Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Rejected Music Video Treatment


I made my first professional music video pitch last week. It was for a Sony music artist called Adam Harvey who recorded a duet with Wendy Matthews - a cover of the Commodores' track Easy. It's been 48 hours since the submission deadline with no word from Sony's producer and since the shoot is next Tuesday, I'm guessing I didn't get the gig. I liked my idea so I won't tell you what it was, in case I want to use it for something else one day, but I do want to show you the beautiful concept image Isobel and I designed for the treatment. Isobel's Photoshop skills are marvelous. I should definitely teach myself PS one of these days.


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Human Plasma


I'm continually amazed by the things companies will employ unskilled casual workers to do. Like handling boxes of "Standard Human Plasma" with our clumsy, grease-stained mitts.

This picture was taken at a warehouse in Huntingwood, only a couple of weeks ago.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

A screenwriting career begins...


Hello all,

I realise I have been slack with my blogging lately. It's been that way for a good reason, which some of you know, others may not. For those who don't, here's what's going on in my life.

I have just graduated from Australia's national film school, the Australian Film, Television and Radio School, with a Diploma in Screenwriting. My long-gestating screenwriting career has been the reason I have worked the dumb jobs you have so enjoyed reading about, but now I am (hopefully) on the verge of earning money from screenwriting. I have won an internship on Australia's top rating drama, PACKED TO THE RAFTERS, an unpaid position which I can hopefully use to springboard myself into a paying job, if not on that show, then on another Australian drama or comedy. So going through the various stages of applications, writing submissions and interviews to attain that has taken up a lot of my time.

So too has completing a treatment for my AFTRS Major Project, a feature film titled THE SOFT MACHINE which I have been developing for the past few years. It's at a stage now where I can begin applying for funding, but getting it to this point has taken up all my remaining mental faculties/writing time.

So now I plan to make my blogging a more habitual thing. Thanks to Bek and Nathan, who have been asking when I will be completing Part 2 of My Favourite Australian Films. I have slowly been rewatching the films in question and will be posting that blog soon.

I am also about to launch a new blog, as a companion piece to this written blog. It will have an Australian film industry focus and will feature audio interviews with Australian filmmakers, technicians, writers, journalists, funding executives and film bloggers. I want to create a pool of information about the Australian film industry for fellow filmmakers and lovers of Australian film. Having worked in the industry for almost a decade now, I want to showcase some of the incredible talent I know we have and to give a voice to those in the industry who might normally not be heard. It's all too easy to find interviews with actors, producers and directors and while I will be interviewing them too, I think it's equally interesting and important to hear from gaffers, VFX artists, colour graders and editors who work not only on $2 million Australian features, but are so skilled they are also recruited to work on $150 million Hollywood epics. I will make an announcement as soon as the first interview is up.

Thank you all for bearing with me through these barren past few months, but please be prepared to be bombarded by posts, hopefully slanted more towards my first love: films and filmmaking.

David.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Why Am I Feeding Your Cat?

If you love your cat, feed it Kite Kat!

Our next door neighbours were away last night and since I've taken to patting their cat occasionally, now it meows at our back door when it's hungry. I can't stand to think of it going without eating, so I tracked down a can of tuna in our cupboard and mixed up some powdered milk for it.

Today I went to the supermarket and bought milk and tinned food. I just hope that the cat doesn't become my responsibility now - I'm highly allergic and we have four birds that are terrified of this (still small) cat.

Can any cat owners out there advise me on whether they ever leave their cats out overnight without food? It seems rather neglectful to me.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

**Music Video - 'Stalker' by Party At Drakes - UPDATED**


Recently I ran a music video workshop for local high school students at the North West Film Festival at Bingara. Over the course of 24 hours we shot and edited a music video for local band Party At Drakes and their song 'Stalker'.

The aim of the exercise was to show how quickly, easily and cheaply you can shoot a music video. Using two HDV cameras, we shot the band performing the song four times. To sync, we simply put a 2-pip (a one frame audio cue) before the song, burned it to CD and played the song on set for the duration of each take. Then you import the takes into Final Cut Pro and edit using the Multiclip function.



















Editing using multiclip means switching live between each angle as the song plays. If your clips are all in sync you can have an edit done in the duration of the song. In the case of 'Stalker', we had an edit in less than three minutes.



The clip stars all-round champion Bryony Draper who danced more than any reasonable person should have to in one day. Louise Holder was one of our Stalkers. Party at Drakes is: Troy McLachlan, Ben Cumming, Garrick Troskie, Nic Asara and Daniel McLachlan. Can someone let me know the names of everyone else involved and I'll give everyone their due credit.




North West Film Festival 2009


The North West Film Festival took place on the 18th and 19th of September at the Roxy Theatre in Bingara, New South Wales. The purpose of the festival was to encourage people to tell their own stories as individuals, groups, or communities. A film submitted by students and made by community involvement must have had the majority of its creative decisions made by school or TAFE students.

I went as a guest judge, ran a music video workshop for a song called Stalker by Party at Drakes (watch it here) and had a generally fantastic time.

Thanks to Stephanie Marshall for the invite, Sandy McNaughton for her hospitality and for holding the event in her beautiful Roxy Theatre and to Jamie Marshall for picking us up at the airport.

