I’m #HotForHillary Are You?

Check out my video for the #HotForHillary viral campaign!

 

Did you know Hillary Clinton eats a jalapeno pepper everyday? If you are voting for Hillary this Election Day, grab a pepper (and some milk), tell us why you are voting for Hillary, ask people to go to iwillvote.com to register, and nominate three people to do the same! Think ice-bucket challenge, but spicier. Can’t wait to see your videos!

 

[vimeo 182724418 w=425 h=350]

The Devil You Know

Here’s another video I directed recently. I hear this candidate would get along swimmingly with Putin.

 

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tl8wrl58m4g]

 

SWAPPED on AV Club

The Onion’s AV Club has deemed SWAPPED fit for coverage!  Click here to see the full article, or see below for an excerpt.

 

“The film American Psycho features two traditionally male-dominated professions: high finance and serial killing. Its protagonist, murderous yuppie Patrick Bateman, is an obvious misogynist. So what happens to the material when the character becomes Patricia and is played by actress Dani Faith Leonard? The answer is found in the premiere episode of a new web series entitled Swapped,created and produced by Leonard. The famous “business card” scene is herein reenacted by women, including Mara Wilson as Paula Allen.”

SWAPPED: American Psycho is getting all the press!

My most recent directing effort, SWAPPED: American Psycho just launched on Refinery29, but it’s already gotten covered by Entertainment Weekly and ET Canada.

 

Side by Side from American Psycho #2

 

From Entertainment Weekly:

A month before the Ghostbusters remake prepares to hit theaters, comedian Dani Faith Leonard launches Swapped, a new video series gender-swapping famous movie moments. First up, the business card scene from American Psycho.

 

Mara Wilson, who earned fame from her role in Matilda, features as Paula Allen, the female equivalent to Jared Leto’s Paul Allen. Christian Bale’s infamous role is taken over by Leonard herself as Patrick Bateman becomes Patricia Bateman.

 

The remaining cast is filled out by Keisha Zollar, Julie Rosing, Anna Suzuki, Nivedita Kulkarni, Laura Kleinbaum, SJ Son, Rasheda Crockett, and Jordan Randolph.

 

“The way that women are represented in media might seem like a micro-problem, but movies have the power to influence the way we view the world,” Leonard said in a statement accompanying the series’ premiere on Refinery29. “Women on have 31 percent of all speaking roles and are more likely to be princesses or moms than to sit at a board room table. Representation on screen in a direct result of the lack of diversity behind the scenes.”

 

Producer Zoe Samuel, who co-created Swapped with Leonard and director Mark Philip Lichtenstein, echoed this sentiment. “Women are 50 precent of the real-world U.S. workforce, but only 20 percent of the onscreen workforce. Movies at their best are about exploring what could be. It’s our role to lead the way, not to follow from twenty years behind the curve.”

Polite Sex on Comedy Cake

It seems Comedy Cake really liked the Polite Sex film I directed, calling it “Downton Abbey-esque”.  How cool is that?  Check out the film here and the Comedy Cake article here.  I’ll quote it below:

Video Licks: A Very Sexy, Very British Sketch From WE ARE THOMASSE

 

The first Pilgrim settlers fled Britain to escape religious persecution, yet Americans STILL fawn over their royalty and severely polite ways. I mean just look how many Brits are a part of American television these days! How can anyone resist those alluring accents? So what’s really funny about our neighbors over the pond? Monty Python? Yes, but also when those “prim and proper” English try to be purposefully sexy. In this “Downton-Abbey-esque” video from British-American comedy couple We Are Thomasse (Nick Afka Thomas and Sarah Ann Masse), decorum is at it’s peak when the suggestion of coitus arises. Enjoy some Polite Sex! (WARNING: Moderately safe for work. Kids, consent always first.)

Feminist Magic

A little while ago I shot a magic trick performed by a friend of mine named Hudson Taylor. Hudson is a fabulous magician, but he was also undefeated in NCAA wrestling while in college, posting a hall of fame caliber record, and he runs Athlete Ally, a charity aimed at ending homophobia and transphobia in sports. This, and his lantern jaw, super hero good looks make him the perfect guy to talk about feminism, because his “man credentials” are unimpeachable. Here’s the video, and some press it got.

 

The Huffington Post: A Card Trick To Explain Why Everyone Should Be A Feminist

Bust: LGBT Athletic Ally-Turned-Magician Performs A Magic Trick That Calls Out Gender Inequality

Herstory: This man uses a mind-blowing card trick to show you why he is a feminist

Bustle: “Awesome Card Trick About Feminism” By Magician Hudson Taylor Reminds Us Why We Still Need Feminism

Feminist Fairy Tales on The Mary Sue and Comedy Cake

Feminist Fairy Tales has gotten some press on The Mary Sue and Comedy cake.  Feminist Fairy Tales is a web series in which a little girl relates famous fairy tales, highlighting the insane sexism built into those stories which usually flies right past the reader.  More episodes to come, but for now, check out the press on it here and here.

