Friday, February 26, 2010

From the Nosedive Archives: Where is Overman?

In honor of the 10th anniversary of the opening of Nosedive's first show, Monkeys, which went up February 16-26, 2000, Pete is uploading a new videos from our past exploits each day on our Web site.

Since we have no video or photos of our first play, Monkeys, we're posting a seemingly random hodgepodge of performance videos and backstage shenanigans.

And now, dear readers, we come to the end of the line for the daily posts, though keep checking the Nosedive site for new videos, which will continue to be posted daily for the next few days.

For our final daily video, to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the closing night of our first production, we bring you the massive Overman monologue from our 2008 production, Colorful World, my ersatz stage adaptation of Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns/Strikes Again graphic novels.

Pete and I pretty much agree that this scene here is all about the Shearer Brothers: Patrick does an astounding job here as Overman, and his older brother Phil does wonders with the lights. See for yourself. I don't know if much introduction is necessary: Patrick as Overman will fill in the gaps for you.

Nosedive Archive: Where Is Overman? from Pete Boisvert on Vimeo.

Well, I hope you've enjoyed this haphazard walk down memory lane with me. Again, more videos will continue to be posted on the Nosedive site in the ensuing days and weeks. I'll resume blathering about whatever I damn well please on this site starting next week. In the meantime, have a good weekend, folks. I'll catch you all on the theoretical flop.

Putting way too many words in his actors' mouths,

James "At Least It's Just Words I'm Cramming In There" Comtois

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

From the Nosedive Archives: A Total Mess

In honor of the 10th anniversary of the opening of Nosedive's first show, Monkeys, which went up February 16-26, 2000, Pete is uploading a new videos from our past exploits each day on our Web site.

Since we have no video or photos of our first play, Monkeys, we're posting a seemingly random hodgepodge of performance videos and backstage shenanigans.

And as we nearly come to a close (with the final daily video being posted tomorrow), we bring you our penultimate video: a sketch from our 2006 "Good Night, and Get Laid" fundraising show that...didn't go according to plan.

This was very late in the night, when all of us - All. Of. Us. - were very, very drunk. I mean, see for yourself. Do you really need me to explain that to you? Look at the way Patrick can barely keep his head upright. We're all trashed in this video, as was the audience, at this point. Enjoy.

Nosedive Archives: Wookiepiece Theatre from Pete Boisvert on Vimeo.

Making weird warbling noises all the time,

James "Aspiring Wookiee" Comtois

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

From the Nosedive Archives: Quota Jim Pitches Zombie Tom

In honor of the 10th anniversary of the opening of Nosedive's first show, Monkeys, which went up February 16-26, 2000, Pete is uploading a new videos from our past exploits each day on our Web site.

Since we have no video or photos of our first play, Monkeys, we're posting a seemingly random hodgepodge of performance videos and backstage shenanigans.

Today's video is a clip from Evil Hellcat and the Liquid Lunch, the main show of our 2003 collection of one-acts, Evil Hellcat and Other Lurid Tales. In this scene (from a script that's basically Angel City-lite), Zombie Tom (Dennis Hurley), a producer and zombie, listens to the pitch of a young and eager screenwriter/would-be filmmmaker, Quota Jim (Don Makowski), so he can seduce coach Jim to make a killer pitch to the studio executive, Vampire Lula.

Yes. A short play about Hollywood-as-B-monster-movie, where studio execs are monsters who want to corrupt the idealistic young creator and groupies are succubi. I know. Subtle.

Anyway, here's the video. I think Dennis and Don are kind of freakin awesome in this scene. And note around the three-minute mark Tom's indignation towards Jim dropping a sliver of a pick on a black-tiled floor under dim lights. Dennis knew (from rehearsals) that once you drop that thing, it's gone.

Nosedive Archive: Quota Jim Pitches Zombie Tom from Pete Boisvert on Vimeo.

Wanting his three-picture deal,

James "Massive Would-Be Sellout" Comtois

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

From the Nosedive Archives: Working With Children and Animals Double Feature

In honor of the 10th anniversary of the opening of Nosedive's first show, Monkeys, which went up February 16-26, 2000, Pete is uploading a new videos from our past exploits each day on our Web site.

Since we have no video or photos of our first play, Monkeys, we're posting a seemingly random hodgepodge of performance videos and backstage shenanigans.

Since Pete and the rest of the A.V. club at Nosedive Central posted some videos over the weekend, I needed to catch up by posting two videos yesterday and two today, so here's your double feature of days from Nosedive's dubious past.