Fellow judges were Eleanor Winkler and Alison Richardson (Producers of Be My Brother, Winning Film at Tropfest 2009), and Simon Portus (Director of short film Tomorrow which recently debuted at the Berlin Film Festival.)








It's like the Miss Universe of film festival judges.












Haha, check out the kid with his arms around his knees. He's scared.













Eleanor got interviewed. She's more famous than me.











North West ultimate victor - Ian McKay, whose film Loss won First Place.














Your certificate is upside down!












Moments before the drinking began...









Thursday, September 24, 2009

Dumb Job #5 - Working With a Crazy Diabetic named Tiger



Back in 2007 I had a job stacking cases of beer onto pallets to be sent off to bottle shops around Sydney. This is less fun than it sounds, and it doesn't even sound like fun in the first place. One day I said I needed to work more hours which my STACKING role didn't offer. They said they could move me to afternoon shift CHECKING.

I had seen the overweight morning shift checker waddling around pallets, checking them off against the lists we had used to stack the beer and it seemed like a pretty cruisy gig. Also that checker doubled as the warehouse security guard, so I figured if he could simultaneously check AND vigilantly defend the beer, I could easily fill one of those roles. So I accepted the role and celebrated my promotion sufficiently so as to arrive for my first day with a behemoth hangover.

I had a list handed to me by the supervisor, Heston. He said: "Take a seat. It's easy work. Wait until a truck comes in, check the load and send them off with it. You'll be working with Tiger." Assuming I'd misheard the name (presumably as a name rhyming with "Tiger", though I can't think what name that might be) I sat back and waited for...um, Rod Steiger.

faux-bo: someone with all the characteristics of a homeless person, including matted hair, wispy beard and rancid stench, but residing in an actual house (and not one made out of cardboard)

I think I smelled Tiger before I saw him. His odour could be replicated in lab conditions by having someone with colon cancer fart in a garbage bin that contained the rotting carcus of a dog that died of colon cancer that perished in the bin after emiting one final fart of its own. He had a beard that was racing his hair for the piece of chicken he was keeping in his belly button. He was only in his early thirties, looked nearly fifty, carried his possessions in a sports bag made of clear plastic so you could see its contents and was totally, certifiably insane.

He demanded to know who I was. Had I ever checked before? I conceded that I had not. "Heston likes playing games, does he? I can play games too," he ranted cryptically and strode off. I didn't see him again for two hours. Meanwhile I discovered checking wasn't as easy as I had been led to believe. I'd explain what it involved, but to this day I don't know what the job entailed. Heston had gone home, presumably to play more games, Tiger had gone AWOL, so I walked around trucks, pretending to "check" them, ticking off a list that didn't seem to correspond with anything going onto the trucks.

When Tiger came back, he sat at the desk next to me, but wouldn't even acknowledge me. I glanced down at his transparent bag and noticed several syringes in it (right next to a nudie mag). There seemed to have formed between us a silent agreement to take turns checking the trucks. And all the while I had no idea what I was doing.

The next day went pretty much the same way. Tiger checked a truck, I pretended to check a truck, Tiger checked a truck.... Eventually I turned to Tiger and broke the silence. I said: "I've got to be honest. I have no idea what I'm doing. I think I'd better tell them to find someone else that can actually help you". Tiger seemed strangely touched by my honesty. He said "Don't do that. They'll just give me some dickhead who never shuts up. At least you're quiet." The silence broken, I wondered if I could forge a friendship with this smelly creature.

I soon discovered why Tiger like 'em quiet. Once he started talking to me, he wouldn't stop. He talked about people he hated at work, people he hated on the street, family members he was going to have killed by a bikie gang he was apparently a member of (though I never saw him ride a motorbike). I tried to look serious and nod, but secretly I prayed for a return to our previous stony silence.

I think Tiger grew to like me, in his own way. Our days would consist of him telling me to sit down at the desk, where I would read the newspaper while he checked trucks. Towards the end of the shift the work would pick up, so he would give me only the simplest tasks that he didn't have time to complete himself. Occasionally he would give me two dollars to get him a can of coke and would always insist on me getting myself one as well. I even began to get used to his smell. Ours was a bizare relationship. I would sit in silence, always ready for a general outburst from Tiger. Sometimes he would, without warning, yell "FUCK!!!" at the top of his lungs, stand, kick a garbage bin and storm off. Another time he took umbrage at the actions of a coworker, a gigantic Maori forklift driver, and stood yelling obsenities at the man and telling him to "get off the fork!" The man lauged at him and drove away.

I worked with Tiger for a week and a half. I didn't quit this job, they just moved the operation to another warehouse and never asked me to go with them. I didn't mind, but I do reflect on my time with Tiger with a strange sense of wonder. I think during that time I must have felt what a white collar criminal would feel if they were bunked up with a murderer in prison. Grateful for every moment of peaceful silence, but always wondering what's going to happen when the guards turn the lights out.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

I Ain't Afraid of No (Pubic) Ghost


At the risk of turning my blog into some sort of 'Toilet Sign of the Day' log, today's Toilet Sign comes to us from the Mens at Chubb Fire Services at Strathfield, where today I lugged and assembled office furniture.

