Monday, December 8, 2008

Ed Catmull Lecture at the University of Utah

I just returned from meeting one of the most important people I could have ever met. If you read one of my early blog posts you will find one with me raving about a book called Droidmaker, that book is mostly about this person. His name is Ed Catmull and he gave a lecture at the University of Utah tonight. His lecture was particularly helpful to me because it was about good business management and what Pixar does to keep great movies rolling out.

Basically the lesson learned was that top to bottom, micromanaged business is bad. Teams need to be formed with people who work well with each other and they need to reach goals and solve problems together. In order to do that everybody needs to give their honest opinion no matter how much they respect and admire or fear those above them. As a result the company will grow, change, and evolve. Pixar is all about having a creative, fun, and hard working environment. If you want to read a full review of what was covered in his lecture go here:

After the lecture there was a reception in a lobby area of the building which is actually named after Catmull. There we got to introduce ourselves to the man himself. I told him that I was a film student who recently started up my own video production company and that I aspire for my business to be like Pixar someday. I also told him that Pixar is the only movie company ever to not put out a bad movie and that's really something when you stop and think about it. He told me they would keep trying to make great movies. I didn't realize how much I was shaking due to intimidation until I took a pic of him with my cell phone, so I apologize that it is a blurry and low res. Ed Catmull is on the right, in the center is the head of the film studies department, Kevin Hanson. You can see Catmull's name on the pillar behind Kevin.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Protesting against the Church of Jesus Christ

I've tried to refrain from voicing any sort of strong political commentary on the Internet. I'm not much of an activist and I typically keep my opinions private. They are strong, but I don't get in people's faces about them when it comes to moral and political values (however, when it comes to anything related to movies it is a completely different story). Recently I've been pushed to the point that I can no longer remain silent.

Most of us are well aware of California's history in recent years with the issue of "gay marriage." A couple years ago proposition 22 banned it. A ruling by judges earlier this year said that prop 22 was unconstitutional and somehow they were able to declare that that made gay marriage legal (I can't wrap my head around how making prop 22 unconstitutional all of a sudden makes gay marriage legal when it was not legal before prop 22... judges interpret the law people, they don't make it). California voters responded by passing proposition 8 to amend their state constitution just shy of two weeks ago. Simply put, all prop 8 does is define marriage as between a man and a woman. Issue resolved right? Wrong. The armies of angry homosexual couples and their sympathizers come out and wage war.

The church I belong to (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) joined many others in supporting proposition 8. And my church leaders encouraged church members to support it as well. Marriage has been since the dawn of time a religious practice. At that time marriage between same-sex couples wasn't even considered. After all, the books of Moses, the first recorded religious doctrine supported by the worlds three major religions (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam), is clear on the subject of homosexuality. It is condemned almost in the same breath as bestiality. I'll admit that's pretty strong, but I'm just telling it how it is. Through time as governments formed marriage has been upheld and supported by government. The traditional family has been a strong asset to the United States of America. This country was founded as a God-fearing nation. People are free to voice their opinions and reform society for the better. But now a new issue is on the table and emotions run high.

I'm not trying to change your mind on these issues. They are too heated and complex for me happily resolve them in simple blog. I'm not sure what the compromise should be. I just want to put this all into context for myself and for anybody who reads through this.

I have my biases. My moral values and beliefs are strong. I sustain President Monson as the prophet of God right now here on earth. So nobody is in the dark about where my loyalties are right? Good. I want this to be read in an honest/non-manipulative context.

A week ago my friend, Sean Walker, wanted me to shoot video of the protest at Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake City, Utah. He is a journalist for Brigham Young University's Daily Universe newspaper and he wanted a short video piece documenting the event to be placed on their online News Net website. We shot video of the mobs. We gathered interviews from the protesters themselves. Funny tangential story: the first group we attempted to interview asked us who we were with. When Sean responded that he was with BYU they ran away. I suggested just simply stating it was for a documentary, that worked. Moving on: we cut the whole thing together that night. Unfortunately, we were never able to get it online. Now before you start making assumptions, it had nothing to do with censoring from BYU. It did however have to do with incompetence. Apparently their IT guy was not there and nobody knew how to easily compress it to a flash video and upload it.

I bumped into one of my professors from the Fine Arts Department of the University of Utah there at the protest and she too had a camera and was working on a documentary. I offered her all the footage I've obtained because otherwise I doubt it will see the light of day. Side note: she saw our clip that was never posted and described it as "compassionate." I don't know if I agree with that, I just cut together clips of what the protesters said to us. I did not want the piece to have an obvious bias and it's not like I threw a sentimental piano piece over it. But that was her opinion of it.