The first video here is an excerpt from our 2004 play, Mayonnaise Sandwiches, a show for which I have a lot of fond memories. Mayonnaise Sandwiches ended up playing surprisingly well despite early tepid responses. (We ended up having to turn people away towards the end of the run, something we'd never had to do until this show.) Hell, we even won an award for this show (from the Off-Off-Broadway Review). Not too shabby, I guess.

Anyway, I thought Pete and the cast did a spectacular job on this show, which also served as Patrick's crash course in sound design (having created, what, 132 sound cues from scratch for this one?).

This scene is the final scene in Act One, just before intermission. What needs to be said here? Well, simply put, the main character is dealing with a nightmare in which he imagines his somewhat mundane life as a shitty sitcom, complete with canned laugh track.

The video features everyone from the cast (with the exception of Raum-Aron's understudy/alternate, Gregory Ritchie): Bryan Fenkart, Leslie E. Hughes, Don Piccin, Raum-Aron, Ashley Diane Currie, Chris Mollica and Christopher Yustin.

Nosedive Archives: Simon Goes To Jail from Pete Boisvert on Vimeo.

This next video is a series of outtakes from our "Celebrity MySpace" sketch, in which Christopher Yustin shows us all what it's like to live with the guy (watching these shots, I was pretty much reminded of our tenure together as roommates back in the day).

Nosedive Archives: Special Skills from Pete Boisvert on Vimeo.

Working with children and animals,

James "Producer's Worst Nightmare" Comtois

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Monday, February 22, 2010

Tuesday, March 9th at the Brick: Nosedive's 10th Anniversary Gala

Nosedive Productions Presents

Nosedive's 10th Anniversary Gala

A Fundraising Variety Show & Party a Decade in the Making

Yes. It has indeed happened. Nosedive Productions, that theatre company that has brought you plays featuring nervous boys, superhero ladies, monkey puppets, and brain-eatings, has turned 10 years old this year.

We're just as shocked as you are.

In honor of Nosedive turning 10, the company is kicking off its 10th anniversary season with a fundraising gala event (which is a fancy way of saying "variety show and party where you drink all you want") at the Brick Theater on Tuesday, March 9.

Tickets are $20 at the door. Proceeds go towards financing our 10th anniversary flagship production, The Little One, a new vampire saga by James Comtois and directed by Pete Boisvert.

In addition to drinking heavily and waxing nostalgic, Nosedive has rounded up some of its crazy-talented pals over the years to offer an evening of socializing and variety acts, including:

New Short Works By
Jeff Lewonczyk
Qui Nguyen
Mac Rogers
Crystal Skillman

A Short Film By Bryan Enk

The Epic Poetry Stylings of Brian Silliman

Burlesque by the lovely and libido-inspiring Mme. Renee Rosebud

And (as the kids say) MORE!

Hosted by Bastard Keith

Tuesday, March 9th at 8 p.m.!

At the Brick Theater on 575 Metropolitan Ave. in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

(Between Lorimer Street and Union Ave.)
G L trains to Lorimer Street/Metropolitan Ave.

Doors at 7:30 p.m., Show at 8 p.m., Party thereafter

$20, All You Can Drink

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From the Nosedive Archives: Sonnet For Pete

In honor of the 10th anniversary of the opening of Nosedive's first show, Monkeys, which went up February 16-26, 2000, Pete is uploading a new videos from our past exploits each day on our Web site.

Since we have no video or photos of our first play, Monkeys, we're posting a seemingly random hodgepodge of performance videos and backstage shenanigans.

Since Pete and the rest of the A.V. club at Nosedive Central actually posted a couple videos over the weekend, we've got two featured videos for today (and two tomorrow). I know: You're Welcome.

This video is of Mr. Brian Silliman performing one of his many brilliant poems at our 2006 "Good Night, and Get Laid" fundraiser. I don't think I've seen this since the show itself. Watching this again made me laugh. Well, hey. Brian's a funny guy.

Nosedive Archives: Sonnet For Pete from Pete Boisvert on Vimeo.

Wondering where his sonnet is,

James "Huffy Strumpet" Comtois

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From the Nosedive Archives: What Will Our Fearless Nervous-Boy Do?

In honor of the 10th anniversary of the opening of Nosedive's first show, Monkeys, which went up February 16-26, 2000, Pete is uploading a new videos from our past exploits each day on our Web site.

