Entry 23: It’s Not a Fashion Show!

One thing about New York is that on a daily basis you hear your fair share of inappropriate language. At the deli you’ll hear about “fucking A-Rod.” At the barber you’ll hear about various “bitches” and “sluts.” Driving on the Cross Island you’ll be called an “asshole” or a “cunt.” On the subway you’ll hear someone with tourettes call out about “fags” and “niggers.” To be honest, as unfortunate and embarrassing as it may sound, it’s part of the culture here.

I’ve tried to naturally incorporate this vernacular into Bridge and Tunnel. I don’t like to lace my work with profanity, I really don’t. There were a couple moments in The Newest Pledge (not counting Haitian Creole), but none in my student work, but those films are all in a different genre, geared towards a different audience than Bridge and Tunnel. With this motion picture I’m trying to accurately project my generation, in this place at this time, into a story. To do so it needs to have dirty language.

And there’s a decent amount of profanity, only used naturally, in the right context.  But that’s New York and that’s what Bridge and Tunnel was meant to be. It’s not charming like an episode of Friends, it’s not as innocent as How I Met Your Mother, it’s not as quirky as Girls, and it’s not as sophisticated as a Woody Allen or Whit Stillman movie. In fact, the purpose of this project was to create a counter-film to all of those portrayals of the region, and to instead show my vision of the real New York.

The real New York isn’t the fashion show that New Yorkers wish it was. The real New York is not Paris (it’s better). Perhaps successful designers live and work here, but hop on a subway at any hour of the day and you’ll find that the real New York doesn’t dress as well as they wish they did. The real New York wears more sweatpants than the movies would allow you to believe, the real New York is chubbier than Sex and the City would want you to see (or way too skinny).

The real New York is a bunch of working class people, from blue collar backgrounds, sitting around, eating, drinking, watching TV, being loud, getting in verbal fights, and simultaneously enjoying life while finding new ways consider yourself miserable. In a metropolitan area of 22 million people, this is what the lives of 21.9 million of them are like.

And it’s how I want Bridge and Tunnel to play. No, the film is not a fashion show. It’s more like a visual mid-70’s Bruce Springsteen song; only more simultaneously content and miserable.

And with more profanity.

Jason Michael Brescia

May 20, 2013 7:11 P.M EST

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Entry 22: My Critique on Critics of the Arts

In my first film class, before I’d ever made anything, I got in a debate with my professor about the usefulness of film critics, and critics of the arts in general. My professor’s background was in live TV news production, and she had done a few infomercials. She believed that critics were valuable because it provided the public with a buffer as to how to use their time.

My argument wasn’t the most unique; essentially I stood firm that it’s impossible to judge art without sitting down with the artist, asking what their ambition was, and then sitting down with a large, diverse group of people, and anonymously polling them as to whether or not said goal was achieved. Critics, as far as I know, don’t do that.

I also questioned her as to “who becomes a critic?” It may have come off as condescending to the profession; especially coming from a 120 pound eighteen year old wearing a Pearl Jam t-shirt, but it was an honest question. Somewhere in my brain it didn’t click that someone could “professionally” judge someone’s art. Were these people void of taste preferences? If not, how could they “review” art within different genres without bias? If so, how could they critique art?

I used to really follow the music review website Allmusic.com. There was a period of time in which before I would go to Tower Records I would verify with allmusic that the album had received four or more stars. Then, as time went on, my discomfort with the website grew. There was no method to the ratings system and the reviewers wore their hearts on their sleeves. This wasn’t a professional examination of a piece of art, which a recorded music album is, instead it was one person who works for a popular website’s opinion on the album.The reviewer did not inquire with the artist about their motivations, did not seek an audience reaction, and instead decided to rate this unique album against other artists albums.

