Friday, January 30, 2009

Too Much Stuff

Well, I took the last load of office stuff from storage to our new place today. I've got boxes and stuff everywhere. I have a big problem throwing anything away. I've got all the props from all the movies. With each movie, we add a whole lot more boxes.
Special Effects wizard Steve Krieger came over to help some. He said he gives a lot of props to a Dallas Prop firm. But what if I need those props later in another movie? I'd have to pay??
On The Imposter, I did finally reuse a few props. With bringing back Popeye (played wonderfully by actor Tom Wright) from The Keyman (my first movie), I pulled out some props. The old red torn jersey on a stick that makes a flag on Popeye's cart carried the continuity.
And of course "The Oprah." She's been in every movie.
Anyway, boxes everywhere. The landlords are going to give me a small amount of warehouse space so I don't have to throw too much away. It will be nice to have a less cluttered office.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

How Many Cameras?

Some people want to know how many cameras are used to shoot a movie. In Hollywood, bigger budgeted movies, especially action movies will use two or more-- maybe even up to 8 or 10 on a big money shot. But shooting something "film style" usually denotes one camera. Television will shoot four or five.

However, when we can afford it, I like to shoot with two cameras in my "film style." It makes lighting and sound a little more difficult (you have to make sure both shots are lit and boom shadows have fewer places to hide). "The Imposter" was shot with two almost all the way. On the set, it's usually called "A" cam and "B" cam. On lower budgets, the DP (Director of Photography) will operate the A camera. Ron Gonzalez did this. "B" camera was operated platoon style. Some was Co-Producer Courtney Price, some was me.

As a director, I really enjoy operating. It's not easy. And once I tried to direct a movie while operating the one and only A cam. That was a bad idea. But jumping in on B Camera now and then was great on Imposter.

Friday, January 23, 2009

New Office Address

We've moved. Serendipitous Films is now at:
6125 Airport Freeway, Suite 102
Ft. Worth, TX 76117.

We've moved into a large building owned by Studios 121. It's a perfect place to be. They've got two stages on site and are renovating it, adding dressing rooms and such. We're moving in with DP Ron Gonzalez's company Deadmen Productions.

Should be a lot of fun.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Title Issues

Sometimes I think I'm good with titles. Then I look at the track record. Movie #1: The Keyman. Not a great title, but works. I remember on the set, Adam Baldwin, Tom Wright and I brainstorming other title ideas. But nothing better. Then I renamed it later to just make it feel new to get it out to a new distributor, "Finding Redemption." To avoid confusion, I then made it "The Keyman: Finding Redemption."

Movie #2. PURE MOTIVE. Now there's a decent Friday Night Rental title. I came up with this one because my mentor, Dr. Mike Riggins, had talked about how there is very rarely one pure, solitary motive for doing anything. So I wrote the script Pure Motive and started working on casting. Had a meeting with a BIG TIME casting director (she's casted some of the biggest movies of all time), and she said for low budget indie, she didn't want to do a plot driven thriller. Hmmm... The script isn't really a plot driven thriller.
So I remember driving with Jill up to Colorado and we came up with "A Promise Kept." Much more character driven sounding for getting actors, then for the distributors who want a Friday Night Rental title, we can go back to Pure Motive. Problem was, later distributor #1 didn't pass PM title idea along to distributor #2, so for US video only, APK is "The Gunman" which is wrong on several levels. Oh well. So the movie company was setup as Pure Motive LP, the movie shot as "A Promise Kept" and it's on DVD as "The Gunman."

Movie #3
So I thought I would try wrapping a deep theme into the popular horror genre (for which I know nothing and don't like them, but they're selling). I researched and had a whole blood disease called "Porphyria" that is genetic string going. Called the script "Bloodlines." Then took most of the horror out and made it a low budget action movie more than anything else. Sony renamed it "Striking Range." That's better than Bloodlines anyway. So I had all the distributors go with that title.