Since we have no video or photos of our first play, Monkeys, we're posting a seemingly random hodgepodge of performance videos and backstage shenanigans.

Today's featured video is another scene from our 2006 show, The Adventures of Nervous-Boy, featuring Mac Rogers and Kid Sistois.

Little fun fact: the monologue that Nervous-Boy gushes to Emily in this scene is the one featured in this book.

Okay, so I'm not sure how fun that is, but it is true, and therefore a fact.

Anyway, enjoy:

Nosedive Archives: What Will Our Fearless Nervous-Boy Do? from Pete Boisvert on Vimeo.

Always blurting,

James "Inappropriate" Comtois

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Friday, February 19, 2010

From the Nosedive Archives: The Video With...Oh, God Dammit, Guys!

In honor of the 10th anniversary of the opening of Nosedive's first show, Monkeys, which went up February 16-26, 2000, Pete is uploading a new videos from our past exploits each day on our Web site.

Since we have no video or photos of our first play, Monkeys, we're posting a seemingly random hodgepodge of performance videos and backstage shenanigans.

Today's featured video is...oh. Right.

This video.


From our 2006 Good Night, And Get Laid fundraising show. Featuring Yours Truly. No more introduction - or analysis - is necessary.

Nosedive Archives: Scandalous from Pete Boisvert on Vimeo.

Always partaking in fat person minstrelry,

James "I've Lost Some Weight Since" Comtois

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Soundtrack Series Tonight in Astoria

Hey, gang. I know this is short notice and all, but for those in the Astoria area this evening, I'm participating in this.

The Soundtrack Series is a live monthly reading/storytelling event at Waltz Astoria, 23-14 Ditmars Blvd. in Astoria.

Six writers (including Yours Truly) will tell the memories, stories or tirades triggered every time they hear a particular song of their choosing.

I'm reading a short new piece I've written about a staple song of my adolescence: "Angel," by Aerosmith.

It's free, there's no cover or drink minimum (it's a coffee shop), although the management would like folks to at least buy some sort of coffee or muffin-like product while they're there (no big thing for me).

Any ole fuckeroo, hope to see you there.

Opening up in all the wrong ways,

James "Emotional Flasher" Comtois

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From the Nosedive Archives: "I Like Weed"

Continuing with posting archived footage from Nosedive's past, here's another one from the archives: a brief clip from our February 2003 play, Two Parties. The handsome fellow in this scene is Patrick Shearer.

In this scene, he plays Scooter, a drug dealer who likes to party with kids several years younger than him. He's basically the creepy college dropout that would show up at your high school parties because one of the girls in your class was banging him.

I think this clip requires a bit more explanation than most. I actually haven't seen the video for this production, and although had a lot of fun at the time, haven't given it much thought to this show since. Watching this clip again, I'm reminded why. This is far from my best work.

Two Parties, a play about a bunch of young folks throwing an impromptu party while the host's parents are gone, is a really awkward and heavy-handed script, which recycles a lot of (heavy-handed) ideas I'd already played around with in earlier scripts.

So yes, watching this clip for the first time (thus seeing a piece of this show for the first time) in seven years, I winced during most of it. No offense to Mr. Shearer here (or the rest of the cast), I think he and the rest of the cast does a fine job with what they've been given to work with. I'm just thinking of my dunderheaded and amateurish writing.

The show, which enjoyed a month-long run at the 78th Street Theatre Lab, ended up being one of our more profitable shows. Yes, it made money. Go figure.

Despite its awkwardness, it's still fun (for me, anyway) to watch a (substantially younger) Piddimus engaging in the silliness I typed up. And watching it again, I did enjoy being reminded of the "kids in the clubhouse getting away with murder" vibe that Nosedive had back then.

Anyway, see for yourself.

Nosedive Archives: I Like Weed from Pete Boisvert on Vimeo.

Mildly ambivalent about weed,

James "The Older Guy At The Party" Comtois

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

From the Nosedive Archives: Yustin and Silliman After Hours

In honor of the 10th anniversary of the opening of Nosedive's first show, Monkeys, which went up February 16-26, 2000, Pete is uploading a new videos from our past exploits each day on our Web site.

Since we have no video or photos of our first play, Monkeys, we're posting a seemingly random hodgepodge of performance videos and backstage shenanigans.

Today's featured video is one of the latter. From our 2007 fundraising show, Just Say Nosedive, we have Nosedive vets Christopher Yustin (left) and Brian Silliman (right) riffing on each other backstage. True, this is the equivalent of watching home movies from some family that's not yours, but hey, it's been 10 years and we're waxing nostalgic. Indulge us a little.