It appears there have been some spectral issues with a pubic poltergeist. It might be time to call the Ghostbusters - just make sure you don't cross the streams.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Dump Point

Recently, while I was judging a film festival in the beautiful town of Bingara, New South Wales, myself and fellow festival judges Alison Richardson and Eleanor Winkler came across the following sign:



What is Dump Point, we wondered. A rubbish tip? A scenic peninsula? (unlikely, since Bingara is landlocked). No, apparently it's a place where you dump your toilet wastes from your caravan. So now you know.


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Dumb Job #4 - Hi Fi Salesman (Part 2) Birth of a Salesman



It was the Year 2000. Every movie that had ever portrayed a future of hovercars had seemingly lied to us, Y2K failed to eventuate and Millenial angst was beginning to look like only ever have been gas, probably from that Mexican you had. You know, the one that didn't look right.

But I held a piece of the future in my hand and it was so beautiful, shiny and smooth that I wanted everyone to have it. I faced a pimply teen, looking up at me with what could only be described as admiration. To him, in my starched white shirt and piano keyboard tie I must have looked like one of those Wall Street rogue traders he'd probably heard about. He was hanging on every word I said.

"Small and lightweight, its musical fidelity is second to none. Change tracks with the click of a button. Adjust volume here. These modern miracles are going to change the way you listen to music. One day, sir, everyone is going to have one of these devices in their pocket. Have you heard of MiniDisc?"

Yes, in 2000 I found myself working for the Hi Fi store that bet AGAINST mp3. In a different era, they probably would has steered you clear of VHS. Beta = Better. They probably had stocks in Digital Video Express. I'm sure they would have pushed HD-DVD, had the store still been in business during the legendary HD Format Wars.

Battle-scarred from my time served under General El Sayed (See Dumb Jobs #3), I was posted in the Hi Fi cease-fire zone that was Miranda. Here people weren't as stingy, were more trustful of saleman and were generally more attractive (apologies to my Liverpudlian readership).

My new manager was Martin and I really liked him. He was a giant of a man who proudly boasted of having never been in a fight. He told me people always try to fight the biggest guy in a group first (a notion I find bizzare) but that he had manged to talk his way out of physical conflict every time. I believed it. He certainly had the gift of the gab. And was funny. He would have me in stitches from opening time to close of business. He was one of those rare people that I find so totally hilarious that I never make any jokes while they're around, because I know they're just going to obliterate anything I say with their own line.

Marty's verbal dexterity and sheer personality translated to some big sales. When I got to the store he'd just returned from his own tour of duty, selling cars for a Holden dealership who had poached him from another Hi Fi store. But Marty told me that he hated the competitive nature of selling cars, that hi fi was "cruisier", so that's why he'd come here and had worked his way from salesman to Manager in pretty quick time.

I started at the Miranda store as delivery driver and "Warehouse Manager" (a fancy title which meant when someone sold something I had to take the RIDICULOUSLY HEAVY box to the customer's car). But when I wasn't needed for either of these tasks, I sold hi fi gear. At first I just sold blank tapes and CDs, while for bigger purchases I'd direct the customer to a salesman who actually cared. And believe me, these guys cared a lot. There was real sense of competition amongst the salesmen and everyone waited around the first of the month to get last month's sales figures. There wasn't even a commission for these guys: it was just a point of pride. I would direct customers to the salesman I liked best on that day and it was usually Marty.

But a funny thing happened. I started selling things. Just a VCR or a 34 centimetre TV at first. Then a set of mid-range speakers. Then a rear-projection TV. Suddenly I went from box boy to a salesman with figures nearly as high as some of the full-time salesmen, the guys who actually cared. I started getting left in the store for longer and longer. Soon, the salemen were being told they had to lug their own boxes to customer's cars - I was needed on the floor. I was starting to get resented by the other guys, but I didn't care. I was a selling machine. Seriously. When plasmas came onto the market and suddenly rear-projection televisions were not selling well, it was realised we needed to get rid of these two 70 inch JUGGERNAUTS we had (both in the store because the wouldn't fit through the door of any storeroom). Marty jokingly told me to sell them. I sold one as part of a $14,000 package that day. I sold the other one later that week.

Now they hired a full-time delivery driver because they didn't want me off the floor. They realised they had unleashed a monster with only one purpose: to sell hi fi gear at reasonable prices. When that month's sales figures came out, I was the #1 salesman with $62,000. I had even beaten Marty.

Now I was obsessed. I wanted to crack $90,000 in one month. When I showed up at work on my day off to try to boost my sales, Marty was impressed. I said he didn't have to pay me the overtime, but he said he wanted to: I reminded him of a younger version of himself. He was a little less enthusiastic when I showed up on my other day off. When I worked my next day off, he said he couldn't keep paying me the overtime. I didn't care. I was there for the glory.

I became pushy. I kept trying to upsell customers. They'd come in for a DiscMan, I'd try to get them to take home a gold-plated amplifier. They'd leave with nothing, probably terrified of this wild-eyed salesman who had worked the last 21 days straight. The other salesman REALLY began to resent me. They all had wives and kids, how could they compete with the kid who lived at home with his mother, no girlfriend, no pets, just a white-hot ambition to sell.

One day I showed up on a Saturday and was called into the back room to speak to Marty and a suit from Head Office. They'd spoken with the HR person, who insisted I wasn't allowed to work on my days off anymore - insurance didn't cover staff on their days off. I smelled bullshit. Someone was trying to push me out. I'd put some noses out of joint. I was furious.