Movie #4
I wanted to do a movie about a fallen Christian rock star. And I wanted to do a comedy about a church staff that would employ some of the same elements (flights of fantasy) that "Scrubs" uses. Then I thought I could combine them. I started writing the script and my working title was the Christian Scrubs idea. Then more and more of the comedy and Scrubs-like stuff got cut out. As I neared the end of the first draft, my title was "Son of Thunder." Which incidentally was the *worst* title idea ever Producer Jeff Rodgers quickly told me. But the characters name was Johnny. His bandmate was James. James and John. Sons of thund... oh nevermind.
So the whole movie was about the concept of the word "Believe." How about that as a title? So second and third draft was "Believe." And the movie company was setup during this time (Believe Movie LP). But I didn't like the title. To 60's-ish.
Then as we talked to Kevin about starring, I listened to more of his music and The Imposter was a great song and perfect for the movie. I talked to Kevin and he said he didn't mind. So now the script was "The Imposter."

And we've kept it there. Although I did have a pretty well known Christian filmmaker say that I should really consider changing the title because it gives too much away. Newsflash-- the VO at the BEGINNING, Johnny tells one and all, "*I* was the Imposter." So I think we're okay there.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

I've Dealt With It -- so there.

I'm sitting at the table and I tell him that I've dealt with a particular problem. A character flaw. An aspect of the sin nature. Paul didn't say he dealt with it. Paul was always dealing with it. Present tense. He understood that from the time of becoming a disciple of Jesus, it becomes a race. It becomes a fight. (I've run the race, fought the good fight.)

So here's another sure sign of Ego (the flesh). If I say I've "dealt" with an issue, that means I'm conning myself. I will always be dealing with the sin nature.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Christian -- Another Derogatory Term

There are only three places in the Bible where the word "Christian" (Gr. Christos) is used. It means "little christs" and was a derogatory term.

However the word "disciple" has over 250 mentions in the Bible. But that word has a root that sounds like "discipline." Who wants that? Easier to just say Christian. Besides, it's a lot more comfortable to say "I'm a Christian" than to say "I'm a disciple of Jesus." (And a lot more comfortable to say "Christ" than to say "Jesus.")

And in today's semantics, what has the definition of "Christian" come to? Just my personal opinion here, but I wonder if all Christians will make it through the bema seat. I bet a greater number of disciples of Jesus will.

We touch on this in the movie "The Imposter." Our wise sage archtype "Proff" played by Kerry Livgren, doesn't use the word Christian. He uses the word disciple of Jesus, or Believer. We use Believer a lot because of theme "Believe is an Act."

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Puppy Luv

Well, it was a life lesson and a hard one for the family when in early December, we lost our beloved Newfoundland, Raleigh. The other day, my eleven year old woke up and shared a dream in which he saw that Raleigh was being taken care of in heaven. When asked what he thought that meant, he responded that it was time to move on.

We have been thinking about Labs or Shepherds. I love Newfoundlands and for the last fifteen years have had one in the household. I do not think there is a better breed than Newfies. However, right now, the giant breeds are a bit much for where we're at as a family. But our kids are growing up. Our last Newfy came as an adoption so he was already an adult. So the kids have never had a puppy.

Until now.

Wimsey is a six week old bundle of yellow puppy joy. He's a lab and is chunkie. I'll post pics soon. I remember Bunter's first night with us, fifteen years ago. He cried all night long and I slept on the floor with my hand int he kennel to comfort him. The kids have their sleeping bags ready. And Wimsey's got some lungs on him. Will be an interesting night.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Another Kerry Livgren Story - Sewage by any other name...

It was the second week of shooting and we lost some crew people due to the flu. We were shooting at Compass Church in Colleyville, Texas and we were shooting the scene where Johnny's evangelist dad is preaching. The sermon he preaches hits a popular note, but I twisted we twisted it ever so much towards a narcissistic bent. What was amazing was that several extras came up to the actor playing the evangelist and told him what an awesome sermon that was.