With this background I'm going to move onto my opinions of these recent events. I saw signs and heard the chants of the protesters proclaiming "stop the hate" in person. Ironically over these last few weeks I've observed that the hate is not coming from the church or its members attacking the gay community. It is the exact opposite. For example, a television ad posted on YouTube disrespects my two years of service as a missionary for my church as it does many others by portraying LDS missionaries as malicious home invaders ready to take away the rights of gay couples. Another example, the protests right outside of church property is disrespectful. More examples, within those mobs of protesters radicals have become so inspired, empowered, and enraged that they have vandalized several churches in my community. And that's not all, a Book of Mormon, a holy book of scripture for my church, was burned on the steps of a house of worship. And it does not end there, just yesterday a letter of powder was sent to the Salt Lake Temple. Anthrax threats? Really? So the gay community and its supporters now have terrorists in their midst. One church out of many others has been targeted, the church I am a proud member of. Once again the "Mormon" church is being persecuted. This time not by other churches claiming we aren't Christians. Other churches are actually reaching out and supporting my church during this time of turmoil and grief.

Are you proud of this gay community? Do you want these acts to continue and potentially define you? Stop the public protests. Condemn these acts of hate. Sit down with a level head and maybe we can work something out. Then I could take you seriously. Like I stated earlier, this is not a cut and dry situation. People feel strongly about this on both sides. On one side we want traditional values upheld. I believe this is important because I'm afraid that as I get older and perhaps have children of my own they will grow up in a world where a public awareness of right and wrong has become so convoluted that it no longer exists. The other side compares this to the civil rights movement of the sixties and seventies. That it is a cause to stop prejudice and discrimination. In a secular world who are we to impose our beliefs on other people?

Personally I wish things could be simple. But they're not. I would not have written and posted this but I feel like somebody needs to lay this all out there on the table and so that we can actually take it all in. For better or for worse this is going to be in the history books. So I've got to deal with it and take a stand for what I believe is true and just right now.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Houston and Denise's Wedding

So today I participated as a groomsman in Houston's wedding. Duties included escorting a bridesmaid and loading presents into a car. Oh and also eating a lot of food, probably the most important task of them all. My unofficial duty as a member of the wedding party was to decorate Houston's car. The funnest part was when I got to dance with the Bethany (the pretty bridesmaid I escorted) even though I suck at dancing :P

Congrats to Houston and Denise!

Friday, September 12, 2008

My connections to the filmmakers who made "Take"

Today an independent feature film starring Minnie Driver called "Take" is being released in local Utah theaters for all to enjoy. I had the pleasure of going to a special advanced screening last Wednesday evening at the Gateway. It was emotionally heavy and very dramatic, perhaps to strong for me personally. However, it is undoubtly a powerful movie with great perfomances and story throughout. Charles Oliver (writer/director) and Chet Thomas (producer) were there as well for a Q&A session after the movie.

Now for those of you who don't know I have a bit of history with Chet Thomas. In early 2003 my commercial art teacher Tom Wood advised me to get involved with a program called Independent Student Media Films ( A former student of his (who he said I reminded him of because we both always talked about making big movies someday), Darrin Fletcher, had teamed up with Hollywood producer Chet Thomas and started this nation-wide educational program. My friends Jim and Angie came with me to a presentation Chet and Fletch gave at a local high school. We stuck around afterwords to bug them and pick their brains for knoweldge.

A few months later while Jim, Angie, and I were down in Burbank to help on the shooting of "The Book of Mormon Movie" we stopped by Chet's office in North Hollywood and he gave us an hour of his time to ask him questions and learn about the industry. A couple months after that we particpated in ISM's summer workshop here in Utah. Teachers and students were assigned to work with different departments everyday and learn directly from Industry professionals during production of a short film shot on 35mm film.

I was out of high school and Jim was a senior during the 2003-2004 school year. Jim had special permission to go to West Jordan a couple times a week to be in the ISM film class at West Jordan because they didn't have it at Brighton High. We utilized West Jordan High School's equipment they purchased for the ISM film course to create a short film unlike any we had made before. It was called Catawampus and we finished it in June of 2004.

I served as a spanish-speaking missionary in the CA San Fernando Mission. Four 3 months I lived with english-speaking missionaries who served in Chet Thomas' ward in Burbank. I never really got to speak to Chet but the english Elders passed a DVD of Catawampus with my contact info onto Chet and said hi for me.

Skip forward a few years later and Chet Thomas is promoting "Take" here in Utah. The day after the advanced screening Chet and Charles were up at the University of Utah were they gave an amazing presentation on the making of this film. It mostly covered pre-production. Writing, financing and budgeting, storyboarding, and all sorts of really cool topics were discussed in detail. There were also a few amusing stories.

