Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Ross Partridge rocking the red
carpet at Sundance 2011.
Ross Partidge, the amazing leading man from THE LAKE EFFECT, was kind enough to guest blog this week from the Sundance Film Festival, where his latest film, THE OFF HOURS is premiering...  Enjoy!

We screened my film, THE OFF HOURS, twice thus far.  I play a truck driver named Oliver, who is not sure of the direction of his life after his marriage is ailing and his quest for higher meaning lands him the job, which is much different then what he use to know of his life, as a banker. People really like the film. I love it. I think it is is amazing and really special. It is dark, moody and like a Tom Waits song… very still.

So we had the premiere and now that it is on the table we have much anxiety about whether or not the film will sell. This is the unfortunate part(often fortunate) of all the great honor and thrills of being at Sundance. “Will the film sell?!” becomes the Elephant in the room. In everyone's room. THE OFF HOURS screened really well. People were moved and really taken about how cinematic it looks and feels. They are calling it a throwback to some of the older films at Sundance, those shot on film with higher budgets. We will know more by mid-week and hopefully we can all breathe a sigh of relief.

Kay (Panabaker, who plays opposite Ross in THE LAKE EFFECT) and I have exchanged messages a few times and are trying to get together for brunch. I will take a photo when the family is back together again.  In the meantime, I am standing in line for Kay's film, LITTLE BIRDS. It is completely sold out and the buzz here seems to be that the film is one the attracts a really broad audience.  Apparently so, because getting tickets looks nearly impossible.  Great for Kay, not great for us. 
Kay P and Juno Temple

Tickets at Sundance are so nearly impossible, at first, unless you get them early or buy a very expensive badge.  The actors themselves usually don’t even have tickets to give because the producers are hoping to get as many buyers, distributers, agents, and press people as possible in to see the film.  Since we don't have a ticket to Kay’s film, we are standing in line with 100 other people in the wait list line. The frenzy for tickets is out of control and although films are most always sold out, somehow you manage to get in. Earlier, we actually tried to sneak in to the theater because I really want to support Kay(my only daughter).  We were hovering in the fire escape stairwell, trying to scalp a few tickets, when we got busted by festival volunteer who was escorting out James Franco. They were really great about it and laughed as well. It is an amazing adventure and for the most part people who come just love it. It’s like Mardis Gras in snow…   

The partying here is out of control. The streets are packed with on- lookers and paparazzing hoping to get a glimpse of a star or two. There are thousands of young woman and men all carry bags from gifting suites- shoes and jackets and hats.  More shit then most need or want but it seems the frenzy to have free shit infects everyone here.  I think there are many people who come here just to party and have no interest in film.  I admit...I have gotten a few things here and there. as we do press lines and photos shoots, sometimes they say come here and take you into a room supplied with sponsorship swag. it is wild. In fact, if they really wanted to give things away here to the "artisits" here they should hand out bags of groceries because it is very expensive and most artist are struggling to eat at the fest.

Oh Sundance.. No other place like it. Two feet of snow, too much alcohol, great friends and fun and great film… and no sleep. It is an amazing experience and so very lucky to be part of it.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


Say what you will about strokes of genius and the image of a writer, possessed, slamming away at his typewriter until the last page of his/her novel is whipped out with an exhausted and proud flourish…. but writing is re-writing.  Or as Ernest Hemingway put it, "The First Draft of Anything is Shit.”  

A comic (Zack Galifinakas maybe?) had a great bit about getting studio notes that went something like this.  Producer, “He’s wearing a hat on page 2 and then he eats rice on page 37… does that really make sense?” 

I admit, I’ve gotten some bad notes in my time.  One producer, I won’t name names, was infamous for receiving a script on his desk, weighing it in his hand and saying, “It’s too heavy – too muc ink on these pages for a rom com!”  I wonder what he does now that everyone is reading scripts on their Kindles and Ipads?   By the way, because of this producer, I developed a staccato style of action-line writing and always attempted to keep my dialogue under three lines.  Oye vey. 

Okay, so I also have to admit, in the spirit of full disclosure, that I’ve been a horrible recipient to notes in my time.  Protective of my poor fetal scripts, I’ve seen collaborative input as a hostile fire and shot back with as much defensive artillery as my inexperienced little ass could muster.  

It’s not easy for writers (as they will surely take great pleasure in telling you).  You create this world and these characters from nothing… from a dream, from a spark while you were walking the dog and you nurture them on the page for (potentially) years of your life and some producer comes in and says, “Yeah it’s great, now change it.”

This gets easier over time or maybe with age or confidence in the process, in your work…  There’s a fine art to caring deeply about your work while allowing others to contribute to it. When you do find that balance, a notes meeting can actually become collaborative – where you are riffing off of the producer and coming up with new stuff on the spot… impressing them with your quick creative wit and spontaneous generation of fixes, new scenes, and solutions!