For example, in the early 1980’s legendary Electric Light Orchestra leader Jeff Lynne sought to create a rock opera driven by various keyboards and synthesizers, about a fellow who gets transported from 1980 to the year 2095. This was before Back to the Future made time travel a niche of decade, and the synthesizer was just beginning to take over popular music. The album was called Time, and in my opinion it is entertaining, catchy, and paints a fantastic image of a technologically driven future.

Allmusic.com gave this album a “two star” rating, and in their four sentence review cited a lack of cohesion and originality as the reasons. At the time of writing this, 54 allmusic.com users have rated this album, giving it the average score of “4.5” out of “5.”

Myself, and the average of 54 other people who took the time to register and vote on the website, were all moved by this album. Jeff Lynne’s imaginative idea of a piece of music about time travel resonated with us. But because an allmusic reviewer named James Chrispell thinks the album is only worthy of “2 stars,” his review will serve as a “buffer,” as my professor put it, preventing someone from listening to this album, instead directing them towards something with a more prosperous rating, perhaps Britney Spears’ 2000 album Oops I Did It Again which received a 4 star review.

Rolling Stone magazine was at one point a relevant publication that reviewed releases in music, literature, and cinema. In 1996 they listed the Weezer album Pinkerton as one of their “Worst Albums of the Year,” likely “buffering” plenty of people from listening to it. Over the next several years that album took on a cult identity, becoming one of the more  significant albums of the 90’s. In fact, less than ten years after it was one of the “Worst Albums of the Year” it was inducted into the meaningless “Rolling Stone Magazine Hall of Fame” (and yes, it even retroactively received a “5 star” review from allmusic, but don’t fret, a separate Weezer album, 2009’s Raditude was initially given a 4.5 rating, but was demoted to a 3.5 in early 2013. I supposed the track “I Can’t Stop Partying” became less relevant over time to the reviewer, and was no longer worthy of the lofty 4.5 rating).

Another popular art rating website is Pitchfork.com. Unlike allmusic.com, Pitchfork does not attempt to be an unprejudiced measurement of music. Pitchfork tends to reward counterculture, while becoming grossly offended with anything mainstream, unless said mainstream act has been around long enough to become a nostalgia act to the websites writers and following. Though they don’t try to hide it, Pitchfork.com and it’s writers serve as the shepherds for countless sheep who got picked last in gym class, and therefore can’t listen to the same music and like the same movies as the kid who got picked first… or second… or fourteenth. Pitchfork is the uniform for those who want to be different.

In a recent speech at the South By Southwest arts festival, Dave Grohl, the drummer of Nirvana, one of the most artistically influential groups in American history, and the leader of the Foo Fighters, one of the most popular music acts of the past twenty years, had this to say about judging art;

Fuck guilty pleasure, how about just pleasure? I can truthfully say out loud the “Gangnam Style” is one of my favorite fucking songs of the past decade. Is it any better or any worse than the latest Atoms for Peace record? Hmm. If only we had a celebrity panel of judges to determine that for us. What would J-Lo do? Paging Pitchfork. Come in, come in. Pitchfork. We need you to determine the value of a song. Who fucking cares? Who’s to say what’s a good voice and what’s not a good voice… The Voice? Imagine Bob Dylan standing there singing “Blowing in the Wind” in front of Christina Aguilera? [Mimicking her voice] Mmm I think you sound a little nasally and sharp. [Returning to his normal voice] It’s your voice, cherish it, respect it, nurture it, challenge it, stretch it, scream it until it’s fucking gone, because everyone is blessed with at least that. And who knows how long it’s going to last.

As social media has evolved, so has the ability of any geek with a laptop to call themselves a critic. Most of these people wish they could be artists like the ones they are judging, but often lack the talent or guts to become artists themselves. Instead they diligently punch buttons on their keyboards until they eventually regurgitate thoughts they’ve read on other people’s art. Whether positive or negative, these thoughts are usually based on some expectation of what other artists have done before the piece of art that they’re judging was made. Some of these people went to school to be journalists, some of these people just watch a lot of television. Some of these people write for newspapers and magazines that have subscribers, others create their own blog and pass it off as a way to get credentials at album release shows or movie premieres. And then record labels and movie studios give them passes with the hope that these people will be so happy to be there that they’ll behave nicely and feed into the cash cow.