Nosedive Archives: Yustin and Silliman After Hours from Pete Boisvert on Vimeo.

Promising to put the seat down,

James "Bathroom Liar" Comtois

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

February 16-26: Blasts From the Past

From February 16-26, 2000, two assholes put on a play.

Nosedive Productions celebrates the 10 year anniversary of the original run of it's premiere production, Monkeys, which opened 10 years ago today.

From February 16-26, a new video from the archives will be posted on the Web site and this site.

They'll be pretty random and out of my hands (Pete, Ben and Marc, I think, are in charge of the video archives), but each day we'll be posting some blast from our past.

Today: The Caveman Fight from our 2006 production of The Adventures of Nervous-Boy.

Nosedive Archives: The Caveman Fight from Pete Boisvert on Vimeo.

Already feeling senile,

James "Confused Grampa" Comtois

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Friday, February 12, 2010

Little Jimmy's Guide to Self-Producing, Part 10: Getting The Band Together

Of course it figures that, after trying to make a habit of posting these self-producing how-to guide entries during the week, but leaving Friday clear for other such nonsense, I do the reverse this week. Ah, well. I am, after all, a blogger, and not to be trusted.

Blogs. Ya get what ya paid for.

Any ole fuckeroo, on with the show...

* * *

RVCBard had asked me earlier about how to go about getting the right collaborators and my original answer was a little fumbling. I think this is because this falls more in the "alchemy" category than the hard science one. Still, I thought I should expand a bit, since this tends to be one of the biggest hurdles when a would-be self-producer is starting out.

As I have said before, and will say again, I was - am - very lucky to have met up with Pete at the time that I did. We had very similar goals and were on the same page when it was required. In other words, we're actually very different people (then as now), but see eye to eye on a number of crucial junctures. I was also very lucky to have a friend in Chris Bujold who decided to move down to the city once he heard Pete and I were thinking of putting on a play. We were all very lucky to know Dave Townsend and Adam Heffernan, who were willing to lead us horses to the water. We were lucky with picking our cast for Monkeys. We got lucky when we discovered Katie Clark (who acted in our first play and a couple after that) was dating this Christopher Yustin guy, who was super fun to hang out with and an amazing actor. We were lucky that he lived with Steph, who really liked the plays she had seen of ours and wanted to be a part of it. I was lucky that Pete and Patrick Shearer were good college friends, and we were both lucky that he decided to move from California to New York in 2001. And I consider myself very lucky to have such a talented younger sister, who wanted to join Nosedive after she graduated from Vassar in 2005, even though she is a punk.

And so on, and so forth.

So, yes. We ended up lucking out - and continuing to luck out - with joining up with excellent collaborators, some of the best in the city, in my humble estimation. But fortunately, it doesn't require luck alone. And eventually, as you progress, it requires less luck.

In case you hadn't extrapolated this, not only did I only refer to a small group of people, but only a small number of were there from the very start.

(Hell, a couple years ago Pete unearthed a copy of the script for Monkeys and we realized that he and I were the only two people involved in the production that were still involved with Nosedive.)

Like-minded people gravitate towards one another. This may take some time, but that's fine. If you're working on creating and cultivating a company, you shouldn't expect - nor are you expected - to have your company fully formed and frozen in time from square one. People will come and people will go, but more often than not, the good ones, if they're not there from the start, will eventually come along and stick around.

Bear in mind it was years before we did any sort of collaboration with such folks as Qui Nguyen or Mac Rogers, two of the best playwrights working today (in my humble estimation).

(For those of you seeking simple nuts and bolts information on how to get a cast and crew together for Play #1, I think the best bet is to rope in as many like-minded creative friends you've got. I mean, you have to have at least one or two, right? Unless you're a friendless creep who stinks of cheese. Okay. So if you're a friendless cheese-reeking sociopath, but still want to self-produce, you may first want to shower. Then, after you've cleaned yourself up a little, you can either take out an ad in a trade publication like Backstage or post a listing on craigslist. If you're a writer and you absolutely can't find a director, direct it yourself. And again, you may also want to join the Community Dish, if you're in the New York area. If you're interested in joining the Dish, shoot me an email and I can tell you how to get involved. But please, shower first. I don't want you showing up to the meetings with that cheese funk.)

You also need to heed Mac's advice of going out and seeing as many shows as possible. You should do this for multiple (and obvious) reasons, but one of them is, of course, to seek out potential collaborators.