I was pushing for sales harder than ever. You know those pushy salemen we all hate? That was me. I must have stank of desperation, because my figures started dropping. My next month I was ranked #4. Below Basil, the 48 year old who built custom speakers in his garage, but usually couldn't sell dry land to a drowning man (if that's not an expression, it should be). I was told I needed to pull my weight in the storeroom. I was back to being Warehouse Manager.

This story is pretty much a tragedy, as I never reached #1 on the sales chart again and I quit about a month after being reinstated as WM. It sounds pathetic I know, but for a few months I loved being a salesman. I always wanted to be a professional sportsman, where you had that number that ranked you as #1 in the world, #64 in the world, wherever. But you knew your place, you had a figure representing your worth, and there was something comforting about that.


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

North West Film Festival

I've been asked to be a judge at the North West Film Festival this weekend. Check out their website. The festival in up in Inverell and takes place on Friday and Saturday.

I'm going to be running a music video workshop up there, so check back soon to see the fruits of our labour!

David.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Small Penises


The New South Wales Government's male-focussed "Pinkie" campaign (view commercial) against speeding has apparently been very successful, showing that men are more scared of people thinking they've got a small penis than of having their nose grated off by asphalt during a car accident. The Roads and Traffic Authority website says that 53 percent of young males surveyed have said that they would be more likely to comment on someone's driving as a result of seeing the "Pinkie" campaign.

With this in mind, I have decided to draw direct corellation between various (mostly) male actions that irritate me and the perpetrator's undeniably small penis, in the hope that I can start getting people vocal and working towards stopping each of these heinous crimes.


Irrefutable Evidence of Posessing A Small Penis #1:
Flair Bartending



These fools can't just pour my goddamn drink. Instead they gotta roll the bottle up their arm, around the back of their neck, flick it in the air, catch it in their mouth, then remove the lid with their eye socket before I can get a bourbon and coke. I have asked for a bottle of beer before and had to wait an extra THIRTY SECONDS while this guy behind the bar tries (and misses) at least five times trying to deftly flick the top off with his flat aluminium bottle opener that holds permenant residency next to his right arse cheek. And the bottle was a twist top.



Every time I see one of these Kokomo-listening motherfuckers spin a bottle in the air, I pray for them to miss it on the way down, that the bottle will strike the edge of the bar and spray their tanned faces with sharp, injurious glass. If that day ever comes, I just hope I've got a camera ready.

[INSERT BLOODIEDBARTENDER.JPG HERE]

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

My Favourite Australian Films (Part 1)


This post is in respone to monalisa's "It's Really Something" blog post in which she listed all her favourite movies (nearly all of them Japanese). Being an Australian screenwriter and a regular compiler of my own Top 20 list (see the current version in My Profile), I'm sad to say there aren't many Australian films in there, especially as I've been working in the Australian film industry for ten years now and have probably seen more than most. So while I'm not going to make a habit of publishing my lists, for monalisa's benefit and hopefully to inspire some others to watch some good Australian films, here are the first five of my ten favourite Australian films (in no particular order).




















BLUE MURDER (1995) dir. Michael Jenkins

Technically a TV mini-series (but recently we learned from one of our AFTRS lecturers there were once plans to give it a theatrical release). It counts among its fans screenwriter Robert Towne (CHINATOWN), who said of it: "I don't think anything has impressed me more than Blue Murder."

The true story of the relationship between Detective Roger Rogerson and criminal Neddy Smith, it so closely follows the facts of the case that it was not allowed to be shown in New South Wales for years as it could potentially have affected the outcome of Neddy Smith's trial for murder. It shows the fine line between (some) police and criminals and chronicles the passing of an age where police were the ultimate enforcers of the law. It's the best Scorcese movie that Scorcese never made.




















FORBIDDEN LIE$ (2007) dir. Anna Broinowski

Norma Khouri opened the world's eyes to honour killings in Jordan and became a bestselling author when she wrote a book telling the story of her Muslim friend who was killed for dating a Christian man. But when the veracity of her claims came into question, she was denouced as a liar and publication of her book FORBIDDEN LOVE ceased. This doco spends time with an astonishing women as her writing and her entire past are called into question.

One of the best documentaries I have ever seen.




















LANTANA (2001) dir. Ray Lawrence

I normally hate "interwoven storylines" in narrative features, but this is one of the better examples, as it never seems forced or conceited. A woman goes missing on her way home after an argument with her husband (Geoffrey Rush), while the detective investigating (Anthony Lapaglia, fantastic in the film) is dealing with his own marital crisis. A story of trust and fidelity in all relationships, the script is wonderful and the performances from all involved are marvellous.




















THE PLUMBER (1979) dir. Peter Weir

What if you couldn't get a tradesman to leave your house? This simple idea is the basis for a wonderful psychological thriller that would have cost next to nothing to make, but is really very affecting.




















SAMSON AND DELILAH (2009) dir. Warwick Thornton

At time of posting, this is still in theatrical release in Australia. A heart-breaking story of a different kind of addiction: petrol-sniffing, a widespread problem amongst Australia's indigenous population. An Aboriginal boy and girl flee their reservation to try to make a fresh start in Alice Springs, but their demons follow and they must draw on resources they never knew they had to overcome them.