The one thing all of these people have in common is that they’re not artists, and the ones who attempted to become artists often gave up. Sometimes because they lack talent, most often because they can’t comprehend how much guts and devotion it actually takes to acquire talent.

The debate between my professor and I took place over eight years ago. I don’t even remember her name, but in that time span I’ve gotten my first glimpses into the real world of critics, and I’ve come to the conclusion that most of them are even less worthy of your attention than I’d even thought. I’d be more bold but I like to keep this blog as tasteful as possible. What I’ll offer is this:

Remember when you were in junior high and you thought all your teachers were so smart? Then you got older and saw which of your peers were actually becoming teachers and thought to yourself, “man, that girl was really dumb and sort of a slut, no way I’d ever let her teach my kid!” And then you realized that that’s exactly the sort of person who educated you, as well. It’s the same way with art critics. These people were the least artistic, most unimaginative people you grew up with. These were the people who sat in the lunchroom eating poptarts while talking about who would win in a fight between Conan the Barbarian and He-Man as the drama kids put on shows, the band kids practiced their Sousa, and the punks through rocks at their teachers cars. You didn’t take those people’s advice on what to do with your life then, why would you take it now?

Listen to what you want to listen to. Enjoy the movies and TV shows that make you happy. Buy the painting that you want to see every day. It’s your life! Art isn’t baseball. If you ask me “does Ryan Braun deserve the NL MVP award?” there are countless stats I could look at to make a rational decision, and various questions I could ask myself to draw a definitive yes or no answer. Did he lead the NL in RBI, OBP or fielding percentage? Is his team going to the playoffs? Who else had a great season?

But if you ask me what was better, On The Waterfront or Movie 43, I’ll reply “better at what?” On The Waterfront made me think more, and I enjoy the timeless flow, but Movie 43 made me laugh more. Better at what?

I love Picasso but I have a painting of me with a giant head that I got from Six Flags in my room.

Rick James makes me want to dance but I find myself listening to Tom Petty, who never makes me want to dance, a lot more.

So the next time you think about reading what a critic writes, ask yourself, “what was really the goal of GI Joe?” “Am I in the mood to feel the emotion that the goal of this film is trying to convey?” And then answer “yes” or “no.”

That’s really all the “buffer” that you need.

Jason Michael Brescia

April 4, 2013 5:39 P.M EST

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Entry 21: A More Personal Genesis of “Bridge and Tunnel”

In my last entry I discussed some of the theory that went into the writing process of Bridge and Tunnel. This is the personal side.

No matter what film I’m working on it always comes from somewhere genuine within me. If it weren’t that way I’d just be pitilessly pouring through my work, and if I wanted to do that I wouldn’t have gotten into film; I could be making a lot more money doing something else.

Ridiculously Emo was an homage to my high school/early college years band The Koala Stampede. We always had the big ideas figured out like our t-shirt models, concept album titles, and song names; the problem was we preferred the idea of practicing more than the art of practicing itself.

Wet Cigarettes was my life at the time, sans the erectile dysfunction part (as far as I know). I was living in a college house with my two good friends, and we went to a school that was an odd balance of feel-good partiers and art school objectors (our university’s business and film schools were its most congested). Being a film student in study but a partier in lifestyle,  Wet Cigs was my way of articulating the challenges of my position within the college-social-hierarchy.

The proceedings within The Newest Pledge didn’t come from actual experience. If you’ve seen the film than you could (hopefully) assume as much. In fact, in college I opted to avoid Greek life, I had little experience with young children, and I wasn’t entirely grisly with womenfolk. Some of the stuff about “giving up creative writing for legal studies” came from my private reflections of the period, but in a broad sense the overall plot of The Newest Pledge did not come from personal experiences.