Since self-producing is about carving out your own path and cultivating your own garden (to mix two really horrible metaphors), a lot of your experience will be that of the trial-and-error variety. Don't worry about the errors, because trust me: you're a-gonna make some. Just try not to repeat them with the next show.

If you continue to put out good work, you'll draw the attention of other good theatre artists who will want to work with you and vice versa.

Offending his collaborators with his writerly musk,

James "Stinky Cheese Man" Comtois

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

S&Man (J.T. Petty, 2006)

Note: Due to the difficulty in getting a copy of this film (it's neither on or Netflix as of this writing - Mr. Clay McLeod Chapman lent me his copy), odds are that most of you reading this have not seen this film. So, unlike most horror film posts, I'll try to keep spoilers to a bare minimum.

J.T. Petty's S&Man (pronounced "sandman") is a profoundly disturbing and thoughtful film. I almost can't talk about it without giving away what makes it so unnerving (I also don't want to overhype it). But suffice it to say it gave me the retroactive willies several hours after watching it.

Originally intended as a documentary about a peeping tom from Petty's childhood town who videotaped thousands of hours of footage of his neighbors without their knowledge, S&Man becomes a documentary of sorts about the subculture of underground horror films when the peeping tom refuses to be interviewed.

The primary subjects of the documentary are Bill Zebub, who makes films with titles like Jesus Christ Serial Rapist, Fred Vogel of Toe Tag Films (director of August Underground) and Eric Rost, who makes the titular S&Man series, who becomes the real focal point of the film (for reasons I'll explain later).

Amidst the interviews with these filmmakers and documentary footage of their incredibly disturbing films, we have various talking head interviews with a "scream queen," a professor, a sexologist and a forensic psychologist who talk about, well, horror, fetishes and fetish films. The film then explores ideas of the audience's desire to have a visceral relationship with film (which is one the many reasons I enjoy horror films), with voyeurism, and with the desire to see the taboo.

Though primarily dealing with horror films, S&Man explores the connection between voyeurism and all filmmaking, and tries to get to the bottom of our fascination with violence and torture. It also suggests throughout that very few of us - if any - are really immune.

As a result, especially since I would consider myself a fan of horror films (duh), this film is one of the most unsettling and unnerving film-viewing experiences I've had in a while.

What's amazing about S&Man is that it genuinely wants to examine the appeal of horror films (even extreme ones), not just finger-wag at those who enjoy them. There's sincere reflection and contemplation here, not just easy - and smarmy - self-righteousness. (As a fan of horror films, I do find this ubiquitous and knee-jerk form of moralizing tiresome.) Petty is, after all, a director of horror films, so he has a great deal of love and respect for the genre.

One of the talking heads hypothesizes that often, insecure men who are unsuccessful with the ladies (or, "nerds," in the parlance of our times) enjoy watching pretty girls getting destroyed because they represent the girls that have rejected them all their lives.

(While the Berkeley professor and horror film scholar hypothesized this, I was reminded of watching a double-bill of two horror films with Steph and Yustin from Nosedive Central a couple nights before: one intelligent and thoughtful [Ginger Snaps, which I hope to write about as a future horror film post] and one incredibly stupid [Freddy Versus Jason]. Watching these movies back-to-back, it was interesting to see the stark contrast of how the films treated its young female characters [we popped in FvJ because Katharine Isabelle from Ginger Snaps was in it]. In Ginger Snaps, the teens are portrayed as believable, thinking and sympathetic characters, with relatable anxieties, frustrations and personalities. In FvJ, they're just stock, two-dimensional killer fodder: insipid hateful hardbodies who convey no discernable or interesting personalities. When they talk, it's only in clichés and/or to convey plot.)

There's also the flip side: while some horror films are designed to have the audience live vicariously through the killer, others are designed to have the audience live vicariously through the victim. (Halloween, for example, brilliantly offers both. The opening scene is literally from Michael's point of view, whereas the third act is completely from Laurie's.)

Watching this the first time round with bud and co-conspirator Abe Goldfarb, we noticed that these underground horror films covered in S&Man (based on the clips shown and the interviews from their makers) don't offer any reflection on, context for, or catharsis from its violence. There's no room for fear or pity, no room for thoughtful or sympathetic identification. Most of these films portrayed are designed for the viewer to offer identity with the killer, who is mostly killing personality-free pretty girls. They're made-to-order films to accommodate the fetishes of the filmmakers' audience base. Hell, even Bill Zebub says early on in the film: "I don't shoot these movies to be a piece of cinema, I shoot it so perverts give me money." Guess you at least have to admire the honesty.