What does the medium of film have to offer?

Recently, I got into a conversation with someone about whether it should be necessary to say, read  a novel a film is based on in order to enjoy the film.  He proposed that is can be necessary to read other material to appreciate a film, and that is fine.

 

To me, this means saying it is all right if a film does not stand on its own, or more specifically, that it’s all right if a film cannot stand on its own.  This raises an interesting point, which I think about every time I direct something: what is it the medium of film brings to the material?

 

Some film does not benefit the source material.  This may be because the story does not lend itself well to the tools of a visual storytelling medium, as would be the case, theoretically, with No Exit, which takes place entirely in one room.  It may also be that the joy of the source material, be it a book or a radio play, is in the prose describing the scene, or the audience’s enjoyment of imagining the scene.  In any case, when adapting to film, the director must ask what the medium can do to buttress and harness the material, rather than simply pointing a camera at the subject to satisfy our curiosity about what something looks like.

 

In adapting for film various sketches, I’ve been forced to answer this question.  Often, as is the case with the Art Team sketch for example, I’ve had to throw out all the original staging and re-block the material entirely, even changing positive aspects of the live performance (in that case) to suit the cinematic needs of the material.  It’s an example of killing your darlings.  If you have to excise the aspects of the material that made you attracted to it in the first place, then maybe it’s not suited for adaptation, or you just aren’t approaching it correctly.  Either way, you must strive to make the film capable of standing on its own.

 

This is not to say that it shouldn’t be possible to include Easter eggs for audience members familiar with the source material, but if your film must get by entirely on the knowledge of source material, than your film isn’t standing on its own and cannot be adequately enjoyed by the majority of the film audience.  Those sorts of films are fine to show as a publicity stunt at Comic Con, but in the cinema you cannot count on an audience that knows what you left out of the scene.  If you want them to enjoy what you have created, you must make it understandable, and forcing someone to have read another source before seeing the film is making the piece deliberately obtuse and will alienate your audience.

Photographs

Some photo favs for your enjoyment.

A little trick photography with a magician friend.

Magician Jordi Magomero posing for a publicity photo shoot

Magician Jason Suran posing dramatically for a publicity photo

 

Welcome!

A good director must have all the skills of the craft of film-making: cinematography, editing, acting, managing a team, all this while keeping half an eye on the clock, and the budget. A great director must add to those skills a voice that comes from outside experiences. The right director will do all of that while remembering the script is more important than their ego.

My skills as a director come from film school, being a lifelong film geek, and most of all many years of experience in production and post production. Outside of film, my perspective is informed by growing up in New York in a family that took me to museums and foreign films as a matter of course, time spent living abroad, and having a pool of friends of many different backgrounds and disciplines who keep me inspired. Throughout all of that, the three major constants in my life that inform my work as a director are art, Japanese martial arts, and magic.

From my seven years of classical art training, I practice a deliberate, elegant style, usually drawing my own storyboards to compose shots that tell the viewer as much or as little as the story demands. The ability to tell us a power dynamic in a shot, or when to laugh just with framing, comes from this background. A great example you may be familiar with is this one from the film M:

 

 

Born of my twenty years of martial arts experience, I plan shoots with military precision. “Maximum effectiveness with minimal effort” is the old Judo maxim. Applying that to directing means planning for every contingency, and allocating your resources to make the most of them. A great example you may know is when Harrison Ford had a stomach bug and there wasn’t time to wait for him to be well enough to film a sword v. whip fight scene in Raiders of The Lost Arc, the fight was traded for a moment of classic comedy where Indiana Jones simply shoots the swordsman, in a moment that both told the audience everything they needed to know about the character, and made perfect logical sense:

 

 

As a professional magician, I know how to use the tools I’ve mastered in film to direct attention where I need it, when I need, to give the audience the best possible experience. A wonderful example of this use of data manipulation can be found in the “car chase” scene in the film Toby Dammit by Fellini, who uses the darkness of the surrounding, the extreme closeups on the subject that tell us nothing but his state of mind, and the surreal use of sheep mannequins (save one who disturbingly turns to look at the subject) to give a sense of a man whose world is falling away from him, and there is no escape:

 

 

All these examples illustrate the director’s toolkit being used in service to the story, without letting the film simply become a showcase of the director’s ego. With these principles in mind, it’s possible to make powerful films that take the written word of the script and elevate it with the power of the film medium.

At the end of the day however, I make films I’d like to see, as a moviegoer.