That being said, in every way possible the film reflected how I felt in life at the time.

The Newest Pledge was written in the fall of 2009 and was produced in the spring of 2010.  You could otherwise call this time the pinnacle of my youth. Looking back on it, everything was so modest but it was all I needed. My friends and I were in our waning days of college town life and four year of memories had propelled us to this moment. I had an apartment, the Padres were doing well, my girlfriend was cool, and I was directing my first feature film at age 23. Even if I had wanted to I couldn’t have made a depressing film. My life was fine. It wasn’t perfect, but considering what was going on around me, I had nothing to complain about.

And then it was over, The Newest Pledge had wrapped.

I felt 23 and washed up for about a month and then I turned 24. “24?” I asked myself. “Now I need to be an adult.” The recession was still in full swing in the summer of 2010, the job market for college graduates was bleak, but that didn’t deter me and my girlfriend from getting our own apartment in Los Angeles. A few weeks into moving in we both traveled back east to visit our families (she was from somewhere in New England) and it was my first time back on Long Island since all the individuals I grew up with had graduated.

It was the first time I had seen the effects of this “rough job market for college graduates” that I heard so much about on the news. My friends, people I cared about who had just busted their asses in college, were working crappy jobs, getting laid off, and barely scraping by. Most of them were forced to move back in with their parents. They seemed lost and generally unhappy, but they didn’t complain much.

That trip home served as the fastest way to make me feel guilty about living in California, pursuing a movie-making fantasy. It also served as the genesis for Bridge and Tunnel.

Moving in with my girlfriend was a horrible idea, our relationship disintegrated in about three months after cohabitation initiated, but while we lived in that apartment I used to go to a track nearby. It was at this track that I started laying the groundwork for a movie about a group of people living in suburban New York City, post-recession, living with their parents, trying to date. It was a romantic comedy. It was going to be silly like The Newest Pledge.

Then I had a really bad winter and by Februrary 1, 2011 I was back home living with my parents. I had other options but I wanted to see what it was like. I was committed to this movie idea and I wanted to experience what my characters were experiencing. As a friend and fellow filmmaker had said to me, this was my chance at “veritas.” I enrolled at the University nearby so that I wouldn’t be wasting my time entirely, and got to writing.

What I developed was an anthology of about twenty short stories that tied together. I began filming these anthologies throughout late 2011 into mid 2012 before something bizarre happened;  My friends settled into their lives. It was fascinating. It was as if the entire past two years I was watching caterpillars develop into butterflies.

Well, it wasn’t that beautiful. You see, sure everyone eventually got their lives on some sort of track and that was beautiful and overwhelming, but the damage was done. Three years in a bad job market, along with student debt, a decade long war, and the ashes of September 11th had left an enduring wound on my peers and me.

And then I realized that was my movie. That’s why I couldn’t settle on the concept, that’s why I was pulling my hair out, because I needed to witness the resolution in real time. The world didn’t need another romantic comedy. The world doesn’t need another movie that breezes through social misfortune to tell a cute story. What I decided to finally do in mid-2012 was tell the story of my peers (born in suburban New York between the years 1982-1989)  as they begin what had always been sold to them as “real life.” As they settled into careers, as they attempted to move out on their own, as they struggled to reclaim the youth that terrorist attacks both real and anticipated altered, and as they attempted to build their lives in the punitive economic realities of the early 21st century.

And then because I wrote it, it came out funny. I believe that God gives everyone a gift, and He made me funny. It’s my burden to use that sense of humor to bring joy to others. When used appropriately comedy can enlighten more effectively than any dissertation or homily. I believe that if we don’t master the gift that God gives us then we as people fail to maximize the potential that our lives have. I understand that no matter how serious I want to be, no matter how much I want to put the weight of the world on my shoulders, I can’t escape the circumstance that in this court of man I’m forever a jester. But a good jester can have unbelievable influence if he does his job well, and that’s been the goal of Bridge and Tunnel dating back to that track I used to pace around.