Lets call this a Part One. There are others that I would have to watch again to better describe. This should get you started though.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Movie Review - Swimming With Sharks (1994) - SPOILERS




This movie has been on my radar for a while now, ever since I read the Robert Rodriguez book, REBEL WITHOUT A CREW, which used to be my bible when I was seventeen, before I realised it doesn't matter how cheap or fast you can make a film, if it's THE ADVENTURES OF SHARKBOY AND LAVAGIRL you probably shouldn't be making it anyway. Anyway, Rodriguez apparently "motivated" director George Huang, then working as an assistant at Columbia Pictures, to make a film based on his experiences there, in particular, rumour has it, his time spent working for producer Joel Silver, upon whom Kevin Spacey's character, Buddy Ackerman, is based. Ackerman is a wonderful creation - a sadistic, manipulative, unpredictable, dangerous man whose presence on screen is both repellant and compelling, played pitch-perfectly by Spacey. And the movie falls apart every time he leaves the frame.

Our hero is Buddy's new assistant, Guy (Frank Whaley AKA Brad from PULP FICTION). To see him start from his first day on the job and slowly learn to what extent his new boss is a nutcase is a great idea. Unfortunately, it's my idea, not Huang's. Huang's idea was to use non-linear narrative and it serves to undermine the tension in the film. We begin with Guy one year into his employment, already hardened and jaded by his tenure with Buddy, who keeps paging him as he drinks with other assistants, all of whom look up to Guy, as the top assistant on the pile. Guy excuses himself to make a call to Buddy, who berates him over the phone as Guy makes excuses and apologises profusely.

The very next scene, we see Buddy for the first time, on the phone in his living room, leaving an irate message on Guy's voicemail. Then suddenly Guy enters, gun in hand and takes Buddy hostage, ranting about how Buddy has made his life such hell, now he's going to do the same to him. CUT TO a card which reads "Day One" - Guy's first day as Buddy's assistant and where the movie should have started, in this reviewer's humble opinion.

Even had Huang made this a linear story, it probably still wouldn't have made a four star movie. The film's biggest problem is Frank Whaley, who as a thespian, just isn't in the same league as Spacey. This is fine when Spacey is screaming, belittling and physically abusing Guy, and all Guy has to do is bow and scrape. Not so fine when the tables are turned, the status shifts and Guy has to intimidate Buddy. I just don't buy it.

Nor do I buy Michelle Forbes, as producer on-the-rise Dawn, being interested in spineless, whiney Guy. When she asks him out for the first time, he reluctantly declines; Buddy won't let him take lunch breaks. And still she pursues him! And she's hot! I always remember Forbes as David Duchovny's girlfriend in KALIFORNIA. She's really got the harder-than-granite girlfriend thing down, as I recall she pretty much emasculated Mulder in that movie. But then, like Whaley, Duchovny's no acting powerhouse, so maybe she's just a good actor. If given the chance to recast, I'd keep her and Spacey. It's Whaley who's the weak link here.

The movie also insists on having a twist ending that, because Huang doesn't show it, we have to have explained to us by Mr Exposition: (MASSIVE SPOILER) "Are you kidding? His jaded girlfriend bursts into his apartment, beats and tortures him and you save his life by blowing her away? You're a hero!" If Huang had just shown us what happened, it still would have been a surprise, we just would have gotten the surprise two minutes earlier and lost thirty seconds of mind-numbing dialogue.

This movie is just begging for a fan edit. If it was reassembled in linear order and had the ending recut so that we saw what happened instead of being told what happened, the movie might be worth an extra star (okay, an extra half a star, let's not go nuts). Still, if you want to get it out, it might make a good addition to a Kevin Spacey DVD night. Might I recommend GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS, LA CONFIDENTIAL and K-PAX (so SWIMMING WITH SHARKS doesn't suffer too much by comparison).

RATING:




Two complete Death Stars and one partially-rebuilt Death Star out of Five.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Dumb Job #3 - Hi-Fi Salesman (Part 1) - Bill El-Jafar


I recently watched SWIMMING WITH SHARKS and Kevin Spacey's performance as sadistic, volatile devil-boss Buddy Ackerman sent my mind hurtling back to my first ever full-time job, as a Hi-Fi Salesman. It was there that I met Bill El-Jafar, certainly the most fear-inducing boss I've ever had.

It was the year 2000. After finishing high school, then enjoying the best summer of my young life, I went to university in the far flung reaches of Bathurst, New South Wales. Thus began my first go-around with tertiary education.

SIX WEEKS LATER...
I was on a payphone, calling back to Sydney, trying to find a job. Education and I parted amicably - it got six weeks of my life, I got out without a HECS debt. I decided I wanted to be a film director, so naturally, I took a job as a Hi Fi Salesman.

The store was Sydney Hi Fi, in the Westfield Shopping centre at Liverpool. I arrived on my first day, wearing a Target shirt and K-Mart tie, and met the Assistant Manager, Bobby Balloo (no shit, that was his name). He introduced me to my predecessor, whose name I vaguely recall being Mohammed, but I could be wrong there. Anyway, Mohammed seemed happy as he showed me the ropes. The reason for his happiness, I learned, was that earlier in the day he'd received the results of his HIV test and he'd been deemed HIV negative. Why the test? Earlier in the week he'd been stabbed in the cheek with a syringe in the Food Court by a Liverpool Westfield regular who Mohammed had taunted about his sexuality. Not a dispute over the price of a CD player, thankfully.

