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The Paradox of Practice

13 months ago I stepped back into the gym for the first time in nearly 4 years.

I’m down 40 pounds of body fat as of early last week, which I celebrate by writing this post.

It’s been a great and illuminating learning experience, namely because it’s really taught me the value of practice as a lifestyle.

I keep an exercise log I fill out as I go through my routines. At the end of each session, I scribble down a letter grade on how I felt overall.

Truth is over 80% of them were D’s and C’s. “Lethargic.” “Didn’t feel powerful.” “Ended early.”

Taken individually, most of my workouts were failures in the sense I didn’t perform at a level I felt was full out. I took off numerous days and sometimes weeks for back injuries.

But taken as a whole, the practice worked.

No single session mattered or changed my body.

Yet all that actually changed me was each individual session.

It’s the paradox of practice.

Change is most obvious with time and presence in the moment is all one can really do.

My lesson?

Fail with consistency and change will come.

Applying this to my art is the next great leap.

Live each day as if each rep was your last!

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Would You Share?

2 years after launching the kickstarter campaign, and a year after it began it’s festival run, I’m happy to say, SHARE is now available online for viewing.

It’s the first project I wrote and directed that I can completely call my own, which is a milestone for me.

That said, making it really drove home for me how so much of the battle of collaborative art is just working with the right people.  Huge thanks to the amazing cast and crew that worked so hard to make my vision a reality.

This project is the first in what I hope will be a long career exploring intimacy, technology, transformation, and the wild ride that is being human.  For all of you that donated to the crowdfunding campaign, it has changed my life.  Thank You.

The final phase for this piece is now just being seen.  You can watch it for free below, preferably on as big a screen and with as little distraction as you can manage.

Then, please share it, online and offline with as many people as you can – romantic partners, friends, family anyone who’s experience you’ve ever found yourself curious about.

My hope is you’ll find connection in the conversation it sparks afterwards.

If so inclined, you can buy it on dvd at WouldYouShare.com and/or leave tips of gratitude if you’d like to support me and my future projects.  I’m writing the rough draft of a feature now, and have some more shorts and a web series on the radar for later this year.

And yes, I’d absolutely share.

If the last years of my life have taught me anything, it’s that vulnerability is a choice I never regret.

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Robots teach us about being human

I saw Chappie last weekend, which despite a lot of the negative reviews I found a pretty solid “mainstream” movie. It was flawed, and absolutely fell prey to normal big budget rocket, robot, and explosion juvenile male beats, but still, a movie about consciousness! – and not only that, a movie about the development of consciousness!

Noticing how much I was enjoying that aspect of the film, it really dawned on me how awesome and important robots are as a storytelling device in this moment in time, as they work as brilliant cinematic and narrative devices to teaching 2 incredibly cool concepts:

  1. Consciousness develops over time
  2. Consciousness is more than your body

There’s something magical about being robots being used as proxies to demonstrate and teach these two radically human things, in some ways more effectively than in stories with actual humans.

Consciousness develops over time

Piaget, Graves, Kegan, Stein, Maslow, Gilligan, Wilber (a personal favorite) – there has been, and continues to be an abundance of writing and research around the idea that consciousness itself is an evolving process and that it grows more complex and with a greater capacity for perspective taking over time.

Intuitively, I think most of us think of this as particularly being true when it comes to children. A child comes into the world non verbal, fused with the mother, and then over time an identity begins to emerge – via language, speech, writing, and a capacity to understand it’s own identity. Show a child a magic trick at 5 and it really IS magic. Show them again at a later age and while they might not know how it’s done, they do know it’s a trick.

The thing is, consciousness CONTINUES to evolve past childhood, all the way through adult life. While the research isn’t exactly clear what causes continued development into adulthood (environment, personal growth, tragedy, all of the above, etc) – the above researchers and writers can make a pretty damn good case that it DOES happen.