At lunch, Kerry had arrived and we talked about it. He told this story:
You have a barrel of fine wine and you have a barrel of sewage. You take a spoonful of sewage and drop it in the barrel of fine wine, what do you have? Sewage. You take a spoonful of fine wine and drop it in the barrel of sewage and what do you have? Sewage.

I know in my own life, straining out the sewage is difficult but imperative. I also listen to many fine songs and hear just a spoonful of sewage. I hear wonderful sermons that have a spoonful of sewage. Lot of sewage all around. Phew.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A Year Ago

Hard to imagine but this was the day before shooting began. We drove to all the locations for tech scouting. The shoot for the Imposter was scheduled as four 6 day weeks, but we ended up having two of those weeks as five days. Good thing too-- the flu ravaged the set. Dr. Scott Barclay was kind enough to come out several times, and I remember the line of people outside the trailer at Bethesda Church looked like a third world clinic. Good times. :)

The first shoot day was good, but we did need time gelling. Because of location demands, I had to put the heaviest dramatic scene on the first day (a big no-no). Fortunately, we got ahead of schedule later and were able to re-shoot this. Lighting and everything was much better.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Box Art

Here's our box for the Church Exhibition. We've got two very full DVD discs-- there was no way we could have come close to fitting everything on one. I'll have to decide what to do when we release the home DVD. Won't be able to include as much extras-- but that's okay and to be expected.

For the churches, besides the movie, we've got:
* Trailer
* Music Videos of "Believe (is an Act)", "Empty", and "Carry On Wayward Son"
* Unmasking the Characters with all the lead actors
* The 30 minute MXTV episode on making "The Imposter"
* Several meeting countdowns

I appreciate all the churches that have ordered it so far. If your church hasn't, point them to And the church doesn't have to buy it-- several congregation members have purchased the movie for their church. We are grateful for getting the movie out!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Grammys is not short for "Grammar"

Another story from behind the scenes of Imposter... When I wrote the script, I wrote lyrics of what maybe the songs inside the movie would be. Then I handed those over to composer Josh Goode and he then wrote the lines I wish I had ("pretty little preacher all dressed up for the show.".

But I always had the line "Believe is an act." (Josh lengthened it to "Believe is an act of action). When Kevin came in to sing it, he did call me up, with some lyric questions/suggestions. Some I took, grateful for his Grammy-award winning experience. But one that I hoped he laughed at later was his comment that "believe is an act" is not grammatically correct and he was having trouble with that. And we all know how important grammar is to the music industry. ("Luv Is A Verb" has a typo by the way, Kev).

His grammatically correct point was that it should be "belief is an act". Yeah well, the whole point of the song rides on Romans 10:9 "Believe in your heart". Believe has an aggressive nature. It has action. It's happening. Belief is passive. It's already happened. Anyway, Kevin was quick to understand. And for his part, Kevin took a good song and made it great with his input. Thank you, Kevin.

Remember, if you say you "believe" Kevin is awesome but you never buy his music, I doubt the genuineness of your "believe." Believe takes action. I would have had "Baleeve is a Verb" but it was kinda taken.

Here's the full music video of the song "Believe (is an Act)".

Sunday, January 11, 2009

I practice Evil

Boy this fall I had a hard time with this one. Evil? No way! I defend, I deflect, I diffuse... but no way am I evil!! (Insert Ernest Borgnine's "Evil!!!" from Mermaid Man in Spongebob. Yes I have kids). To admit I'm evil is to crack the Super Spiritual mask I like to wear (I call it my Pharisee mask).

What is evil? I was just asked that in an interview. Evil is "apart from God". I think of evil being a road directly away from God. So yes, there are degrees of evil and I believe there's a point of no return down that road.