My role, he explained, was primarily to make to deliveries to customers and install hi fi systems. Fine, that's fine, I said, reiterating the lie I had told about my ability to do both in my interview. When there were no deliveries to be made, I was to sell hi fi in the shop. At some point in the morning, I was introduced to Bill.

Bill was a stout, intense man of Lebanese descent who always reminded me of a bulldog. He was the manager of the store but since Sydney Hi Fi were about to start franchising stores, he had decided to buy it, the transaction to take place in a couple of months. This led to some bizzare business decisions, like having to tell customers were were all out of stock on a particular item even though we had a storeroom full of them. Apparently Bill wanted to drive the buying price down by making it look like the store was struggling. We also had a lot of merchandise go missing, supposedly so that when the changeover happened, there would be less stock for Bill to have to buy off the company.

Bill was prone to wild outbursts. Our store was right next to a music store and he would borrow CDs off them to play in our store. He loved this one CD of disco hits and after 2 weeks I was so sick of Baccara's 'Yes Sir, I Can Boogie' I decided enough was enough, I had to change it. I did this while Bill was out at lunch. The moment he stepped back in the store he sensed something wasn't right - someone had changed his CD. He opened the tray and frisbeed my 'Beaucoup Fish' right out of the front doors, to settle somewhere near the food court. Another time I sorted the recordable media in a way that wasn't to Bill's liking and he swept the discs onto the floor for me to start again.

Being the delivery guy, I spent a lot of the day lurching and stalling the delivery van all over the western suburbs, so I escaped much of Bill's wrath. His real whipping boy was a kid called Allan, a second generation hi fi salesman, whose Dad was a gun salesman at Len Wallis Audio in Lane Cove. If Dad was a gun, however, Allan was a slingshot at best, a handful of moist soil at worst. He couldn't sell (something pertinent) to (someone desperate). Nice guy, but the kind who was always mixing up instructions, sending the wrong things out to customers, losing phone numbers, etc. Bill brought him to the verge of tears several times during my tenure.

Bill had tense relationships with all his staff, even his right hand man, Bobby Balloo. The way Bill told it, the main reason he'd brought Bobby over with from the last store they'd worked at together was because there were a lot of Indian customers in Liverpool. Bobby was Indian and Bill said Indian cutomers only wanted to buy from an Indian salesman. There was another salesman there called James, who was openly gay. Bill used to make snide remarks about this behind James' back all the time, but once James told me that Bill used to get heaps of gay porn off him.

Bill was engaged to a tall, gorgeous woman. She was one lucky lady, as evidenced by the following advice Bill once gave me. He said: "When you get married, the first morning after the wedding, you make your new wife the best breakfast she's ever had. Eggs benedict, pancakes, fresh fruit, coffee, everything. Your wife is amazed, she says this is the most amazing breakfast ever, you are so wonderful! Then you say to her, see this breakfast? I expect you to make this for me every day for the rest of your life." What a romantic.

Bill had another woman on the side and I always hoped that the fiancee would come in when Bill had the girlfriend around, but sadly, it never happened. But I would have paid good money to see the look on his bulldog face if ever it did happen.



Anyway, one day I decided I'd had enough of working in fear and I arranged through head office to get transferred to their Miranda store. On my last day, however, in front of all the staff, Bill wished me well and "I'm sorry I had to let you go - there's just no position for you in my new store." As though he was getting rid of me! I was so glad to be leaving though that I just nodded solemnly and said "That's okay."

EPILOGUE

I went to the Miranda store and was quite happy there, working with a pretty decent group of guys (details of which I'll chronicle in Part 2). After about three months I got a phone call. It was Bill, asking me if I'd come back to work for him! I said I had a customer waiting and I'd call him back, which I never did.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

What colour is your urine?



This was the question I was confronted with when I stepped up to the urinal in the men's toilet at today's workplace - Fielder's Roofing at Ingleburn.



(Note the lively and intelligent commentary in the Urine Colour Chart/sidebar)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Dumb Job #2 - Shovelling Chemicals onto a Conveyer Belt




This was my first (and last) assignment from Select Industrial, a Hurstville-based temp agency, whose crack team ran a battery of tests on me over about an hour and a half before deigning to put me on their books. They said they'd get back to me. Then one day came the call....

I got the call at around 10am, for a forklift driving job at a company at Banksmeadow. I was told over the phone that the original guy they'd sent out hadn't showed up (a lie, as I was to later discover). It took me over an hour to get there and upon arrival was taken to an office where I had to sit a safety quiz (unusual, this has never happened before or since), then was taken by the Irish supervisor over to the warehouse. It was en route that I was told that I was not in fact the first employee that day. The first guy had shown up, but had said he had a family emergency and left after 10 minutes. I was the second employee that day and the fourth so far that week. This was Wednesday.

We entered the relatively small warehouse, filled with stacks of hessian sacks. (Stacks and stacks of hessian sacks. I believe I was wearing slacks.) I was introduced to my co-worker, STEVE (can't remember his real name but most of the guys I find myself working with are called Steve, so odds-on that was it). Steve fixed me with a suspicious/low-IQ glare, then returned to operating the RIDICULOUSLY LOUD machine which was filling these sacks with some kind of powder. This was my introduction to vermiculite. And my lungs will probably never be the same again.




Above is the long version, as chronicled by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. In case the name of the agency isn't enough of a short version for you, I'll give you a rundown of some vermiculite facts.

