I did an interview with Rob Feld for Editors Guild Magazine a couple months ago, and had my picture taken by John Clifford on my lovely Brooklyn roof about a month ago. Today I got a copy of the July/August issue and there’s a big picture of me on the cover looking squinty yet casual.

Sorry for the bad quality, I don’t have a scanner and it’s not online yet. Also, note that Pineapple Express didn’t get the cover photo. Someone at the magazine has a warped sense of priority.

The article is quite extensive and I’ve definitely been paraphrased and edited for brevity. I just hope I don’t come off like a jerk.

Expelled & Fair Use

One of those things you pick up pretty quickly working in commercial filmmaking is that you are never, ever, ever, nerver, never, ever allowed to use music in your work without getting permission, and generally paying through the nose for it. Producers also generally tell you not to have any visible brands, artwork, or any copyrightable material without getting permission from the proper authorities first. Basically that means people in movies don’t live in the real world, because that stuff is everywhere. But that message didn’t reach the producers of Expelled, the documentary about the so-called Intelligent Design theory and its allegedly unfair treatment by the scientific establishment (unsurprising given the theory’s lack of… science). The producers of Expelled actually used 15 seconds of John Lennon’s song “Imagine” without paying for it, and expected to get away with it.

AND THEY DID!!!!! This seemed to me like an open-and-shut case of copyright infringement. Yoko and John Lennon’s sons (owners of the publishing rights) sued. But the judge in the case decided yesterday that the filmmakers were commenting on the content of the music, and refused to grant an injuction. I’ve read the decision, and it makes a lot of good points. The film is directly commenting on the lyrics and general message of “Imagine” and in order to make that point, you need to play some of the song. Just as you generally need to quote a portion of a book in order to write about it. Why shouldn’t filmmakers have the same ability to discuss works of art?

This story seems destined to grow more complicated. EMI owns the master license to the song and they’re still waiting to hear from the courts. I think it’s very important, and it’s unfortunate that I’m finding myself starting to agree with the makers of Expelled. Then again, the last big fair use case I remember involved 2 Live Crew and lyrics like “All that hair, it ain’t legit / ‘Cause you look like Cousin It.” Just because it’s crude doesn’t mean it’s not legal.

Cloverfield & Acceptable Moviemaking Practices


Like many other people, I saw Cloverfield last weekend. And I got really queasy. The handheld video was unbearably shaky. The movie was pretty good, even if it required a lot of suspension of disbelief. It’s funny how we’ll accept that a giant monster from the sea would attack NYC with no provocation, but not that a human can walk from Spring St to 59th St in 15 minutes.

But what really made me think was this motion-sickness thing. I saw The Blair Witch Project when it came out, and I didn’t have any trouble with the shaky-cam. I didn’t like the movie, but that was because it was awful. Am I more susceptible to motion sickness now that I’m older? Why is that? Google hasn’t been much help. Apparently motion sickness peaks when you’re around 10. But I read books in the car all the time when I was young.


My big question was, in a film designed for sensory assault, is it OK to induce nausea in the audience in addition to the usual increased heart rate? I’m going to have to say no. A movie can be a lot of things, but vomit comet should not be one of them. It’s definitely possible to shoot a film from a first-person perspective without tossing the camera around. Just watch any Ross McElwee movie. Of course, Ross never has to deal with giant sea-creatures in his movies (except in the upcoming “Gojira’s March”) so he tends to have a pretty steady hand, but the point is, shakiness is not required for a sense of immediacy and reality.

Here’s my dream script for the beginning of a first-person horror movie:


A scary noise is heard outside.

General Pandemonium.

                   RANDOM PARTYGOER #1
      Oh shit, we have to get out of here!

                   JOSH (to the camera)
      Come on Bobby, there's an army of 50-foot 
      vampires attacking the city!

                   BOBBY (from behind the camera)
      Hold on, let me get my Steadicam harness!

The camera becomes noticeably smooth and steady.

      Ok, let's run!

The camera glides out the door.

Leopard, Vista, Doesn’t Matter

The big computer news this week is the release of Apple’s “Leopard” operating system. So every tech journalist is dutifully stacking it up against the underwhelming release of Windows Vista earlier this year. But at this point does the OS really mean anything to anyone? Having spent a year with a computer running both Windows XP and Tiger I can say for certain that the features of the OS make no difference to me. They both are no more or less than a way to run applications. They both run them with a minimum of fuss. The user interfaces to me are essentially interchangeable. One has a dock, one has a taskbar. On my Windows keyboard, one uses the Ctrl button for most keyboard commands, the other uses the Alt key. All the other differences make no difference to my productivity or happiness. I run Tiger for Final Cut Studio, and XP for everything else. And lately the majority of my days are spent using Firefox, which is the same in every operating system.

Don’t get me wrong. In the past, operating systems have made huge differences in my productivity. Does anyone remember how horrendous the Mac OS was right before OS X? It might have been groundbreaking in 1984, but compared to Windows 98 it was junk. Windows 98 was not so hot itself. Windows XP was a real step forward in stability, if nothing else. But what is Vista going to get me that XP doesn’t do for me now? I installed the 64-bit version of XP when I first bought this 64-bit computer, but it was too much hassle to track down new 64-bit drivers for everything, and Avid Xpress Pro didn’t run on it, which was the real deal breaker. So I’m still running the 32-bit version and it’s just great. Vista sounds like just another hassle for no apparent benefit. Leopard probably wouldn’t be a hassle, but I don’t think it’s going to wow me once I’m forced to upgrade when Apple decides that FCP can’t run in Tiger anymore.