A Clear Success

Built to Spill at Dry River - 09In the course of being a socially-concious filmmaker it's usually not possible to ever know if your work is really making much of a difference.  This week, though, I had the chance to clearly see that happening. Read more>>>

Free To Pursue Your Real Talent

I just read this great rant by a movie industry bigwig, screenwriter of "A History of Violence." It's entertaining it's extreme honesty and openness about the craft of screenwriting, and it's funny, and it's called "I Will Not Read Your Fucking Script." I recommend reading it if you are any sort of creative person.

One of the best ideas is this:

An Age of New Narrative Structures and Fearing The Future

Earlier this week Greta and I went to see the new climate change film The Age of Stupid. It's a documentary with a speculative fiction frame around it, and that's what I want to talk about, the form, rather than the content of the film. I've blogged before several times about climate change. You know where I stand on that. Read more>>>

Allegory vs. Action

BizazarroLast night I went to see District 9, the new semi-sleeper science fiction action film that movie industry wonks are salivating over for its relatively cheap budget and efficient production. I was both overwhelmed and underwhelmed.

In short, I really like the concept, and I enjoyed the first 20 minutes or so. But then, the film turned into a nerve-wracking, over-the-top action flick that had me clawing the upholstry off the armrests and wishing I'd brought some valium. It ramped up to a fever pitch to the point where for the last 40 minutes or so it was nonstop explosions, gunfire, bodies bursting into splashes of red goo, robots and aliens ripping things apart, and lots of screaming and yelling. Basically, it became pretty much just like every other Hollywood summer action blockbuster. Oh but it only cost $30 million to make! hurrah!

I went to see it because the premise was interesting. It was clearly an allegory about racism, xenophobia, and immigration, along with a healthy dose of criticism about privatization of public spheres, arms dealing, and multinational capitalist corporatism. But it went from biting social criticism to largely gratuitous and pointless ultra-violence. The story could have easily been told without 90% of the death and gore that was graphically displayed, singeing the eyeballs of viewers and inducing PTSD for days to come.

Can't a story be science fiction without also being a "thriller" or "horror"? Can't we just explore ideas without pumping ourselves full of adrenalin with guts and things blowing up?

I guess the secret bright side is this: all the teenagers and other immature moviegoers who actually LIKE that sort of crapola might also be encouraged by the film to think about some of the social issues it brings up. Like is it okay to treat differently people that don't look like us? Or is everyone entitled to basic decency? If middle-american dork-boys can be persuaded to feel that even the gnarly greenish insectoid creatures in the movie deserve to not be abused and oppressed, maybe that will be an important step forward for human rights.


For a little over 2 weeks, we've been in production for Truth On The Line, the new project I'm directing (and wrote). It's been very exciting, and things are going quite well other than feeling like each shoot is very rushed.
shooting Truth On The Line, scene 9, day 1 - 50
We have been shooting at quite a speed - an average of 6 script pages a day. Usually 5 is a good rule of thumb for an "indie" project. We've been pressured by time constraints involving the location and the natural light, as well as my own inexperience at scheduling, but for other shoots coming up I'm hoping that we can have things be a little more relaxed.

However, as I said, things are going well, and I'm quite happy with the performances of all the cast, as well as the look of all the footage we've shot. I've started to put together some of the footage into rough edits to make sure I have what I need, and it is working! I'd like to have a little more coverage, and more takes, so that's another reason to try to relax the shoot velocity, if possible.

shooting Truth On The Line, scene 9, day 1 - 55
We've been blessed to have the help of 2 very cool local establishments here in Tucson: BICAS, the non-profit bicycle repair and education collective, let us use their 4-wheeled bicycle-car, which we put to work as a dolly and which functioned great as such!

Also, Revolutionary Grounds Books and Coffee was our wonderful location for the 3 cafe scenes in this pilot episode. TOTL Scene 7 Production Stills - 22 Many many thanks to Joy, the generous proprietor, and to Matthew, the amazing barista who opened up early for us at 5am on 2 mornings, and also to Diana, another barista there who had utmost patience for us and makes a great iced americano.

I'm having a great time, it's wonderful working with all these actors and the extremely talented and helpful crew, and i'm looking forward to cutting it all together and seeing the story we're creating unfold.

See for more production stills.

Here's a great behind-the-scenes clip (shot by Ryn) of us shooting at the cafe, which I hope will be a location for many great encounters and dialogues during future episodes of the show.

Scheduling A Large Cast Is Hard

Truth On The Line - first script readthru - 4
We're still in pre-production for the pilot of Truth On The Line, the TV/web series that I've been developing for the last 2 years. I finished casting a couple of weeks ago and I'm now trying to schedule rehearsals and shoots, and it's really really challenging. There are 14 speaking parts, so trying to arrive at times where even most of the cast can be there has been crazy.

We did have one meeting where we did a first read-through and I managed to have all but 2 or 3 actors there. That was impressive and it went really well. A photo from that is above.

Truth On The Line Pre-Production

I'm in the middle of pre-production for a new project which I do not think I've mentioned before on this blog. Truth On The Line is a TV/web show which will be a hybrid of fiction and nonfiction, news journalism and drama. I like to say that it's a cross between "Slacker" and "Broadcast News", and the news will be real.