But if the Apostle Paul "practices Evil", then certainly I do. (Rom. 7:19 "I practice the evil I do not want to do.") The key is killing it everyday. Yes, Paul writes in Corithians that he dies daily. Means something resurrects daily. Means that I can't "die to evil" and be done with it. I will actually have to work at this. My lazy nature doesn't like this. Too bad.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Funny Moments from the Set Part 1

Okay so on the set of The Imposter... We're shooting the music video portion of the big Act 2 climax song "Chance to Choose in which our movie band Grand_design led by James (played by Jeff Deyo) are singing and playing.

I found this really cool overpass with gravel piles underneath near our base camp. I shot the verse stuff with Deyo on top of the large overpass (on the shoulder area). All that went good. We had two cameras, bunch of people, cars with the hazard lights on. Jeff sings. On the bridge (pardon the pun) of the song, the words are "push me over the edge". And Jeff sings it with gusto. Still no problem.

Then I put the band underneath the underpass, each member on their own pile of gravel. I want a shot where I tilt down from Jeff on top of the overpass to the band underneath. The cameras move down. Jeff is left alone to sing. With gusto.

Five minutes later, we're all now under the overpass setting up for the next shot and the police cars come swooping in. Yeah. Some maniac jumper was on the bridge. Good times.

I will say that Jeff did an absolutely awesome job and I was surprised to learn he doesn't have any concept music videos.

Loving Too Much

"I guess I just love them too much." This is the cry of the enabler, the co-dependent. And actually, it is completely false. It's a LIE.

Definition of Love-- seeking the others highest good and purpose.

So you avoid confronting your adult son, who is using drugs, living in your house because you "love him too much?" That really smells. Seeking the others highest good sometimes isn't goose-bumpy. Sometimes it isn't comfortable. Sometimes it just doesn't feel good. But if you truly Love, you'll walk through what you have to walk through.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Christian Beer Commercials

It ain't about the numbers but it's about the numbers. I will write about the whole "anti-numbers" theology sometime soon, but for now to sum it up-- I am not to define my success by numbers (which is an all too easy trap for me). "Oh God, if You can stretch forth your mighty hand and bless this movie so that thousands, yea millions get it, oh the awesome work we can do for Your kingdom." Contrary to popular culture, success to God is defined by faithfulness (well done thou good and faithful servant).

So what do I do when being faithful is marketing something (like "The Imposter")? Do I look at the numbers? Do I strive for numbers? That's what being faithful to marketing is. Do I keep this blog more fluffy because the "killing the ego" stuff is uncomfortable and people just won't visit? It'd be just as easy to go spiritual, look down on everyone and say "fine you milk drinkers, you'll get nothing but meat here!!"

My mentor says there's rarely a pure motive for doing anything. I will confess one reason to do this blog is to help increase the viral marketing of Imposter. But as my friend Kirby says, if I want numbers, I'll need to keep it lite and less filling like Christian beer commercials.

So I don't know. My original thought was to do meaty stuff with less filling ingredients sandwiched in.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Almost 10 Billion reasons to forget about the economy (for two hours)

On Monday, the Hollywood Reporter mentioned that 2008 had indeed been a record breaker at the US Box Office. The take was $9.78 Billion in a year in which the economy tanked into full blown depression.

Charitable contributions, tithes, offerings, non-profits are all feeling huge squeezes, but movie seats are breaking records. In kids church a couple of weeks ago, the children's pastor asked how many kids had parents who were laid off recently or lost a job. It was amazing the number of hands. Now after Christmas, another informal poll-- how many got a Wii for Christmas? (Well, relatives bought the one for my kids. That's my story, sticking with it).

Goes to show that the entertainment industry is somewhat depression/recession proof. People want to escape. They want a story.

I do know that some churches are running with this. They can get "The Imposter" for their movie night and use it as a fundraiser. The people coming in will buy a movie ticket but maybe not the offering plate. It's a great way to fund that youth trip or mission outreach in tough financial times.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Long Life brand Batteries Are Not

I put them into my flashlight and they lasted for only a few clicks. I think the makers thought "we've got some really cheap batteries here that won't last long. We'll price 'em low, but to make sure people buy them, we'll call them 'Long Life.'"