After the presentation I had the perfect opportunity to put in a plug for ISM Films to Brian Patrick (the head of our film program at the University of Utah) with Chet standing next to him. I started a mutually benifcial dialog between the two. And Chet thanked me for my efforts afterwords.

Yet again I had an amazing experience that helps to motivate me in my filmmaking endevours. I believe I made a good impresion on both Charles and Chet. I made sure to obtain all their contact info and they have mine. I'm sure that will benefit me greatly in the near future.

Anyway, support my friends and go see "Take" here in Utah theaters!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Fall Semester 2008

After a long weekend of shooting my western film project (which finally has a name: The Way to Deadman Pass) classes began on Monday, August 25th.

I have two classes on Mondays and Wednesdays. The first class of the day begins at 10:45am and is a visual effects course offered by the Fine Arts program. It's pretty awesome, we're going to play around with Adobe Photoshop and After Effects as well as Final Cut Pro and hopefully Pro Tools. So after that class ends at 12:45pm I wait around all day until my second class which starts at 4:35pm... yeah I know, that kinda sucks. But once we get rolling on projects I'll have plenty to do on the computers at school.

My second class of the day is called Intro to Computer Music. The teacher, David Cottle, is a Mac expert and really cool. We're starting off with some simple sound editing using a shareware program called Amadeus Pro but soon enough we'll graduate from that to all out Logic Pro mixing powers! The class ends at 5:55pm and that time always seems to come up really fast. Both of these classes use iMacs very similar to my own so I always feel pretty at home.

On Tuesdays from 6pm-10pm I have screenwriting once again for the 4th time! I love that class. Paul was kind enough to let me back in on Tuesdays. I had it on Tuesdays for the first two semesters, last semester I had to switch to Wednesdays because of scheduling conflict. I know some of you might be thinking I could stay on Wednesdays this semester and it would be convenient because I wouldn't have to go clear up to the U for a 3rd day every week, but if you know my situation well enough then you'd know why I can't be on Wednesdays... besides, all my good friends are there on Tuesdays, it's just a really fun night!

In October I'm going to be taking Josh's lighting course once again, but this time it is 3 credit hours instead of just 1. I'll let you know how that goes!

In summary all my classes rock hard core and why shouldn't they? I'm done with generals and required courses so I get to choose whatever classes I want to take from here on out!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Dark Knight

Okay, I know everyone loves this movie, but if somebody out there does not then that somebody is a moron. Not only does this movie have amazing performances, but the plot is thick and the story is engaging, the cinematography is breathtaking (see it in IMAX), and I don't have a single complaint.

This movie lives up to the hype and goes beyond it. It's a superhero movie, normally you can't call a superhero movie a masterpiece, but it is a MASTERPIECE. And it is more than a superhero movie, it's a crime drama and an action/adventure movie too.

If you haven't seen this movie GO NOW!!!!!

I know my writing sounds super-biased, but I walked into the movie theater without reservations or expectations other than it looked better than "Begins." I was blown away.

It should be noted I watch about 10 movies I haven't seen before every week. I see a lot of stuff and I know what a mediocre movie is. I also am studying film at the University of Utah and have had to write a lot of papers on film theory. I love making movies more than anything. Basically what I'm getting at is I know when I see something good. I look for movies that are going to matter in the future, 20+ years down the road. So you can trust me when I say that The Dark Knight is a masterpiece. Subjectively speaking is it my number 1 favorite? Maybe not... Objectively speaking I believe this is the greatest film ever made.


The other week I finished the coolest book ever on the history of Lucasfilm and Pixar called Droidmaker: George Lucas and the Digital Revolution.

It covers the history of the business, technology, and people that put us where we are today with computer graphics and movie-making. I highly recommend this book to anybody. READ IT NOW!!!! It's like $25 on Amazon.

Bear Lake, July 2008

The morning after seeing the most amazing film ever made, "The Dark Knight," I headed with my family to our cabin at Bear Lake. This is usually an annual trip and in recent years the number of family and friends heading up there has dwindled. It was still a nice weekend and I took it easy. Snagged a few pics while I was there as well.

My new blog

I became lazy on updating my blog for Clairinski Productions so I decided to be more active in updating that and also decided to create a more personal blog of my own to update those who may be interested in reading what I'm up to in not-always-film-related life.

About Me

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Sandy, Utah, United States
I make movies with my friends. I like to find humor in just about anything. I live in a dark cave similar to Batman's as far as cool computer equipment goes. But my cave lacks the gym, car, and suit...