I first came up with the idea for this project almost 2 years ago, and have been gradually thinking about it and keeping it simmering on the back burner of my creative stove every since. It was this spring that I finally finished the script for the pilot episode and began.

I cast 5 of the 15 speaking parts first, people I knew. Then I did a casting call about a week and a half ago. Since then I've been working a lot on casting, sorting through the dozens of responses to my call and holding auditions. It's been incredible. Fun, but lots of work. It's great though just to meet some very creative actors, and I find myself wishing I could work with almost all of them, but of course, I can't and I have to make some choices. Hopefully a week from today, or so, I will have made those choices.

The other thing I'm doing is trying to decide if I should create a new blog for the project. It will eventually need a website. I'm tweeting in twitter about it using the #totl tag. But should it have its own blog?

I'm very inspired lately reading the blog of Christopher Sharpe. He's been diligently blogging and tweeting about his film, The Spider Babies, which is in pre-production too. He plans to ask his main castmembers to tweet from the set as well. That's a really cool idea. But he hasn't created separate site or blog for the film yet, as far as i know. So, maybe I shouldn't either. Yet, at least.

Anyway, stay tuned for more on this project as it progresses.

Tax Day Message About My Film About Taxes

"Happy" Tax Day, everyone!

A month ago I started an online fundraising effort to raise additional
funds for the war tax resistance film that I've been working on.
(See this blog post for more background.)

Anyway I just wrote up something for the Facebook folks and spruced up my
spiffier, flashier fundraising web page:

Here's the FB cause announcement I just sent out this morning:

Today is the day, more than any other, when citizens of the U.S. think
about where their taxes get spent.

On this day, which is also 1 month after creating this Facebook cause
and starting this experiment in online fundraising, I'm sending you
this reminder about taxes and to remind you that I'm still trying to
fund the completion of my film about taxes and war. Since starting the
fundraising campaign, I've raised a little over $400, which means I
only need less than $3200 more to finish the film. That $400 is
already going toward work on the film, because every time I raise
$100, that pays for one more day of editing, and I sit down at my
editing station and get to work! With that $400, I will soon be 4
more days closer to finishing "Death and Taxes"!

So for you on this day, I've uploaded a 7-minute excerpt from the
rough cut of the film which should give you a better idea of what the
film will be like. I've also re-vamped the fundraising webpage with
lots of exciting stills from the film, and given the page a new URL:

Check out the page and the clip and think about this day, and our
wars, and this film, "Death and Taxes". Maybe while you're thinking
of all that money going for all that killing, you can find it in your
hearts and pocketbooks to channel some dollars toward this important
film. And maybe you can tell others about this film and it's need for

Just think, if the 33 of the 36 members of this Cause who have not
donated yet were to recruit one more member each, and then if they and
all those recruits were to each donate $50, that would be enough!
That's all we'd need to finish the film, and in 2 months, it would be
all done. Kind of cool to think about it that way, isn't it?

Thanks for your support,

Steev Hise
Director, "Death and Taxes"

To Arivaca Film Expo

Today I'm heading down to Arivaca, a little town near the border, about an hour southwest of Tucson, to show "Wild Versus Wall" at the Arivaca Independent Film Exposition. I think this is the third year that I've had something in this yearly 1-day festival, but I've never actually been present for it, so I figured it's about time I show up. It looks like there are quite a few interesting films, both documentary, and narrative, shorts and features, so it should be fun. The only thing is that just like with the Sedona fest last week, it feels like I'm taking time out that I don't have, but at least in this case it's only an afternoon.

Another Day in the Red Rocks

I'm starting the 2nd to last day of the Sedona Intl Film Festival and I for once got plenty of sleep last night since I made a successful effort to skip the nightly party.

In a few minutes I have to head off to a 9:30 film but I want to quickly mention something I realized yesterday: there is one thing that sort of in a way magically makes up for all the things I've been cynically and grumpily griping about for the last few days regarding the fest and film fests in general. The thing is THE FILMS THEMSELVES, or at least the cream of the crop of them, the few that really stand out and you see and you think, wow, that is one of the best films I've seen in a long time, or maybe ever, and I may have never seen it ever, because so many films in festivals never get distribution, never even get to DVD, or if they do they perhaps don't get the proper promotion and you never hear about them.

So I glad I'm here, namely for 2 films in particular that I have seen and really stand out: The Speed of Life by Ed Radtke and Selfless by the Pander Brothers - both of these film totally blew me away and made me happy to be here. And I should add that the Pander Brothers are from Portland (and are good friends of my Tucson pal Carl Hanni), and have been an absolute pleasure to meet and talk with at the various festival parties, and their film has lots of beautiful art direction and locations from Portland - but it's a sort of dark, soulless version of Portland, a critical vision of the yuppified, gentrified, "creative class" zones of Portland. And there's lots of great music and score by Portland music folks including Auditory Sculpture.

Neither of these film have distribution yet, but I pray that they will because you all need to see them!

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