In the Band of Christian Brothers, we learned that if you're trying to convince yourself or others of something, chances are, you're not that. I've spent a good deal of my life trying to convince everyone that I'm really smart. Boy did I feel stupid when I realized my efforts to appear smart were due to my own insecurities and feelings of inferiority. Deep down I was afraid people would discover who I really am. Talk about one mask of an Imposter.

Psalms 139 says I am fearfully and wonderfully made. If I decide that what I am is just too horrible, it's really an arrogant position-- the price God paid-- the death of His only Son, just wasn't enough for me. I'm *really* bad, God. I need an Uber Jesus, or "Super" Jesus, or a team of Jesus's. That's just wrong.

But the thing I have feared, unmasking, is actually freeing. And the amount of work it takes to build and maintain masks is huge. The truth shall set you free.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Carry On Wayward Son

So how did Kerry Livgren become a part of the movie "The Imposter?" For those that don't know, Kerry was an integral part of the super-group Kansas. He wrote the classics Carry On Wayward Son and Dust in the Wind.

I've always been a fan of Christian rock and enjoyed the work of an all girl band called Rachel Rachel back in the early 90's. They did a cover of COWS and a music video to go with it.

A few months before shooting Imposter, I was cleaning out some VHS tapes and saw one where I had recorded a Christian music video show. I had saved it because of the COWS video. In it, the girls rock out and Kerry comes on stage during the solo. I had been racking my brain for who to play the role of the Mentor in the movie and wanted an older Christian rock icon. I thought Kerry would be perfect.

I did a search on the internet and came up with his manager Dutch Dehnert's email address. After firing off an message, the reply was pretty quick. Dutch would pass the info along, but don't get my hopes up.

Long story short, Kerry wasn't too keen at first, but agreed to read the script. And his wife Vicci read the script. And he decided to do it and the movie was so much better for his participation.

So with Kerry attached, I began to dream. Wouldn't it be great if Kerry re-did the song with Kevin Max singing? I didn't think I would be able to talk Kerry in to it, and at first he wasn't big on the idea (He said he'd like to remake some of his songs-- COWS is not one of them). But then I got a CD in the mail with a return address Kansas. That was the day before shooting started. I popped it into the truck's CD and cranked it up. It had no vocals yet, but it was awesome.

The day after the last day of shooting, Kevin laid down some demo vocal tracks. A few months later, we paid for some studio time and Kevin laid them down for real. I had shot some music video segments on the set and during the summer edited the music video.

*When* we release the soundtrack, I'm sure that will be one of the songs. I might release the COWS video soon as well.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Dead Lawyer

"What's the difference between a catfish and a lawyer? One's a bottom-dwelling scum sucker. The other's a fish." -- from the movie "The Doctor."

You don't like my behavior. No problem. Set up rules. Laws. I'll find ways to follow every one of them. Yet still the behavior persists. It's obviation. Look that one up. Us lawyers like to use big words. You don't like the way I'm being selfish by eating out every day for lunch. No problem, I'll be selfish other ways. For every selfish thing you find in me, let's create a rule that I can follow. This presents evidence that I'm in fact, not being selfish.

This is *delusion.* The separating of myself from reality. This is the laywer. This is the Pharisee. He must die. Daily.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Meredith's Song "Empty"

I had a lot of fun editing this music video for the movie "The Imposter" ( I got to the point in the movie where our Christian Rock hero begins his prodigal journey down into the depths and debated using a real hard rock song for a montage before remembering that Meredith's husband had slipped me a CD of hers on the last day of shooting.

Meredith plays a member (Sydney) of the popular Christian Rock band "Grand_design". I recalled a slow, almost mournful song of Mer's and dropped it in and started placing shots over it. Now, I can't imagine any other song in that spot.