A lot of people have helped guide me to this point in the project, and a handful of people were very patient in their loyalty, allowing me to evolve the concept to this moment. They’re every bit as responsible for any realization that Bridge and Tunnel has as I am. It wasn’t all me. But as an individual, this is how I got here.

Jason Michael Brescia

February 19, 2013 12:46 P.M EST

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Entry #20: “Bridge and Tunnel” and How it Came to Be

December 1, 2012 marked the first day of shooting for my second feature film, Bridge and Tunnel. From here until the film is released I’ll likely make a dozen or so posts about the philosophy, influences, and procedure of making the film, so for now I’ll just focus on the details of how I got from The Newest Pledge to here.

Bridge and Tunnel is the story of the year 2012 in the lives of six twenty-somethings living on Long Island. The script stays true to my comedic roots but is more socially-influenced than anything I’ve written to date. The concept of the film is something that I had been theorizing since The Newest Pledge wrapped in the fall of 2010, and focuses on the effects of the recession on the generation born during the Reagan years, as well as the disintegration of middle class. Funny stuff, I know.

In January 2011 I left California for New York with this project logged somewhere in my mind. I had always wanted my second feature to take place where I grew up in Long Island, but I hadn’t experienced life in my twenties there. I knew that in order to get the movie inside of me onto paper I would need it to be real. Needless to say I spent the next 18 months harvesting life-moments that I feel later allowed for me to create an organic and powerful account of what living in these times, at this age, in this place, is really like.

Why Long Island? A lot of these reasons are outlined in the film, and I’ll elaborate on those in later posts, but the short answer is that no other place in America better signifies the death of the middle class than the largest concentration of middle class Americans in the country! Long Island is America’s most obvious suburb. Thirty minutes in the shadows of the “greatest city in the world.” We lost friends, family, neighbors, and colleagues on September 11th and later had to grow up under it’s umbrella. We were there at Wall St. when it was under “occupation,” and we woke up in late October 2012 to see our neighborhoods changed forever. Our housing prices are ridiculous, our taxes are even more ridiculous, and we live in the state deemed the “least free” in the “most free” country in the world. Those are just a few of the reason’s why this film had to take place on Long Island.

I spent my time on the island studying film theory and aesthetics more than I’d ever studied it before. Don’t get me wrong, in the years leading up to The Newest Pledge I watched literally thousands of films (which was entirely normal given I spent five years of my life in film school), but the films I watched in the eighteen months leading up to pre-production of Bridge and Tunnel were different. The way I watched movies had changed. No longer was I a fan in the stands cheering on my favorite actors, with my disbelief completely suspended. I now viewed myself as a player on the field, studying every movement, every sequence, every frame. My goal shifted from making movies to making great movies, better than the ones I had been watching before.

This lead to me trying to figure out how I could evolve the genre I loved; comedy. Throughout the history of American film, no genre has changed at a slower pace than comedy (in my opinion). There is something about comedy viewers that makes them uneasy with the idea of any tonal shift or unhappy ending. I suppose you could argue that the Coen Brothers successfully evolved the comedy genre with The Big Lebowski (it was more of a pure comedy than anything they had done leading up to it), and I would even add that Judd Apatow attempted to create something new wave with Funny People, but these films are spread few and far between formulaic contemporaries such as The Hangover II and Ted.

Speaking of Ted, it wasn’t long after the release of that film that I had an important conversation with an old professor of mine, Rob Dew. Professor Dew was my Film Aesthetics professor at Chapman University and one summer’s afternoon we spent about two hours on the phone discussing the state of the comedy genre, the great filmmakers of the modern movement, and why comedies like Ted (and The Newest Pledge) fall apart in the third act. It was during this conversation that I pitched what I had of Bridge and Tunnel at the time to Professor Dew, who not only seemed to grasp the idea, but also encouraged me towards ways to expand it and make it bigger. At the time I was struggling with how to create the perfect third act for a new wave comedy and I came out of that conversation with a better understanding of what I needed to do.