(I'll also hand it to Vogel: although his films seem to be the most over-the-top and depraved in terms of content (think original Last House on the Left but more bloody and sadistic - yeah, I know), Vogel himself seems to be the most professional and put-together of the three filmmakers. He's mild-mannered, prefers to collaborate with people he trusts and who trust him, and it's clear that making his collaborators feel like they're in a safe environment is a major priority. In environs such as these, that's no small thing.)

Then, during the last third of the film, Petty is more explicit with the film's real subtext and goal: it's the hunt for the mythical "snuff" film (that most-likely fake subgenre of film where people are actually killed on camera).

And here's a good time to talk about Eric Rost, creator of the S&Man series. Oh, boy. Oh, boy.

Amidst Vogel, Bill Zebub and the experts talking about (amongst other things) snuff films, Perry tries to get more information from Eric about his brand of films and, more importantly, the truth behind the making of them.

According to Eric, a pudgy guy who lives in his mother's basement (seriously), he likes to follow pretty girls around and videotape them without their knowledge. Then, he approaches them, abducts them, and kills them.

The "episodes" of the S&Man series just has names of the girl's first name, followed by how they're killed. Here's a trailer for one of Eric's S&Man movies (NSFW):

The thing is, the more Petty grills Eric for information about how he makes his films, the more coy and evasive Eric gets. One minute, he talks about them like they're scripted films with consenting actresses, the next, he complains that one of the women ruined his shot because she "tried to escape." No, the women aren't aware that they're being first. No, they haven't taken any legal action once he's revealed himself to them. Has he kept in touch with any of the women afterwards? Nnnnnnnot really. Usually after filming they...part ways. When Petty asks for any of the women's contact information, Eric suggests that Petty give him his contact info, and he'll relay it to the women, so they can decide if they want to be interviewed.

He can't seem to give a straight answer. When Petty really starts to push him for honesty, Eric gets mad, and tells Petty and his crew to get lost (some of this can be found in the trailer above).

What the hell is going on here? Is Eric just trying to play up the mystique of his films, or is something more stomach-turning going on here?

BEGIN MILD POTENTIAL SPOILER WARNING HERE. Petty does give us an answer to these questions - sort of. Many people may find the conclusion of this film a cheat or horrific betrayal. (Although let's not get into the odd can of worms concerning why a veiwer may be disappointed with the ending.) For me, I found the ending is precisely what gives the film its power. In a way, the film not only becomes the very thing it's exploring, but transcends it. It gave me the creeps like you wouldn't imagine and forced me to rethink what I had just seen - specifically, the scenes centered on Eric, particularly when he pretends to choke a very uncomfortable-looking Petty - which chilled me to the bone. END MILD POTENTIAL SPOILER WARNING HERE.

Ultimately, the film is not about the makers of these depraved films so much as it is about us (which may be another reason why some folks may not be keen on the ending of the film). S&Man posits that one of the many desires that a viewer of horror films (or, really, anyone - not all those people rubbernecking to see a car wreck on the highway enjoy horror films) has, ranging from perverted and prurient to natural and primal, is to be punished and hurt in some way. And it spends its 90-minute run-time proving its point to the viewer, starting out as a rather pedestrian documentary about underground horror films then slowly and steadily becoming something more profound and unsettling.

Both more thoughtful about the
genre and freaked way the hell out,

James "Let's Watch A Romantic Comedy Now" Comtois

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Monday, February 08, 2010

Still Dancing

Sorry I've been so MIA on this site of late, folks. I'm dealing with a bit of a clusterfuck trying to sort very disparate things around me, ranging from the job hunt to writing about three different longer-form posts (two horror film posts and yet another self-producing entry) to working on some new writing projects to working on Nosedive-related things.

It's just kind of left this site unattended as a result.

But fear not, little lambs and lamblettes! I'm working on more content for this site, as well as some (wait for it) shameless self-promotional plugging!

I know, I know, it's been a while since I've done some sort of, "Come see this thing I'm doing!" entry. I know you're all excited.

Any ole fuckeroo, more posts will be on their way. All in good time. All in good time.

In the meantime, this makes me happy. And it should make you happy, too.