It meant that I needed to call her back in to reshoot the music video portions. But all that worked well-- like it was Sydney's song in the band. I really, really enjoy shooting music videos.

A few weeks before, I remembered seeing a documentary about people building an ice hotel. I thought visually, it'd be cool to shoot Sydney through what looked like ice. I spent the week before visiting glass shops etc., before deciding to shoot through one sheet of glass sprayed with that Christmas snow stuff. Then I scraped it with an ice scraper.

Also, Mike Higgins brought me the door to his shower-- a large frosted piece of glass, and like in a cartoon, I picked it up and it went "poof" and fell in a crystal pile at my feet. Wish I had cameras rolling at that point. Not sure what his wife Diann thought-- but I think he'd already replaced this and it was about to go to the trash.

Here is the full version of the music video (only half is used in the movie). For Meredith's website, visit

Waging War

As France fell in the early days of World War II and Britian stood alone, many people wanted to seek compromise with Hitler and save their lives and maybe their freedom. Winston Churchill, newly appointed Prime Minister laid out his program with one of his famous speeches.

"You ask, what is our policy? I will say: It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against this monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalog of human crime. This is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can only answer in one word: Victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory however long and hard the road may be; for without victory there is no survival."

In my life, my Ego (flesh) is Hitler. I can seek a policy of compromise and appeasement, or like Churchill, I can make a line in the sand that will never, never be crossed. With the resolution and determination of the British Prime Minister, I can say to my flesh, I will wage war with all my might, no matter how long and hard the road may be. For without victory there is no survival.

This war will not be over until the day my flesh perishes. But this will be my policy-- to daily wage war against it. I Cor. 15:31 - Paul dies daily.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Song that didn't make it into "The Imposter"

So the movie's done. It's edited. There's like 15 songs in the movie, not including score. (Not that any song is heard in it's entirety-- actually, there are some that are just a few seconds, or heard in the way back).

Then I hear "The Unwinding Cable Car" from Anberlin play on PowerFW 89.7 here in Dallas/FtWorth. The lyrics and feel are absolutely perfect. So Unwinding will be the first song on the list of "Songs that Shoulda Made the Movie if I Had Only Known In Time." (Which is a different list than "Songs that Shoulda but the Publisher Wanted Way Too Much Money.") For all I know, Unwinding might have been in the second. But you never know.

And actually, it hurts to hear this song. After finishing this movie in October and screening it, about the time I heard this song, I was painfully coming to the realization that I am still the Imposter myself. Big time. Much bigger than my Ego would ever let me see. Sometimes, it might be more comfortable to let the Ego be than to take the red pill and see how far the rabbit hole really goes. It's not pretty.

Soundtracks are hard

The legal paperwork for a movie fills a very large binder. I've been through that four times and know a little bit about what all that entails now. However, creating a CD soundtrack for the movie is another story.

After months of research and talking with people in the music industry, I've found it boils down to this: There are two main contracts you need for each song (which is similar to song usage in a movie), a publishing license (who owns the song) and a mechanical (who recorded the song). The publishing is pretty much fixed per song, per unit (CD album). The mechanical is more flexible.

Our biggest request on the movie "The Imposter" from those who have seen it is when a soundtrack will be available. We are working hard to make this happen.

Not Suicide (well figuratively maybe)

And if I don't succeed in killing myself, I'll really die.

The Apostle Paul, especially in the letter to the Romans deals with the "duality" of man. There's the flesh (which I'll call "the Ego") and then there's the spirit man. Paul goes on to say how important it is to mortify (make dead) the flesh. Later he writes that he dies daily.

I've got some pretty big ego strongholds that don't need fixin'. My ego doesn't need education to make it better. My ego doesn't need sympathy, placation, or coddling. It needs death. I want to kill my ego. Every day.

This blog will be my personal journal that will encompass my journey as a filmmaker, father, husband and disciple of Jesus.