It was from there that everything unfolded. I spent the rest of my summer writing the script that would go into production in December, and spent the autumn producing. The project evolved to where I wanted it to be. It was a new wave comedy, even if it reads as a drama.

But that’s the beauty of the art form. Earlier in the year, Professor Dew spoke some words to me that set into motion some of the events that lead to our eventual phone discussion. The exact quote was; “The best films, like the best art, appeal to all levels of your being; your mind, heart, loins, and instincts. Shakespeare did this by having both intrigue and sword fights, lust and love.” I interpreted that as a call to defy genre-expectations. I’ve also hand written it in every production journal I’ve kept for Bridge and Tunnel.

We shot eleven days from the first to the sixteenth. Now production is on hiatus until the seasons change, but I’m busy organizing post-production, while simultaneously in post-production on the Spring shoot. Sleep is for the weak.

Jason Michael Brescia

December 22, 2012 7:05 P.M EST

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Entry #19: A Letter Addressed to the Cast and Crew of “The Newest Pledge” on August 28, 2012

Congratulations,

On March 19, 2010 we began production on a feature film. Today, August 28th, 2012 that films will become available for anyone who wants to watch it. Along the way we’ve screened at film festivals on both coasts and the heartland, had some memorable family and friend shows, and were acquired for domestic distribution by Lionsgate, one of the leading film distributors in the world.

A handful of us were there in the Spring of 2009 when this project began as a failed “web show.” Those of us who were can go about our day today with a smile on our face knowing that never in our wildest dreams would we have guessed that the project would have gotten this far. The fact that we stuck together after a failure like that is a testament to our strong friendships, and more importantly our belief in one another and our mutual desires to entertain.

Between the Spring of 2009 and March 19th, 2010 the rest of you joined this project. Most of us were wide-eyed, young, and hungry. We slept on couches in odd climates, were away from loved ones for extended periods of time, lost jobs, ended relationships, devoured empty calories, and lived off of pots of Greg’s incredibly strong make of Dunkin Donuts coffee. At times we wanted our “grapes chilled,” at times we became emotional with one another, and many of us even doubted the project. But here we are today, and I think it was all worth it.

Moving forward with my career, if I take anything away from my experiences on The Newest Pledge it will be that if you push yourself and truly love the people around you, any goal can be achieved. I devoted the past three plus years of my life to the concept of “fraternity pledges baby.” That’s absurd. Along the way I’ve lost money, loved ones, and material possessions, but today that concept reaches the world, my goal has been accomplished, and I’m satisfied.

Most importantly I have this: the opportunity to tell those loved ones that our goal has been accomplished. We now have a movie with our names on it. For the next year, hopefully for the rest of our lives, not a second will go by where someone isn’t watching our film somewhere on this planet.

Be proud today. You’ve now accomplished something that at some point everyone dreams of doing. It was an honor to work with each and every one of you.

Here’s to the future.

Jason Michael Brescia

August 28, 2012 2:02 A.M EST

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Entry #18: The Films That I Studied While Making “The Newest Pledge”

I’d love to say that I sat around for days studying the Criterion Collection while prepping for The Newest Pledge. I’d love to give myself that director-who-watches-old-and-foreign-films mystique, and say that a bunch of obscure films influenced my film making while making my first feature. But if I said that, I’d be lying.

The truth is that I do love the Criterion Collection and own a growing number of the collection on DVD, Blu-Ray, and Laser Disc. The truth is that I do watch old and foreign films, so much so that it impacts my dating life because I can’t find a girl who’s attractive enough, an Indianapolis Colts fan, and a cinephile. If you know her send her my way.

But in production/pre-production of The Newest Pledge I knew well enough not to let some of my favorite films influence the film I was making. As a production team, we set out to make a campy comedy that harkens back to the comedies of the 1980’s, and the cartoon humor of the 1990’s. We sought out to make a modern 80’s comedy, and my diet was loaded with films in that vein.