  • CHOOSE YOUR PRODUCER WISELY.  Firstly, it helps if you work with people you like and respect and who like and respect you.  This is almost impossible to do all the time so at least make sure you’re working with people you think are smart and will help make the movie good.
The newly covered title page of my pilot script.
Note in the lower left: "Hooker Scene - Trim?" Ha! 
  • OPEN YOUR MIND.  Come on Young Jedi, we’ve all seen the scene in Star Wars where Luke is trying to learn to use the force and he’s all resistant and then finally he gets it.  It’s like typical first half of Act two stuff…  Skip it in your own narrative… Just open your mind to the fact that these people are supposed to be your Yoda and listen -- they may actually have wise things to say.
  • TAKE NOTES.  This sounds like a no brainer, right? You’re being given notes so you should take notes… but I think sometimes writers leave a meeting without writing down nearly enough about what’s discussed and inevitably find themselves at home (er, Starbuck’s) unable to remember half of what just happened.    
Let’s assume you did take notes…
  • LET IT SINK IN.   Don’t rush home and pop up final draft and bust Act One wide open.  You’re going to have some re-breaking to do, which is going to cause some unraveling… So re-read the notes.  Re-read your script.  Rinse.  Repeat.   Take a day (assuming that you are not being paid tons of money for a last minute polish on a 100 million dollar script that is about to shoot in say… Fiji – btw, if you are, congrats on that).
  • MAKE A PLAN.   I do this on paper – on the actual script, usually.  I add notes to the notes.  I get creative all over the damn thing – answering questions, plotting out arcs, new scenes, dialogue snippets.  It's less intimidating if I'm not typing it.  
  • CULL IT DOWN.  Sometimes after a particularly creative notes session, there will be too many ideas on the table – some of them may be contradictory, some just won’t work.  Sometimes, what works out loud doesn’t work on the page  - A Producer’s great pitch rings false or derivitive or just not funny… At this point, you make choices.  The producers hired you (hopefully) because they trust you to make it all work… So make it work by choosing which notes enhance the script and re-thinking or ignoring the ones that don’t.  
  • PLOT IT OUT.  At this point, if I’m doing a pretty big re-write, I go back to treatment.  Sometimes I do this at the front of the draft that already exists but sometimes cutting and pasting the scenes that worked back in can get confusing.  Regardless, I start from scratch and build it back up.
  •  DON’T THROW OUT THE BABY WITH THE BATHWATER.  Even with a page one re-write, there is probably a lot that you loved about a project (you hope) that should survive – at the very least, the crux of the story? The spirit, the thing that made you care about these people in the first place…? Unless of course one of your notes is “There’s no story,” or “We don’t care about these people.” Then you're screwed.  ...I kid.  
  • KNOW WHEN TO SAY WHEN:  Sometimes notes just suck.  An Executive is guessing at what their boss will want or they don’t really get what you’re doing and they’ll give a broad, unnecessary note like, “The main character, that guy who saves puppies for a living, he just doesn’t seem likeable.” I once added to a character description, “We can’t help but love this guy,” just to avoid that note.  A friend of mine went one step further.  She took the note with a smile, waited three weeks, turned the script back in with no changes and they LOVED it.
  • DON’T BE PRECIOUS:  Don’t go into the hole and shut everybody out.  Call the producers if it will help to throw ideas around.  If you don’t want to do that, call a buddy.  If you don’t have a buddy, go to the gym and chat up the person on the treadmill next to you… a work out will clear your head at least.   And then, as the late, great Bruce Paltrow used to tell me, "Get your ass in the chair and get the pages out!"  
If it helps, remind yourself that when you turn the new version back in, in all likelihood, there will be more notes! 

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


The first question that people ask when I tell them that I am a filmmaker is: “What kind of films do you make?”   You might think that this is a simple question because the answers (potentially) are short. “I make political documentaries.” Or “I do thrillers.”  But this is a big, meaty, existential question. What these people are asking is probably the hardest and most fundamental question a filmmaker must answer (after "How do I pay my rent?").  When someone asks: “What kind of films do you make?”, they are really asking, “What kind of stories do you want to tell me?”  They are the Caterpillar and you are Alice and they want to know, “Who are you?”

With Luna, then 5 months,
recording my Voice Over for
Finding your voice as a filmmaker doesn’t necessarily mean boxing yourself into a genre.  But it is important to understand that with each film that you make, you are building a body of work and you are building a career.  Defining your voice not only helps executives and collaborators understand your vision, it helps audiences know who you are so that they can more easily come along for the next ride.  Most importantly, by exploring your own voice instead of trying to impersonate other directors, you can create truly original work. 

Now, by default, in the beginning of my career, I started writing female leads and by default I started writing about romance (I was 22 when I began this journey and boy problems were tantamount). After several romantic comedies, I tried my hand at an indie script in the hopes of directing it.  Indie in my mind, meant edgier, darker… drama.  My indie script turned out to be a dramedy.   I couldn’t help it… I try to write drama and the “edy” sneaks in.  In fact, when something is funny, it’s the only time I really know it’s working.

