False Profit: A Mockumentary Indie Film about the Financial Crisis, the Bailout, and Occupy Wall Street

“Finally,” CNBC declared about the mockumentary False Profit. “A comedy movie about the financial crisis.” I met one of the producers on this film, Dan Abrams, because we’d both been fans of and guests on a podcast called asymco. It’s host is Horace Dediu and Horace studies Apple and its competitors. It’s an example of the ways in which stories, digital media, and Apple are coming together for me. Dan’s current project is a mockumentary called False Profit, and it’s an indie film project in that he is seeking his own financing, partially done through a website called Kickstarter. To read more about that and potentially help fund the project (and pick up some swag in the process) you can click here.

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False Profit from Kickstarter

When I asked Dan about his process for writing the story for False Profit, he said he wrote collaboratively, something that comes from his connections to the Second City comedy theater. He talked about a way of writing (and maybe it’s an improv technique too) called the “Yes And” method. I couldn’t figure out what he was saying on the podcast until I later saw it in writing. His example of the technique went something like this:

“It’s raining frogs.”

As the fellow writer, I am to accept that it is raining by thinking yes and and then going with it. “Finally,” I might say, “we’ve been having a terrible drought of frogs this summer.”

On the audio podcast, Dan and I debated the social merits of Will Ferrell movies. I thought mostly funny but also usually just silly and maybe even homophobic, and Dan mounted a satire-themed defense. From there, we discussed the Bailout, Chekhov, George Bush, and whether or not Republicans and Democrats alike might enjoy the film False Profit.

Dan is using Kickstarter to help finance his film and he explained how that works. I asked about Vimeo or YouTube for the sort of work I’m doing, and I had a lot of questions about copyright when it comes to news footage, the legal contracts in securing images and music, and all sorts of questions when it comes to film festivals and indie film distribution.

If you take the time to give the podcast a listen, I hope you’ll help me learn about some of this. I’m almost done with my documentary film For the Love of Books and I’m sensing that there’s more work ahead than completed when it comes to actually getting the film in front of audiences to where they can view it.

On iTunes, the podcast is called the “Read, Write, and Teach Digital Book Club.” If you look down the right side of this page, you can click on the file for download. I’d love to just have it ready for streaming play, maybe one of you can tell me how to set that up. Is it possible to do it while paying to go ad free on WordPress or do I need to run my own site? Thanks in advance for the help!

Pulpwood Queens May Bonus Book Club Selection

Thanks to Kathy Patrick for choosing Love on the Big Screen as a Pulpwood Queen May Bonus Book Club selection. It’s been great getting to know so many of the book club members. You are all passionate readers with big hearts, and I’m still holding onto all those hopeful vibes I picked up from you when it comes to your enthusiasm for literacy. First, I made you all a special video greeting that also previews some of the great pictures taken in Jefferson, Texas by Brooklyn-based photographer Natalie Brasington. Click on the video below to watch:

I’m also at work on a documentary film about my visit to Texas last January for Girlfriend Weekend. I’m calling it For the Love of Books, something that just popped into my head near the end of my weekend after watching everyone stuff their extra suitcases with books and as I saw book group after book group using literacy to help others. Yes, you ladies–and a few good men–have fun, but your devotion to literacy and to caring about people is what really inspired me.

If you do read Love on the Big Screen, you can find some book club discussion questions here.  It might be fun to see what you think of this teacher’s idea about conversation starters. Also, if you glance over to the right of this page, you’ll see that I’m selling some extra copies of the novel that have accumulated at my house. Sometimes when I do a conference or a book festival, too many books are ordered and when those go unsold, they get returned to the publisher. Since the burden on an indie press can get pretty tough, I’ve purchased some of these copies.  If you’re interested, you can purchase the book here through Pay Pal, I’ll write you a big ole thank you note inside the book, and then ship it off to you. I hope it’s okay to trouble you with mentioning that possibility. The book is available through the usual channels  including Kindle, Nook, and iPad.

I’ve already made plans to return to Jefferson next year with my Midwestern Gothic novel entitled Horseshoe.  For those of you who read Flannery O’Connor, I hope you’ll see some of the ways her “Misfit” fiction has influenced my writing. I’m also going to join those of you who are planning to come with Kathy to NYC this June. You can read more about the trip here.   Brooke Ivey is doing a lot of the planning, and I just found out I get to lead the charge into Strand Books, a store that claims over 18 miles of titles. I don’t really know what they mean by that, but I’ve been in the store and it takes a marathoner’s stamina to make it through even one of the floors.  By the way, Brooke’s mother Anita is a Pulpwood Queen!

I’m happy to interact with individual chapters of the Pulpwood Queens in lots of ways including perhaps a Skype visit or a special video that answers questions readers might have. I’m a native Indiana Hoosier, and so like David Letterman, perhaps I could do my own sort of version of reader mail. With another shot from Natalie, here’s to Texas and the Pulpwood Queens:

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photograph by Natalie Brasington

You can connect on Twitter here and Facebook here.

Thanks for reading, and I look forward to being in touch.