But the movie we were making still needed to be made with modern standards in cinematography and production design. In that regard our prohibitive budget forced me to get creative with my influences, but I felt like our team did a great job in those areas, creating an aesthetic that suits the film well.

Of course the stock answers for what films influenced The Newest Pledge are Animal House and Revenge of the NerdsThe truth is that those are two of my favorite movies of all time and have influenced everything I’ve done, not just The Newest Pledge. In fact, in my opinion Ridiculously Emo is so heavily influenced by Revenge of the Nerds that I think of the film as my Revenge of the Nerds. I’d also contend that besides The Wizard of Oz and the fantasy genre, no film has influenced a studio genre as much as Animal House has influenced American comedy. Of course those two films influenced The Newest Pledge, they’re what made me fall in love with the genre to begin with.

There are a few films that everyone likes to bring up when you’re making an Ultra-Low-Budget-Indie; Clerks, Slacker, SL&V, Swingers, and Paranormal Activity are films that are championed by every optimistic filmmaker to ever take their stab at Sundance. I knew from day one that this wasn’t that sort of film. We had a bigger budget than Clerks, Paranormal Activity, and Slacker combined, and two of those films had to shoot on 16mm which basically took up the entire production budget. Today, Linklatter could’ve made Slacker and Smith could make Clerks for next to nothing, but they would’ve lose their charm. I digress.

We were closer to Swingers in budget and production size, but again, they had to shoot on 35mm because it was the mid 90’s and digital wasn’t there yet. That being said, during production I never looked to Swingers for any guidance, and I never looked to any of those other films. My personal mantra was that this film would contend with the big boys. In my eyes we weren’t making a low-budget-indie, we were making a Hollywood film, the only difference was that we didn’t have to worry about over paying our cast and crew (or paying them at all in some cases), and we didn’t have catering or fancy wrap parties. We had all the equipment we could possibly need, and just enough money to pay for the film to be made.

One film that really influenced Trevor and I from a design perspective was Legally Blonde. Get your laughs out now, call me a wuss, whatever you please, but don’t tell me that Robert Luketic didn’t make a technically sound and well stylized film. The production design and cinematography were perfect, and Trevor and I studied the film religiously to ensure that we had the proper aesthetic. If we were going to compete with the big boys we had to rival what they did in regards to production value; of course our film doesn’t come close to Legally Blonde in regards to production value, but that’s something that a budget for extras and falling leaves to make USC look like Harvard in Autumn can do for you. Our desire to match Legally Blonde gave me the cognitive push that helped me to keep pushing our production to attempt to be as professional as possible, as tedious as that could sometimes be with a small crew.

While we were in production the film Hot Tub Time Machine was released, and while the film was a major letdown from a story perspective, the retro-theme and story concept sparked my interest. The Friday the film opened Nate McGarity, who played Night Train in the film, and I went on a double date with our now ex-girlfriend’s to see the film at the Irvine Spectrum. What turned me on to the film the most was the usage of color, specifically loud and vibrant colors. I loaded the interior of the fraternity house with deep blue and reds, and I made sure to keep the wardrobe as loud as possible. To ensure the retro feel, Hot Tub Time Machine confirmed how important color is.

Color is also something that helped make Linklatter’s period piece Dazed and Confused so visually interesting, but because it was a period piece I never really looked to the film for visual advice. What I did study the film heavily for was the creation of what I believe to be the perfect character ensemble. I knew that in order to make The Newest Pledge fun to watch, the characters needed to be fun to watch, topical, and they would need to be able to contribute to the overall study. In regards to the screenwriting elements of the film, nothing came close to the influence that Dazed and Confused had on me (besides of Animal House and Revenge of the Nerds of course).

