Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Any film shoot that results in me eating my weight in snack-chips deserves a post.  First the commercial, both versions, actually:

At the beginning of 2011, peteandjosh vowed to stop complaining and get shooting.   Not to break our collective arm patting ourselves on the back, but a teaser pitch for the "Max August" comedy series, two outings to the Boundary Waters for "The Singing Wilderness" documentary, and three episodes of the Urban Dictionary series  (L-Bomb, Premature Evacuation, and Dorit-O-face) ain't half bad.  You should have seen us before day jobs/wives/fiancees/kids/student loans/mortgages/car payments/the lead-dense push of age on our souls - not that either one of us would trade any of it…

Originally titled, "Doritogasm" this short always had dual agendas  - to function as the third of three Urban Dictionary shorts (that we plan on pitching as a series of interstitials) and to serve as an entry in the "Doritos: Crash the Superbowl" competition.  We did one a few years back that you can see HERE, but this year we decided to really get in it to win it.  Trying to come up with an appropriately sophomoric idea for the Crash the Superbowl entry, I thought maybe I'd see if the ol' Urban Dictionary had any Dorito-related insights.  Three clicks later - blam! - Doritogasm (look it up, it's there!) 

You see the idea - hopefully simple enough, slapstick enough and Superbowl-y enough to get us somewhere to the final round.

If you agree, follow this link and leave a comment.  If you're on a smart-phone, don't bother.  It just routes you to a dead-end intro video.

BTW, Changing the title from Doritogasm to Dorit-O-face, was a last-minute suggestion by a few friends with some actual commercial experience, and my non-football-watching wife who is uncannily always right about everything (she's reading this while I type…)  The idea being that the simple suffix "gasm" could set off a Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction-esque backlash that might knock it out of contention simply for sexual semantics.  

And we wouldn't want that, would we.

Next stop, Indianapolis!  (That's where the Superbowl is this year, not that a trip to Indianapolis isn't kind of like winning a prize.)

- peteandjosh

Finally, since there's no place to acknowledge the amazing people behind the scenes and in front of the camera, I want to give them all a shout-out right here in this blog post.  It might get loud, so make with the ear plugs:


Starring (in order of appearance)
Matt Thomas - Tyler
Gary Mahmoud - George   
Iris Flick - lady at table
Michele McNally - Dr. Stinkenkrantz  
Aida Artieda - Lab Helper
John Schlirf - Lab Helper #2
Tom Behrens - Exam Room Doc
Spencer Morin - Exam Room Doc #2
Mike Baez - Subject #1
Other Awesome Exam Subjects:
Joe Cozzo
Chris Beier
Estelle Bajou
Tiziana Guarini
Justin Kirck
Taylor Zito
Ragini Bhaumik
Carlos Arce

Producer - Aida Artieda
PA - Dan Jamieson
THX - Faatima Qureshi

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The More Things Change...

So I had this great idea for a post titled, "I haven't had a Woody like this in 12 years!" about my reaction to seeing "Midnight in Paris."  Maybe I'll write it someday, but for now I'll only say that the best thing the movie did for me was make me optimistic about his next one - a feeling I have not had in far too long for a filmmaker I admire as much as I do him.  I still think he's got one or two masterpieces brewing, I just hope I don't have to wait another decade to be proven right.  Hear that Mr Konigsberg?  More Misdemeanors and less Barcelonas - stat!!

Now to the crux of the biscuit.  I've been going through some old photos - prints mind you, not just jpegs - and out comes the NYU batch, complete with old friends, bad hair, worse behavior and the origins of peteandjosh.  Hard to forget hanging out at a post-screening party in our first year and I ask Pete if he'd like to shoot for me next go round.  He asks if I'd shoot for him, too.  Thus was born a 17 year-long friendship/co-conspiratorship/co-directorship - and the old married couple jokes just keep on coming…

Here's back when we could pull the ears off a Gundark -

So, sometimes the peteandjosh thing is easy like breathing.  Sometimes it's, well…

Case in point,  Kaaterskill Falls  -   Shooting a feature in 13 days over three months with no money, no crew and no script - I'm still amazed we all lived through it.  There was one night though - and this when people shot on film cameras with large detachable compartments to hold the film spools called magazines - one night when at around 4AM, something just snapped.  Peter was holding said magazine, having just loaded it with unexposed film, and I was doing what I do best - pushing and pushing.  He was flat-out exhausted, I was uncharacteristically annoying (quiet down, anyone who knows me at all) and I just crossed the line.  There was a shot I wanted and Pete was just too tired.  Don't remember what I said, but I remember knowing it would be better for everyone if I just backed off. 