What’s this got to do with robots and movies? Well, one of the KEY ingredients in the evolution of consciousness is TIME, and time is a tricky thing to show onscreen. For me, part of what made Boyhood so magical and unique was the actual time that went into making it – a movie that is almost entirely about the evolving self of the lead character, Mason.

The thing is, just that slice of life took 12 years to make! The alternative onscreen is often using different actors, age enhancing makeup, etc, – which can definitely work but usually end up feeling a bit cheesy or inconsistent to me.

Enter the Robots

Now, here’s what makes robots such a great storytelling device for demonstrating the evolution of consciousness:

  1. Their “bodies” don’t need to age the same way people’s do – no makeup/actor swapping/12 years needed
  2. They can evolve faster than human in more compressed cinematic time

Not having to show a robot age, or worry about how it’s “externals” have changed allows the story to really focus on and highlight the internal changes.

Chappie, Johnny Five of Short Circuit, Frankenstein (an organic robot I’d argue), the T-100 in T2: Judgement Day, Data from Star Trek – One of the great pleasures of any story involving the birth of an “artificially created” consciousness is getting to see it LEARN on screen on in the pages of a story. It’s not the outsides that are changing, but the insides. Learning to become “more human”, learning to development an independent sense of identity – this is the great fun of experiencing stories about artificial intelligence.

For cinema specifically, AI/Robots work REALLY well for showing “learning” and growth because of how fast they can do it – a story can takes place over mere DAYS yet we can see an AI go from infantile to adolescent to adulthood in its consciousness, as is the case in Chappie. So the benefits are two fold – same body, and faster learning – both of which make it easier to tell a story onscreen.

Consciousness is more than your body

The concept of the soul is nothing new, and something I could argue most people in modern culture are aware of well before adolescence. However, it gets sticky and confusing (partly because we don’t actually know) how consciousness and the soul work. That said, there is an entire history of data across all major lineages of spiritual practice that pretty cross culturally and universally agree – there is something to “us” that exists beyond our bodies, and beyond our small concepts of self. In humans our interiors and exteriors co-evolve at the same time – but again with robots we can drop the exterior part and just focus on the interiors. When we can take the “exterior” doesn’t matter part for granted, suddenly it becomes much easier in stories to explore the how the “isness” of a character isn’t from their body, but from their consciousness – and in the robotic world that consciousness can move from body to body in a much simpler to understand fashion.

While this idea of soul/consciousness is probably nothing new to long term or serious practitioners, I think it’s just awesome to see it being explored in mainstream tales like Chappie – and for the right person possibly not exposed to it in their own life – what a groundbreaking concept!

We Are the Robots

Ironically, what’s so great about writing about ROBOTS is that it’s really just an opportunity to write about our humanness – which I’d argue is really the root of all great science fiction.

My life has personally been transformed and deepened from learning about the development of consciousness – and thus it’s something I’m totally committed to expressing in the work I put out in the world. Robots, and the exploration of artificial intelligence, are two of the key ways in which those concepts are currently descending into and manifesting in current culture – so fellow writers, please keep birthing new Chappie’s into the world!

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5 Years in LA

5 years ago today I rolled into Los Angeles in the mighty Truckzilla. A full life in Boulder in my rear view mirror, a fuller life in LA ahead of me on the horizon. I was resistant to moving here for a long time, partially because I’d been spoiled by the idyllic little paradises of Santa Cruz and Boulder (and hate driving), and partially because I knew that in this town, I’d have no excuses left.

Everything I want to do, everything I want to become, it’s here in LA. Walking over the stars in hollywood on a misty night last November, I remember falling in love with all of the people around me. Bros, skaters, plastics, hipsters, film geeks, burnouts, nerds like me, “these are my people” I thought. I’m not really hippie, but not really mainstream. I’m LA. It’s a mad dirty city infused with mountains and open space. It shouldn’t work, but it generally does.