The final film that I would say influenced The Newest Pledge would be Biodome, because when making a movie about unsophisticated man-children sometimes it’s important to watch what doesn’t work. Don’t get me wrong, I actually enjoy the film because I enjoy the 90’s comedy scene as a whole, but Biodome is the perfect example of a film where the characters just don’t grow up enough (in constrast to the Adam Sandler films where sometimes the characters grow up too much). I studied Biodome to see how the bad guy went sour, what caused the characters to have nowhere to go in regards to their development, and why the girls had no real redeemable character attributes. It was important for me to study that because there’s a reason films fall into these traps: it’s easy and the formula breeds it.

So that’s it. I didn’t study Rushmore or Chasing Amy or Brazil or Harold and Maude. I wasn’t visually influenced by Spike Jonze. I knew the genre I was working in and for different reasons I studied Animal House, Revenge of the Nerds, Legally Blonde, Hot Tub Time Machine, Dazed and Confused, and Biodome.

Jason Michael Brescia

July 29, 2012 5:38 P.M EST

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Entry #17: When I Was Younger…

The year was 1991 and my Kindergarten class was at our elementary school’s library. It was my first year at James A. Dever elementary in Valley Stream, NY, and I was getting the hang of things pretty quick. At that point in time I figured I had the library down pretty well; I knew where to find the Berenstain Bears, where to find The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and more acute to my tastes I knew where to find Waldo. Then one day while browsing the library’s catalog of books, most of which were from the mid 1970’s, I came across a series of books about monsters. There was a book about Dracula, a book about Frankenstein, a book about the Creature from the Black Lagoon, a book about the Wolfman, a book about King Kong, a book about Godzilla, and even a book about some giant praying mantis. These were the very creatures of my nightmares, the villains that scared me to death at amusement parks, and made me sleep with my door open. Yet something compelled me to grab all of the books and swiftly walked them over to the librarian to take out.

I’ll never forget the librarian asking me why I wanted to take out those books, and more so, I’ll never forget my answer; “If these monsters are going to attack me” I said, “I want to know everything about them so that I can kill them.”

If I recall, the librarian chuckled and told me there was a two book limit, so I was given the difficult choice of prioritizing which of my enemies I would be most prepared for. I wasn’t all that worried about King Kong, in fact my dedication to the video game “Rampage” made me view him as my ally. Godzilla gave me nightmares, but after watching King Kong vs Godzilla a few months before, I felt confident that my alliance with Kong would help me defeat Godzilla. I narrowed it down to three monsters: Dracula, the Wolfman, and the praying mantis. In the end, it was Dracula who missed the cut because the Wolfman intrigued me because he was in a version of “Rampage” that I never played, and the praying mantis fascinated me because I knew so little about him.

When I got back to class I came to the realization that these books were not meant for my reading level, but it didn’t stop me. I looked at the black and white photographs, found the words that I could read, and within a day figured out how to defeat my adversaries:  the Wolfman could be destroyed with a silver bullet, and the Deadly Mantis could be destroyed by trapping him in a tunnel and throwing a grenade at him. I told my older brother, my parents, relatives, and neighborhood kids. I asked where I could get a silver bullet and some grenades. I found what I then believed to be tunnels on my schoolyard, I made my own silver bullets out of tinfoil, and large rocks served as my grenades.

The Wolfman and the Deadly Mantis were doomed.

After school I asked my mom if I could go to the library to return those books and get new ones. She said “ok” and we went to the library and exchanged those two books for Godzilla and the Creature from the Black Lagoon. These enemies were more complex so I had family members read me certain words I hadn’t yet learned, but within a few days I had those adversaries figured out pretty well.

I eventually read all of those books. I figured out how to defeat every monster. I set a goal, obsessed over it, and achieved it. In reality, I was never going to get attacked by Godzilla, King Kong, or any other monster, but after that week or so of Kindergarten I was never scared of movie monsters again. I learned to embrace haunted houses, and began collecting action figures of those very villains I once hid from. Today, I own most of their movies on DVD and they bring a smile to my face every time I watch them.

Jason Michael Brescia

June 28, 2012 1:47 A.M EST

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