So it would seem a simple answer at this point.  What kind of films do you make?  Indie dramedy!   But after surveying my slate (see Blog #8) which now includes several more broad comedies and romantic comedies, as well as a few more TV comedies, I have to admit that the comedy is a common thread, as is thoroughly flawed lead characters, redemption, and a lot of heart.   
So, as I embark on my next filmic endeavor, I find myself still pondering (re-pondering?) what my answer is to the “Who are you?” question.  For a while the answer was "Romantic Comedy" then it was "Strong Female Driven Comedy."  Since THE LAKE EFFECT it’s been “Indie Dramedy.”  

Perhaps there is some happy marriage between these things. Trumpets please as I announce that I make "Character Driven Comedies!"  

Alas, it's not as exciting on paper as it sounded in my head.   

The truth is, I am still finding my voice as a filmmaker.  I think I will be for the whole of my career – seeking out nuances, trying to be honest with myself and not just emulate the filmmakers I respect. 

One thing I do believe is that if you’re not in a constant process of discovery, you will stagnate.  So be honest, make mistakes, and trust yourself...  And to find more articulate information on how to find your voice from people who have done it themselves, see:

Director Jason Reitman talk about Finding the magic: 

Colin Firth find his voice in: The King’s Speech, (which is rightfully up for a whopping 7 Golden Globe nominations) http://www.kingsspeech.com/

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


As the late, great Michael Jackson said, “This is it.” I believe when Michael said, “this,” he was in fact talking about 2011 and when he said, “it,” he meant GO TIME.

You heard it here first: 2011 is go time.

According to my friends’ status updates on and around New Year’s Eve, 2010 will not be missed.  Granted, 2010 did not greet me with job offers galore or send me diving into gold coins like Scrooge McDuck but personally, I had a pretty great year watching my baby grow into a toddler,

moving to a new part of the city, hopping to some great film festivals… To boot, just before the end of this complicated year, Jennifer Westin called and told me some of the nicest news a filmmaker could hear. Apparently, I’ve been named one of the Top Ten American Indie Filmmakers to Watch by the prestigious Raindance Film Festival! So, happy 2010!

Alright, so in honor of being named one of the Top Ten American Indie Filmmakers to Watch (Beware, I’m going to use that phrase as often as possible… at drinks meetings, baby birthday parties: “Hi, this is Luna and I’m one of the Top Ten American Indie Filmmakers to Watch!”) I’ve decided to kick this wicked cool year off with my own Top Ten list.
Here are…


10) Get another film in the can, namely The Cynics, which has yet to be written. Watch out though – it’s top of the list this month… even though it’s number 10.

T. Summers in
The Lake Effect
9) Collaborate with all the talented artists around me. I’m coming for you, friends. By the way, speaking of ridiculously talented people I’m lucky to know – The Lake Effect’s very own Tara Summers is going to be on ABC’s Private Practice this Thursday, January 6th at 10 pm! Watch and be amazed. Tara is gorgeous and talented and is one of the reasons that THE LAKE EFFECT turned out to be so lovely.

8) Watch more films by amazing directors. I’m going to pick one director per month, watch four of their films, do some research on their process at the nearby Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and then blog about it.This month, I’m thinking James Brooks because he’s a writer/director, he’s epic, he’s funny, and he’s someone who does dramedy right (eg: Terms of Endearment, Broadcast News, and As Good As It Gets) and his new flick HOW DO YOU KNOW is still in theaters.

7) Create for the web. I’m totally eager to explore the web as a new format for storytelling. If anyone needs one of the Top Ten American Indie Filmmakers to Watch to help them write or direct some webisodes, you can find me here.

Chase Maser plays the guitar
as "Jace" in The Lake Effect
6) Start playing the guitar again. As a writer, it’s good to have a habit (er, hobby…) that clears your head and doesn’t involve caffeine, drugs, and/or drinking. I had been learning to play guitar when I got pregnant and started work on The Lake Effect… Despite the fact that there are lots of guitars in the film, a year and a half later, my poor Yamaha acoustic is gathering dust. But this year, my baby’s demands for me to, “Strum! Strum!” will be answered.

5) Read more. I mean news, reviews, articles, etc. That’s where my best inspiration has come.That and from my crazy family and friends, which brings me to…

4) Spend more time with my crazy family and friends (and convince them that their lives should be fair game for me to write about).

3) Read the trades (or at least Deadline Hollywood) more. Once a week. Okay once a month… at least.

2) Get a steady writing gig! Seriously – this little writer needs to support her indie film habit which is why when I’m not scribbling this blog, I am busy scribbling lots of words on pages intended for the television. Hopefully, I will land a sweet gig on a TV writing staff and you will be able to see my name on the TV screen sometime this year, which brings me to…

1) Get The Lake Effect to a screen near you. Be it movie, TV, or laptop. You wanna see this movie? In 2011, you will!