Writing, Feedback, and Film Editing

Thanks to Mrs. T and Izzy for giving me lots of space and quiet to work today.  I met the daily 800 word quota I set for myself when I’m working on a novel.  Lately, it’s been more like 800 words four days a week.

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Pulpwood Queens Favor Safari Print
photo by Natalie Brasington

I followed up my writing by meeting another daily quota: I read seven student papers. At that rate, I’ll have them done in seven days, which would put me a day ahead of schedule. This semester I’ve spaced out my face to face classes’ assignments so they come in at a different time than the writing of the online students.

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This Banner Blew Down After I filmed it
(I didn't steal it)

I spent the whole rest of my day doing color correction to the Girlfriend Weekend “For the Love of Books” documentary. To be truthful, rather than call it color correction, I should probably call it “color improvement.” When I’d do an adjustment, it would take a while for Final Cut Pro to render the change, and while it was “working,” I watched videos from NYU’s “Media Talks.” The more I learn about their master’s degree in publishing the more I’m impressed by it.

We used my kids' puzzle map to
illustrate my trip to Jefferson, Texas

I should note that my wife Megan made the little airplane in the picture.

There are some good videos related to the book business on the NYU site here.

Two Indie Film Documentary Projects: Morel Mushrooms and Pulpwood Queens

First I thought I wanted to make a documentary film.  Now it looks like there might be two.  The original idea was to be about my dad and his buddies’ morel mushroom hunting obsession.  A second film has jumped out and seemed to be demanded to be made about my recent trip to the Pulpwood Queens Girlfriend weekend.  My impulse to try the films probably comes from what my students and I have been up to in the classroom and also the trip I took last summer to Providence for the Rhode Island International Film Festival.

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The Mushroom Hunters

In the classroom, my students write a documentary-style research paper we call a scholarly personal narrative.  They tell a personal story, weave in scholarly research, and then “write” a short documentary film as a culminating writing project.  This seems something along the lines of Joan Didion’s Year of Magical Thinking.  It’s a story of personal grief with research layered in.

Working with film is a craft I find can take me away.  In other words, what should be an hour of fiddling with iMovie or Windows Moviemaker turns into several hours and staying up half the night to finish a project so that my family can see it the next morning.

As for the festival last summer, I had a great time, went to films with my sis, films with my wife, and also met lots of indie filmmakers who I peppered with questions about their work. I enjoyed a lot of the films (Sailcloth, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore) but there was one funny and clever documentary short called Two’s a Crowd  that acted as the catalyst that caused my sister and I to think, maybe we can do this.

Some Pulpwood Queens at Girlfriend Weekend

It’s my thinking that I’m going to write here about how these projects are coming along with hopes that some of you will join in and set me back on course when my thinking goes astray.

 

Summer Camp, Complicated Relationships, and Maine: Jane Roper’s Eden Lake

In order to win Jane Roper’s novel Eden Lake I had to agree to read the book and participate in the accompanying Goodreads discussion as a part of The Next Best Book Club.  I am a finicky reader who has probably put down at least as many books as I’ve begun, and so I wanted to make sure I had a decent chance to like the story okay before I agreed to have it shipped to me.  I could already see myself ten pages into 300, not enjoying the read, but having to stay with it because I said I would.

I went to Amazon and checked out the opening pages.  I was happy with how things got started:  “Just before noon on the morning after Memorial Day, Eric filled the tank of the John Deere, started the engine and rolled out of the barn into broad sunlight.”  One of my favorite authors, Richard Ford, often starts books on a holiday (Independence Day, Easter) and there’s a lot competent in Jane’s sentence:  it placed me firmly in time and in the sort of setting where there would be a John Deere and a barn.  I knew I wasn’t in Queens anymore, and felt like my reading life was safe for the week I put it in  Jane’s control.

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Jane Roper's Eden Lake

Maine, complicated relationships, secrets, and summer camp.  These are the primary ingredients of this story that bring together a group of brothers and sisters to run a summer camp that their parents ran when they were growing up.  There are surprises here—excellent ones—and they are spaced out nicely that in such a way that just when I got comfortable with how things were going, just when I thought I could see what was going to happen next, there was something that threw me for a good reading loop and reinvigorated my interest in the story.

I’ve heard several writers say that they don’t have one idea for a book, usually the book comes when several ideas seem to collide and this book has a good bit of that going on.  There are romantic and familial complications along with the tricky balance that running a camp that’s good for kids must be while at the same time paying attention to the fact that there are bills to be paid.  “Materialism is the opiate of the masses,” one character quips in part about all the upgrades to the camp over the years (i.e. a climbing wall).  Another remembers how in the old days the camp was supposed to be, “A vision of what the world might be.”  That last line, it reminds me of something fiction can accomplish as well.  Eden Lake creates a world I was thankful to have visited, enough so that I still haven’t stopped thinking about packing up the car and heading north to see if I could find some version of it.

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Click Here to Watch a Very Funny Book Trailer

Roper, Jane. Eden Lake. Boston: Last Light Studio, 2011. Print.