I didn't.  I couldn't.  I wanted the shot.  Pete warned me to stop.  Fuck the shot, it's late and we're spent and it ain't gonna happen.  I kept going just to test him.  Then, with a look I've never seen on his face before or since, he uttered a phrase that's since become a shorthand joke for us, but at the time was the purest, most sincere, heartfelt threat I've ever received,  "Josh, I'm gonna take this magazine and smash you in the face."

We wrapped right about then and my face escaped un-smashed.  But it was a side of doing what we do that's not all fun and lollipops and creative light bulbs going off.  It's hard work sometimes - filthy with conflict, argument and worst of all just a lack of ideas.

Jump to Summer 2011 - ten years and many projects later.  We find ourselves shooting our second Urban Dictionary piece, "Premature Evacuation - when someone takes off after a one night stand."  The first day was shot in an ultra-swank suite at the Waldorf Astoria, though we had to tweak the script to make this suddenly available location in any way relevant to the story.  We had tons of room, not too much to shoot and walked away feeling pretty slick indeed.  Just maybe we know what we're doing by now…

Not so fast there guys.

Second night of shooting - 115 with the heat index.  By the time the AC units in the microscopic and quite filthy apartment we shot in finally started cooling, I'd already sweated salt deposits in my shirt.  We could barely move, let alone shoot, let alone squeeze the seven of us in there.  It was hot and late and the inverse of the Waldorf.  Nothing meshed, good takes all hard fought, and the coverage we needed slowly crawled along thru the thick sauna pushing back at us.

Then, with two shots left, I describe a move I think will help do a lot of narrative heavy lifting - right after this one.  Pete says, "Yeah, we're not doing that."  He's got the makings of the look - the 4AM, Catskills, have-mag-will-smash-face look.

I don't push it, instead help with the current set-up.  Bide my time.  Then, while passing him a beer, I take the camera and show him the move I'm thinking of.  It's not bad.  We try it.

Made the whole night worth while, if'n you ask me.  Not that it's the most amazing moment of cinema in the world, but it's the right shot for the scene - a woman realizes she's not waking up at home, and definitely not alone.

You tell me…

So the conclusion of this long, rambling mess of a post (I'm making up for writing absolutely nothing for almost two months, so bear with me) is maybe just that the more things change, the more some things actually change?  

Pete and I walked away from that night - easily the worst conditions we've had in ten years - with the instant retrospect needed to laugh it off.  The Waldorf, it was not.  But we got the shots, and no one's face came close to getting smashed.

Shit, man - Carlos Santana says all this and more without a single word, so I'll leave it for him to take it home this time.

NOTE: I actually have no idea what he's singing about, but it definitely says Summer, I'm pretty sure he mentions something about friends (one theme of this post, I guess) and it's always felt like one of the perfect end credit songs of all time.  I dare you not to feel a hard cut to black at 1:17.

Friday, July 1, 2011

I want to thank you all...

For optimum results, play this song and stand on your head.  Because sometimes the world is completely upside-down.

Now, peteandjosh aren't wont to rant and bitch about career frustrations (hard to tell when we've made exactly three pseudo-public statements on the topic) but I was reminded by Pete yesterday of an old joke between us.  It involved an extra section we planned on putting in the credits of our movies.  After the standard "Special Thanks to," for the friends and supporters of a particular work, we added "No Thanks to" for those who's active discouragement actually caused us to question our creative ideas and abilities - a condition historically cured by a quick trip down Knob Creek.  There's also a "Fuckyouverymuch" section reserved for a special breed of industry douchebag.