  • Historically, much of the world's supply of vermiculite came from a mine near Libby, Montana.
  • The Libby mine also had a natural deposit of asbestos, and the vermiculite from Libby is contaminated with asbestos
  • The majority of all vermiculite insulation produced before 1990 used contaminated vermiculite from Libby
  • Because the Libby mine closed in 1990, newer products are not expected to contain significant amounts of asbestos
I didn't have access to these facts at the time, but I did have time to acquaint myself with the warnings on the sacks of stuff, as my first glamourous task was to stencil them onto each bag. The gist of the warnings was not to handle it without gloves or respiratory equipment, neither of which I had.

Interaction with Steve was limited, as he couldn't hear me over the noise of the machine. Later, when he switched the machine off, I discovered he couldn't hear me in a silent room, either. He yelled my next task at me, which was to shovel piles of vermiculite onto a conveyer belt. This I did until lunchtime, by which time I thought my arms would drop off.

The lunchroom was the dirtiest, filthiest place in which I've ever consumed a meal in my life. I had brought my lunch, but regrettably, not a spoon. The drawer next to the sink contained a twisted piece of metal I assume had last been used to heat heroin, so I drank my soup from its container.

Hearty meal over, it was back to the vermiculite. For a change of pace, instead of shovelling onto a conveyer belt, this time I was shovelling into a RAGING FURNACE. To what ends I'm not sure. All I know is that I was quite hot by this time and that the vermiculite had blackened my face so that I looked like some sort of sweaty minstrel.

At this stage of the story, I must say I still can't believe I didn't just leave. I must've felt bad that they couldn't get anyone to stay, so I figured I might as well do one day for them. The pay was shit so that's not really a good reason. Maybe I was curious to see how much I could take. Maybe I'm just spineless.

I did feel bad for the Irish supervisor, who was genuinely nice and who approached me at the end of the day and said he knew the job wasn't for everyone, but if I could see it out for two weeks he would really appreciate it. He asked me if I would come back tomorrow. He seemed so earnest and so desperate. I had a change of heart. I couldn't do it to him. I smiled and said yes and he laughed, relieved and happy. I'll see you tomorrow, I said, as I walked away.

I never went back.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Serial Killer of the Month - John Wayne Gacy



I once attended a "circus"-themed fancy dress party wearing clown wig and makeup, but with handcuffs and an orange jumpsuit with stencilled numbers and the name "Gacy" stencilled on the back. I was very disappointed to hear only one 21 year old, gorgeous, disaffected thing at that party say: "Hey, cool, Gacy" and move on, probably to score an "E" and dance the night away to some early 2001 trance (I actually can't remember the year or its musical trend, but let's say it was so I can get back on message). The point is, only one of these cool kids knew who the original serial killing clown was, and that's a dirty, crying shame. So today, I introduce you again (or perhaps for the first time) to the other John Wayne - John Wayne Gacy, Jr.

First up, I'm not going to paraphrase the Wikipedia entry on Gacy. While it's an interesting story, it's not interesting for me to rehash it. I want to talk about my recollection of and introduction to Gacy and why I find it an interesting story. Whoever wrote it on Wikipedia did a good job so you can read that first if you want the background.


When I was about 12, I found a book on serial killers on my grandma's bookshelf. In it was a chapter on Gacy that gave the impression that he was a cat who scouted for victims while he entertained local kids wearing a clown costume. At least that was the impression I retained, but it seems that in reality, Gacy's clown era might not have overlapped his KILLING KIDS ERA (not sure why I capitalised that, it just seemed important). At any rate, it seems the clown thing had an impact on Gacy as he painted a lot of clowns while he sat on Death Row.


One of Gacy's clown paintings



Then when I was in early high school, I traded a comic with a kid (probably a Phantom comic from my end, that was all I read in my sheltered and short comic-reading life) and got from him a whacked-out comic about a serial killer who drives an ice-cream van, while dressed as a clown (what a triple-threat). My only recollection of this literature was that it focussed on some sort of revenge/vigilante plot, whereby a parent or someone with a vested interest killed the ice-cream selling clown by stabbing him to death with ice-cream sticks (how's that for poetic justice, Greensleeves?). My mum may have found it and burned that sucker, or I was so traumatised as to throw it out myself, but at any rate, I don't have the comic anymore.


But the seeds of interest had been planted in young David and at about 14 I joined a video store a respectable distance from our house that would let me rent whatever rated movie I pleased (this is where I first rented The Quick and the Dead, then rated MA15+) and I rented the R18+ telemovie To Catch a Killer starring Brian Dennehy as Mr Gacy, the role which won him an Emmy (THE role? I don't know, he could have a truckload of Emmys, I can't check now, my NET is down). Anyway, this was a 95min long movie on video but apparently when it was on TV in the US, it was 360min long, so I guess they cut out 18 subplots and probably most of Mr Dennehy's AWARD WINNING ACTING, cause he didn't set my hair alight in it. Over all, a poor reconstruction of Mr Gacy's work.


