess he finds it on the side of the road or something? it’s like he sees some garbage and thinks, hey, that mostly demolished coffee table just needs a little dusting, that’s all.

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Feb 23

 

i love watching Mathilda sleep. she does it with as much intensity as she does everything else. looking at her, it’s hard to remember she’s only 18 months old, but her behavior is very much that of a puppy. having not seen her or Larry for almost three weeks, they were ecstatic to see me. Mathilda wanted to get so close to me that jumping up to be at eye-level with me (which she is almost capable of doing) isn’t enough… she was trying to bite me and swallow my face… i guess if you’re a puppy, everything you value goes in your mouth at some point.

when i take her for a walk, she jerks and pulls, she chases after birds and squirrels, cowers and runs away from traffic, and in general wears me out. when she eats, don’t get in the way, or you’ll draw back a nub. she would never growl or bite anyone intentionally, but every time she eats, it’s like her last meal. everything she does — walking, playing, eating — is done with such intensity. even sleeping.

when she sleeps, it’s like she’s trying as hard as she can to get in as much sleep as possible. the slightest noise, and that head pops up off the ground waiting for something exciting. or tasty. when she dreams, she starts breathing heavily, then her oversized paws start moving, and every now and then she’ll give a deep, quiet, “rrruf…”

i always wonder what she’s dreaming about. do dogs dream like we do? do they see pictures and hear sounds? do they dream of people they know and places they’ve been? do they dream of giant bones or crippled cats or ponds full of fish and ducks and mud?

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Feb 21


photo by Ian W. Scott.

Becoming the Sycamore Tree

by David Skidmore, my brother.

as featured in Youth Specialties.

“At my church, we have a private preschool and kindergarten. In the nearby church courtyard is a playground. And on that playground is an off-limits tree. A big tree. A tempting tree. I mean, this is a Mount-Everest-of-a-tree to little, exploring eyes. It’s as though God chose a playground and placed a tree in the middle and declared, “On every other structure thou mayest climb, but on this tree thou mayest not climb, for on the day when thou dost, thou shalt surely… be placed in time-out… or something.”

Eventually a red line was painted above the second limb from the ground. The children were free to climb to that line, but everything above was forbidden territory. And ‘Mrs. Wanda’ (as the kids call her) guards that tree with a watchful eye that would impress an angel wielding a flaming sword.

But after hours — figuring Mrs. Wanda and her whistle have departed for wherever kindergarten teachers go until 8 a.m. the next day — some kids do climb above the red line. There’s something about that tree that beckons, ‘Come… and climb!’ to every adventurer.

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Feb 06

from the Fonz literally jumping the shark on that fateful episode of Happy Days to Barry Zuckerkorn’s subtle homage on Arrested Development, television viewers have discussed the concept now known as “jumping the shark”.

it’s the point where a TV show, in an attempt to do something bold and fresh (usually out of an apparent lack of burgeoning creativity) reaches so far as to do something silly, ludicrous — alienating viewers in the process. the attempt is bold new ground. the result is the beginning of the end.

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Mar 30

at some point all of those notes, cocktail napkin sketches, ideas, pictures stolen from flickr, etc. end up turning into words somewhere.  for the writer, it begins a long time ago, but for everyone else on the production (including your financiers), it all starts with the script.  i have found i don’t feel all that creative locked away in my home office.  whenever i try to write at home, end up getting a lot of laundry done instead.  so i go out among people; i need something to focus against in order to really be productive.  i bought my 17″ MacBook Pro as a desktop replacement over three years ago, and lugging it around often feels like overkill for what is essentially advanced word processing, especially now that i have my iPhone.  but i’m a Final Draft guy, as is a lot of the industry.  i can’t seriously expect to write industry-formatted screenplays on a tiny pocket-sized device can i?  i was surprised to find out…

as i continue my series detailing parabolos portable production, part two of my section on development covers screenwriting for iPhone.

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Mar 25

the development process is, in my opinion, the most important part of the production process.  i feel way too many take it lightly.  a lot of young filmmakers focus on the finished product.  a polished finished film is critical if you want to be taken seriously, but if people spent as much time in development as they did in after effects, the world of short film would have even more value than it does today.

the development process should really be spent developing story, developing a visual form around that story, and then acquiring the resources they needed to tell that story.  this includes the marketing scheme, release structure, etc.  if you don’t know where your film will play, then you don’t know who your audience is, and you don’t know how to speak to them.

there’s lots of great tools out there to use during the development phase.  i can’t cover all of them, but i can at least point out a few things i’ve found helpful (and free).

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