A movie producer (or his 22 year-old assistant) just read a screenplay of ours and upon passing on it said the following, "I really loved it, but it's too much like the film, 'Win Win'."  Thus continuing the never-ending cycle of totally incomprehensible reactions to our work.  This same producer read (and passed on) another script Pete and I submitted about six months ago with a similar response - loved the writing, but it's just not the right size.  

As if these things come in widths…

Now, I've not seen, "Win Win," but most of what I read suggests that it's a solid movie, with amazing performances.  So I'm left wondering, "What's wrong with it being like Win Win?"  Of course, my first response is, if you really love it why not just leave it there and stop adding conjunctions that ultimately contradict your initial reaction?

What's a guy to do?  Rant and bitch, I guess.  Just maybe this hit me at exactly the wrong place and time, maybe Sidney Lumet's recent passing stirred up some unexpected Peter Finch in me, maybe it's that the industry shit list (I used to actually keep one) is becoming a mile-long scroll of resentment-bile that does more to feed the fire than extinguish it.

Look, it's not like we're gonna stop writing them and shooting them and making them.  We'd just prefer not to die of old age before a broader opinion of our work rises to meet our own.  Visual of peteandjosh flexing our screenplays in the mirror?

So to the distributor who considered our film, "Kaaterskill Falls" and said, "I really loved it, but I wouldn't know what to do with it," and the potential manager who reacted to a screenplay by saying, "Loved it, but what if the kids in it were actually aliens?" and the entire wall of festival rejection letters from years of submissions (do you really wish me luck in the future?) I dedicate this song from 4:10 right on to the end.

NOTE:  I first heard this song browsing CDs at Brigade Records, a tiny trade-in store which rode the northern tip of what used to be known as Little Italy and is now doubtless a John Fleuvag.  I was 25, and as a typically self-absorbed 25 year old, thought this album was written exclusively for and about me.  It's nice to know that fifteen years later there are still a few lines that fit.

Enjoy the Fireworks!

Monday, May 23, 2011

CRS and the Instant Pleasuredome

Seems in the intervening years, I mis-remembercated the actual Billy Joel song that I remembered so vividly in my previous post, "Sadness or Euphoria."  In my defense, both tracks are from "Songs in the Attic," both songs are pretty awesome, but now that I think about it, it's much more likely that an intimate mix-tape between high-school sweethearts would contain a valentine like, "You're my Home."  Sorta makes me want to borrow my parents' car and head to the William Jeanes Library parking lot...

Here endeth the brief Billy Joel-a-thon.  Siegfried and Roy on guitar to open the song are free...

Friday, May 20, 2011

Sadness or Euphoria

So I'm scouting a location for an upcoming shoot.  It's set in a big post-production facility, and the people there were nice enough to let the cast - Gary, Michele (both of L-Bomb infamy) and our newly cast Adam (infamous in his own right) come in and take a tour, ask questions and generally get a feel for the environment.  Next, the plan was to grab a quick drink/bite and rehearse the scenes for rewrites.

We never really made it out of the bar.

Not that it wasn't productive.  We talked about character backstories over drinks and got to know one another better - always good to do.  And the plain truth is, I trust these guys.  So as it neared 8PM and our window for rehearsal started closing, we were fine just bullshitting about movies, music, a little Schwartzenegger-related politics and horrible iPhone reception (hard to believe, but it's true - they suck).  

Some highlights:  Michele had never seen a picture of James Taylor not bald.  Adam just bought the first TV of his adult life.  Gary admitted that he really liked Billy Joel.  And at the mention of Mr. Joel, I had an instant overpowering memory of one of his songs;  A live cut of "Summer Highland Falls" from the album "Songs in the Attic."  Yes, it's opening lines are among the most over-used yearbook quotes in the history of the educational system and yes, I first heard it on a mix tape my high-school girlfriend made for me, so the pang is built in.  But the pang was undeniably there.  

Now, it's been a long time since I actually heard the song.  I recall a kind of unfounded, "damn this was written about me!" relevance, and the moment when the bass kicks in making my head tingle.  But that was then, and then was a lifetime ago.  Was it all glorified memory of youth and love and time and place?  I wasn't sure.  I did suspect however, that this track would be like the old friend you see every few years but no matter how long the absence, the conversation picks up right where it left off.   