What really galvanised my interest was a book I stumbled upon at the library when I was 17 - 'The Last Victim' by Jason Moss. Writing his honours thesis on American serial killers, Moss began writing letters to Charles Manson, Richard Ramirez, Jeffrey Dahmer and Mr. Gacy, all in prison at the time. He would basically tailor his letters to each killer, posing as whatever type, age, temperament each had liked to kill. His letter to Manson came back unopened and replies from Ramirez were nonsensical, but Gacy seemed to take a real interest in him. Moss had posed in his letters as a sexually-confused young man who had begun an incestuous relationship with his younger brother, and even wrote letters in which he pretended to be the abused brother. All this was geared towards piquing Gacy's interest in what could potentially be a new victim. So he continued this pen pal relationship for a long time, until Gacy asked him to come and visit him in prison, even offering to pay for the flights and accomodation. Moss took the offer up and met with Gacy on three instances, for two hours per visit, during which he tried to glean as much as he could about Gacy. Moss assumed the guards would be watching every moment of their visits, but when he arrived at the prison, discovered that Gacy was seen as a minor celebrity in the prison, by prisoners and guards alike. So on Gacy's say-so, Moss and Gacy were pretty much left alone...

I won't ruin what is an excellent read, but I will conclude by telling you a sad piece of trivia I discovered in researching this "article" - Jason Moss committed suicide in 2006, at age 33, a successful lawyer. I guess he really was the last victim.

I realise this essay started out sounding like it would be a light-hearted romp and was really a depressing collection of tidbits about a guy who killed boys and buried them in his basement, but I actually intended it to be a reflection on that period a lot of young men go through, being that time where you read a lot about serial killers. Gacy just seemed to be the one that captured my imagination, a fire that was fanned by Jason Moss' excellent book. And now the revelation of Moss' tragic death has got me thinking about it all over again.

My Biography

David received his Graduate Diploma in Screenwriting at the Australian Film, Television and Radio School(AFTRS) in 2009. He is currently writing an episode of the Channel 7 drama 'Packed To The Rafters' .

David’s film credits include the short film Fallers which screened at the Newtown Short Film Festival and the Lowveld International Film Festival in South Africa and Supergirl, a short film adapted from his own play which won Best Screenplay at the 2004 Short Cuts Film Festival. Originally from a theatre background, David’s first play Supergirl was selected to represent Shopfront Theatre for Young People at the 2001 NSW Youth Performing Arts Conference. David’s other theatre credits include Glamorama (Fresh Cuts, dir. Alison Richardson) and Amelia-Jane (Fresh Cuts). David has recently directed a music video for Sydney singer/songwriter Adam Dwyer and is currently developing a feature film and a comedy television series.

David on IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2364557/

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Fallers

Starring: Abe Forsythe & Ryan Johnson

Writer/Director: David Lawrance
Producer: Ayela Thilo
Editor: Matthew Walker
Director of Photography: Nicola Daley
Production Designer: David Ingram
Composer: Fiona Hill
Sound Designer: William Lawlor

© 2006
video

Dumb Job #1 - Picking Up Maltesers at the Circus


The Greatest Show on Earth? Not for me, Jack.

It started as a day like any other. I was awoken from my fitful slumber by a call from my temp employment agency, asking me to work at the circus. Assuming I would be riding elephants, or at least juggling flaming sticks, I threw the covers off and SPRANG AGILELY FROM MY BED.

Arriving at Fox Studios, Sydney, site of the Cirque Du Soleil, my place of employ for that day, I was dimayed that 1) the side was nearly deserted 2) the was no sign of a pachyderm - in fact, I couldn't seven see a pile of their droppings which would have served at least as some small, smelly compensation and 3) I was immediately placed in a hot, airless shipping container to stack boxes of popcorn kernals (in contravention to the Geneva Convention's Clause 34.8.0901.64353: something about having to provide employees with oxygen). Anyway, I figured an elephant ride would be some sort of reward at the end of the shift for all my hard work.

I soon found out I had FIGURED WRONG. My reward at the end of my shift was to be approached by a man in a suit I had not seen before, led around the food tents and have small, chocolatey balls lying melting on the hot asphalt pointed out to me. I was then handed a roll of paper towels and asked to "pick them up". I briefly consider rebelling, shouting "FUCK YOU BUDDY!" and with SPEED SO GREAT AS TO BE ALMOST IMPERCIPTIBLE, headbutt said gentleman, possibly caving his forehead into a shape similare to those melted Maltersers, whose picking up had so earned my ire. (see how I tied that altogether? That's the sort of cleverness sprinked throughout my DEVASTATINGLY AWESOME SCRIPTS. Hollywood take note). But in the end I smiled demurely, took the paper towel and picked those cocolately suckers up. Who was I to argue - after all, he was wearing a suit.

Welcome to my life...


Salutations. My goal for this blog is to chronicle the trial and tribulations of a 28 year old filmmaker, as I try to get both a feature and a TV series up and running, as well as paying my bills (meagre though they may be - I live cheap). I will also be "inning" the occasional celebrity, proving them to be straight and Perez Hilton to be wrong (Lance Bass will be my test case. Rumour has it that guy can't get enough vagina on the sly.)

I'll also review the occasional film and give you the links to the best film sites on the NET.

As an addendum, I'll be running down the list of the dumbest jobs I've ever had (and I've had a lot of them). These will range from assisting a Private Investigator for high school work experience, to replacing the rubber feet at the bottom of chair legs in a Shopping Centre Food Court. Stay tuned.

I'm going to leave you with an amusing picture. Maybe we can hold a caption contest each week. Or not, I don't care.

DL