It’s the most diverse town I’ve ever lived in – there’s is absolutely no “right” way to live here. It’s also the most challenging town I’ve ever lived in. Anything is possible here, but next to nothing “just happens” here. Serendipity here is a result of commitment. More than anywhere else I’ve lived, it requires strong intention to do anything, meet with friends for a drink, break into the business, going for a hike, whatever. That same energy, however, it also what makes it a town of dreamers. So many folks are going for “it”, whatever their it is: artist, healer, teacher, actor, musician, filmmaker. Not everyone will make it, but all are sure as hell trying.

It’s been a difficult transition since moving here. Nothing has happened as quickly as I’d have liked. I’m consistently feeling the places in myself where I still have so much growth to do. That said, 5 years in seeds are blossoming. Since moving here, I’ve finally made my first film I can call my own, stepped into a leadership position in the community dear to me, loved and been loved by another like I’d never been before, and become utterly clear on my purpose in life. While film will be the delivery format, my passion and purposes run deeper than that:

I’m here to help others feel more deeply while seeing new perspectives on themselves, our culture, and the universe.

Monday I deliver a very rough outline of my first real screenplay to my Men’s Group. My voice is emerging, and unsurprisingly all the things I find myself writing about are all the places of growth and gold in my own life. Writing, growing, and living are starting to feel one and the same for me.

I look forward to typing the words “it’s done” here by the end of this year. All it takes now is showing up, and having faith in the rest.

See you at the multiplex.

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Favorite Films of 2014

2014 was an interesting year for the cinema. Ticket sales were the lowest they’ve been in years, so as usual folks are again predicting the death of cinema. Yet, at the same time, Warner Bros and Universal had fantastic years so take it all with a grain of salt. My hunch is we’ll see a ticket sales resurge in 2015 solely because of Avengers 2 and a the holiday timed release of a new Star Wars.

So, to continue my tradition from last year, here’s my favorite flicks of 2014:

Birdman

I was smiling pretty much the entire time I watched this movie. Manages to do the seemingly impossible, transmitted both the experiences only possible in film, while also conveying the power and energy of live theater. Top tier acting all around, and an incredible production that strung together countless long takes so there’s only one real “cut” in the movie. Form and Function relentlessly support each other in this film, from casting, to the production style, to the music, etc. Didn’t love the ending, but enjoyed the ride along the way.

Under the Skin

The film I’m most excited to see again, definitely the most distinct experience I had in the cinema this year, and the one that most strongly put me in a state that stuck with me long after leaving the theater. Abstract, weird, and challenging, I love how much this film earned it’s last scenes from my point of view. A brilliant example of how a film’s structure, shooting style, and editing can all combine to transmit the state experience of the main character.

Boyhood

Linklater is one of my favorite directors, and the one most directly that has learned to use time itself as a character in his films. I’d been reading about this for years and it was probably my most anticipated movie of the year. A remarkable achievement that was filmed over 12 years. Some parts of it work better than others, but overall I found it remarkably affecting and incredibly restrained. Linklater keeps the story simple, and doesn’t stretch his characters beyond what’s developmentally appropriate for them at the time. A perfect prequel to the Before Series, you can roughly go straight from this right into Before Sunrise and just pretend Jesse is Mason a few years later. Love it.

Edge of Tomorrow

A terrible title that didn’t exactly do gangbusters at the box office, but one of the only summer movies that wasn’t purely a sequel. While adapted from a book, it was the closest thing to an original summer movie we had this year. Tom Cruise gets a lot of hate, and he may be a little wacky, but he sure shows up for his roles. Possibly the first movie about video games (though not adapted from a video game) that doesn’t suck, it’s the action version of Groundhog Day and I found it tremendously fun. If all summer movies were this great, we’d be in good shape. Absolutely genius editing, never lingering on a sequence too long and brilliantly cutting forward in “time” at all the right moments. A wonderful lesson in how “genius” is often just lots of practice.