So after saying our goodbyes and while walking home, I did what any self-respecting, smart-phone carrying techno-dufus would do.  I YouTubed it.

Billy's Long Island accent, horrible 1977 hair and the old friend living in that song were right there to greet me.

If this finally makes me an honorary FLID (look it up), so be it.  If you never cared for Billy Joel, this may not change anything.  Just don't tell me the guy couldn't write a song.  Anyone who makes me feel the two above-mentioned extremes simultaneously can't be all bad.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Ackbar Bow

My friend and I used to joke about getting our careers off the ground. Achieving "escape velocity" was the term he used - the idea being if we worked hard enough and made consistently solid work, there'd be a point at which the spacecraft (our aforementioned careers) would not only blast off (fortune and fame) but would break free of the earth's gravitational pull, thus finding a comfortable orbit (no more day jobs!)

To put the analogy to bed, sometimes I feel like a delayed shuttle launch.

Then there are times like last week's shoot, where the opposite is true and everything just clicks.

Backstory - my friend and I are making a short teaser for a TV series pitch. As our little project ballooned into a fifteen-person, multi-location machine, he started a new job and became almost completely unavailable. So with an impending panic attack as my co-pilot, I reached out to a few friends and colleagues and did something I don't do often enough. I asked for help. It was the best thing I ever did.

Suddenly, there were prop and wardrobe lists, make-up artists, contact sheets, call times, passenger vans, locations, rental pickups and this thing started to get very real. In the final week leading up to the shoot, we were moving like binary Neo at the end of the first Matrix - all calm and invincible, but without the horrible acting.

In trusting the skill and talent of others, I could relax (as much as I ever relax) and focus on the story we were trying to tell, concentrate on how best to tell it. We made both days with plenty of time, and had I not lost my car keys (an inevitability I attribute to turning 40 on our first day of shooting), I would have walked away feeling almost guilty for having such an excessive amount of fun.

And yes there were technical problems and personality conflicts and certain ideas that killed on paper just didn't sell when real people replaced written words and the usual amount of feeling like the film was shooting us as much as the other way around, but somehow it was happening. One funny idea cooked up two years ago at a party was becoming a physical thing with characters, structure and personality.

So I took a breath and did a little "Ackbar bow." I guess I felt the situation called for it. Now, since just about every emotion I've ever had can somehow be traced to one of the Star Wars movies (just the old ones, not the CGI turds), I'll explain.  There's a scene in the final battle sequence of Return of the Jedi, not the idiotic teddy bear fight on the ground, but the complex space battle taking place around the death star. The rebels are grossly outnumbered, face insurmountable odds - yet they continue to fight. One lucky pilot (depending on how you look at it) kamikazes right into the bridge of a massive super-star destroyer - disabling its navigation systems and sending it slowly careening into the death star in a cataclysmic explosion. Finally, a victory for the little guys! The rebel leader, everyone's favorite ambulatory lobster, "Admiral Ackbar" watches the scene and just bows his head. Overcome with emotion, relief, possibility, exhaustion, he just has a moment to take it in.

If it makes any sense, I felt a twisted kinship with the Admiral as this project came to life. I took a breath, had my moment of possibility, and for a second felt slightly farther from the earth's gravitational pull.

In living color here, for all you rebel scum...

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Urban Dictionary #47 - L-Bomb

New Years 2011, We resolved to shut up and shoot more. Enough writing scripts and trying to extract millions of dollars from people who invariably react with, "And who the F--K are these guys?!!"  But running out and shooting a(nother) shoestring feature was not really in the cards, so the next best thing? Shorts! But what to shoot? Thankfully, the answer came in the form of some amazing actors (Gary Mahmoud and Michele McNally) cast for a completely different project and a briefcase full of loaner Zeiss lenses. The idea to make little films about Urban Dictionary terms seemed a natural. We picked one that each of us had some unfortunate experience with - dropping the L-Bomb.

Personnel: Josh and Pete
Greg: Gary Mahmoud
Minnie: Michele McNally
Too Soon Buddy: Allan Title
Music: Season of the Shark, Yo La Tengo