Way too busy for someone who doesn't have a job,

James "Ass Backwards Dipshit" Comtois


Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Little Jimmy's Guide to Self-Producing, Part 9: Festivals, Residencies and Co-Productions

UPDATE: Joshua Conkel graciously explains the nuts and bolts of his company's working relationship with Horse Trade in the comments section, and Sean Williams has posted this entry, which offers his insights to producing shows in the Fringe Festival (his company, Gideon, has done a total of four shows now at the Fringe; according to Mac Rogers, their experiences have been ultimately positive).

I'll say right off the bat that this entry in this ongoing quixotic and rambling guide to self-producing is going to cover something that my company, Nosedive Productions, has had only very recent - and limited - experience with. Last year, we did two shows at the Brick Theater, one of which (Infectious Opportunity) was part of a festival (The Brick's Antidepressant Festival) and the other (The Blood Brothers Present...The New Guignol) was a co-production with the Brick. We're not experts on the subject. (Not that we're experts at anything, really, know what I mean.)

Many other companies have more extensive experience with festivals and residency programs, so for you reps from said companies who are reading this, feel free to post your festival and/or residency experiences in the comments section.

* * *

The major advantage with making your show part of a festival - and not only are there a good number of them in theatre towns all year round, but the number of festivals seems to grow year-over-year - is that you can get a (small) leg-up in publicity and a (huge) drop in production costs.

In other words, being part of a festival gets you a free performance space.

And since I had written in one of the first self-producing posts that the performance space is often the biggest expense, having this expense taken off the table can be a huge boon to the would-be self-producer.

Yes, festivals can be a colossal pain in a number of ways. You can end up having a very limited and odd run (a Monday afternoon or 11 p.m. Wednesday night performance isn't uncommon). You have to share the performance space with many other companies (usually right on top of one another; one company may be loading in right when you're doing curtain call). Storage space may be limited to nonexistent. The same goes for tech time (limited to nonexistent).

Being part of a festival will most likely save you money, but it won't necessarily save you work. In fact, some most fests end up requiring you to do more work than a regular standalone self-produced show.

Here's just a miniscule list of some of the festivals going on in New York this year. I believe the Dramatist's Sourcebook also lists other festival opportunities in and outside of New York.

(Earlier I had written that being part of a festival can get you a small leg-up in publicity. I can't stress how little that leg-up is. Most festivals have pretty respectable to impressive publicity campaigns. The good news is your show will be part of that campaign. The bad news is that it will only be a small fraction of that campaign. Whomever's doing the PR for the festival doesn't have time to cater to your show; he or she will be busy promoting the entire festival. So, you'll still need to be responsible for publicizing your play. But every little bit helps, and being part of a fest that is getting decent mainstream press coverage can't hurt).

Several theatres also offer either residency programs or co-production options where, for either a reduced or waived rental fee, the theatre takes a cut (usually 50%) of the box office. (Again, up until last year, Nosedive never partook in such a deal: we'd just pay the full rental fee and retain 100% of the box office profits.) You should check out to see if the theatres you're interested in renting do such a thing.

(I think this goes without saying, but I should also point out the excruciatingly obvious: that although the plus side of being part of a fest or co-production can mean limited or reduced costs, it also means limited or reduced revenues. You won't be getting 100% of the profits gained from ticket sales. I realize telling you this may sound like a big, "Well, duh, James, but I just figure it's worth pointing out and bearing your ridicule. Yes, I often feel like some overprotective grandmother warning you to put on your mittens and galoshes before going outside as I write these things.)

Residency programs are a little bit of a different beast and require more of a commitment on the part of your company and the theatre. (It's a longer-term investment.) Nosedive's never really done this, but I do know Joshua Conkel's company, Management Co., does with Horse Trade. Mr. Conkel, if you're so inclined, feel free to drop a line and give us a little bit of insight to your residency experiences. But do so at your leisure. I don't want to put you on the spot or anything.

Doing our ninth season with and at the Brick Theater definitely helped Nosedive cut our typical budget down to a third of our typical budgets...

(Sadly, those days of doing shows for $2,500 have been things of the past for our company for a while, since our budgets have typically been from $5,000 to $9,000 for month-long runs. Our budgets for Infectious Opportunity and The Blood Brothers Present were each around $2,500 for limited runs [six performances for Infectious, four for Blood Brothers]. Felt like old times.)

...and brought in really good houses (due to both the limited runs and performing as part of a small festival that had its own regular audience).

So for those of you that may not have a great deal of startup money, or want to produce but keep your budget as low as possible, festivals and co-productions may be worth looking into.

Always trying to pass the buck,

James "Dodgy Executive" Comtois

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Monday, February 01, 2010

Little Jimmy's Guide to Self-Producing, Part 8: Filling the Gaps & Plugging the Holes

Kent Barrett, who just began chronicling his efforts to produce his script, asked me some questions in the comments section of the previous entry, which made me realize I may have missed some points or only dealt with them in a cursory way. Here is our exchange, which I hope will help fill in some gaps and plug in some holes from my previous self-producing entries. (In the same comments section, RVCBard also asks some questions, which I do my best to answer. In addition, RLewis has also been helpful in answering some questions in the same comments section as well.)

1. Obviously trying to stay within my budget - which I wanted to ask you about: In one of your entries you talk about joining an umbrella arts organization such as Fractured Atlas or The Field. If one were to join such an organization, then would it be possible to call yourself a non-profit institution without going through all the 501c3 craziness? The reason I ask right now is because there are many spaces that will give discounts to non-prof groups, but I didn't know if that could truly apply to this situation. Do you, by any chance, know?

If you go through Fractured Atlas or the Field, you're sort of a not-for-profit company. That is to say, think of Fractured Atlas or the Field as the Parent Company and you're under their umbrella. But if you solicit donations and get the donations through them (I don't know how the Field does it exactly, but with Fractured Atlas your donors are sending donations to Fractured Atlas c/o you, and you keep 90% of the donation, and the donation is 100% tax-deductible to your donor), it's going through a not-for-profit institution. You're not 501c3, but you're accepting donations through a 501c3 institution. If you join one of these orgs, you can honestly tell your potential donors that their contributions are tax-deductible. I don't know if this applies to discounts for spaces (it may not). But you can ask them.

(I should also probably point out that the odds of your budget going up are about as likely as those of the sun rising in the morning. These are just the rules of the game. Our intended budget for Monkeys, which was admittedly laughably naïve, ballooned to $2,400. You'll most likely go over-budget. Just don't let that discourage or worry you too much. But at the same time, don't let it get too out of hand, the way we did with our second play.)

2. Many spaces seem to want you to have liability insurance, some want some sort of fire coverage, and still others require their own personnel on sight acting as either technicians, management staff or both.

I only covered one of these aspects very briefly, so no worries. Yeah, you'll probably need insurance. That's something that's changed since we started: most theatres had their own liability insurance (and some still do, but they're shrinking in numbers). There are a bunch of places that offer this. We used to use CIMA, but now we get our insurance via Acord, based on a recommendation by Fractured Atlas. (These are the same places we get our actors insurance if we cast Equity actors.)

3. When requesting a space rental, do I need to let the venue know that there will be things like graphic language, simulated sex, violence, nudity, etc?

Most don't care. We've never had a problem. It doesn't hurt to let them know in advance (we do, and have always been met with, "Yeah, we don't care."). But thanks for letting me know! Now I'm sure to check it out.

4. Have you guys in the past ever offered free drinks after the performance? I know we can't sell alcohol without a liquor license, but do you know if it's possible to give it away for free?

Oh we've done that, sure. Most theatres allow it unless it's a conflict of interest (i.e., they have a bar on site and that hurts their profits). Again, just double-check with the space beforehand. 99 out of 100 will have no problem with it. (RLewis also offers some handy advice on getting a pretty cheap one-time-only liquor license. We here at Nosedive have never done that, but then again, we here at Nosedive are a pretty irresponsible lot.)

5. Do you need to register the theatre company name somewhere some how? I was just going to make something up and go with it.

I suspect many folks may disagree with me on this one, but so be it: Naaaaah.

We just made something up and went with it. A quick Google search should help you determine if the name's already being used.

I'm actually of the belief that it's perseverance and maintaining your brand through consistent (and hopefully, quality) work, NOT legal paperwork, that will protect your company identity.

Several years ago, I discovered that there was a British film production company called Nosedive Productions. I didn't contact them and they didn't contact me. (I actually had no idea which company came first.) There were no legal kerfuffles. There didn't need to be.

We did our own thing, which was very separate from what this Nosedive in England did, and have kept doing our own thing. Since then, it looks as though the other Nosedive disbanded.

If and when you decide to incorporate, then yes, part of the paperwork will involve getting an official and unique company name (we're officially Nosedive Productions Inc.). Also, if you join Fractured Atlas or The Field, your name will be protected.

But for now? Naaaaah. Just make something up and go with it.

A bit odd,

James "Endgame" Comtois

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