Gone Girl

Didn’t read the book, but loved the movie. Finger is a great director working at the absolute top of his game. A wonderfully constructed, shot, performed, and directed movie. It’s easy to overlook how brilliantly the film manages to change our “sympathies” for various characters as the movie progresses. Another great merging of form and function, the film’s critique of how malleable public opinion can easily be controlled by mass media, the film itself does a brilliant job of manipulating our sympathies as an audience the same way. Great soundtrack by Trent Reznor too.

Honorable Mentions:

Life Itself

Heartbreaking documentary covering the last days of Roger Ebert’s life, and one that strongly conveys how deeply passionate about cinema and culture in general he was.

Interstellar

Wanted it to be my favorite movie of the year, but ended up just being too clunky. Loved what it was about, but not how it was about it. Some truly painful dialogue, and far too much theme being spoken aloud. However, when it worked, it was big bold filmmaking at it’s finest. The docking sequence alone is a thing of beauty to behold in IMAX, a perfect example of when the film was working and the action of the film was representative of theme: the fate of all life coming down to one simple connection / act of procreation. However, despite a few other really strong moments like that overall it felt simply too “clinical” for me.

La Dolce Vita

Old movie, but saw it on the big screen for the first time and was definitely one of my favorite cinema experiences of the year.

Nightcrawler

Not a movie I’m likely to ever watch again, and certainly not a movie that was super realistic, but no matter. This was a film so certain of it’s tone and authorship that I found it to just sizzle and sparkle on screen. Intense, dark, and fun.

Guardians of the Galaxy

As fresh a “comic book” movie as we’re likely to get for a while, I it was a nice light romp that blended star wars and Indiana Jones in just the right ways. Light popcorn fare about the ‘fate’ of the galaxy for sure, but I had a lot of fun watching it and appreciated it’s “earth jokes” a bunch.

Stuff I didn’t get to see that may placed…

Whiplash, The Imitation Game, The Theory of Everything, American Sniper, Inherent Vice

Biggest Disappointments

Transcendence

A movie about the singularity and uploading human consciousness? Count me in! Except it didn’t work at all for me. Didn’t care about the characters, nothing made sense in the plot, and it looked like it was shot in New Mexico for tax credits. Bummer.

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SHARE at Los Angeles Lift-Off Film Festival

Fantastic news!

Laurels LALift-Off International Film Festival has selected my short film SHARE to be part of their prestigious line up of true independent cinema at this years Los Angeles Lift-Off 2014! It’s the first project I’ve written and directed myself, and it’s incredibly exciting to finally be getting it out in front of audiences.

Selected out of 700+ global entrants, my film will screen at the prestigious Los Angeles Lift-Off Film Festival, an indie event held annually in Venice Beach, California on September 4th, 2014. The screening forms part of the wider Lift-Off International Film Festivals, which have live indie screenings in four transatlantic cities held quarterly throughout the year.
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Gender Swap by The Machine to Be Another

The Coming Age of Technodelics

Last week Facebook bought Oculus VR, the company that’s been developing what many think is finally going to be the headset that brings VR mainstream. Oculus was already in a pretty exciting place, having raised $2,437,429 on kickstarter in 2012 and having secured John Carmack of id software fame as CTO. Facebook’s acquisition means they basically have unlimited resources behind them now. On top of that, Sony recently joined in the VR circus by announcing their own Project Morpheus headset for the PS4. Nearly two decades after the first wave of VR entered mainstream culture, phase two has clearly begun. Continue reading

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Everything has changed, absolutely nothing’s changed (Pearl Jam + Time = Magic)

Everything has changed, absolutely nothing’s changed

That’s not the correct line from Pearl Jam’s “Corduroy”, but for years I always thought it was and have settled on it being correct for me.

I actually don’t listen to Pearl Jam albums that much. During off season, months will usually pass in which I don’t put on a single record. In the back of my mind, I know how good they are and that they’ll always be there. So I start to take them for granted, and slowly start to forget. Continue reading

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Before Midnight (Cinema + Time = Magic)

I had the pleasure of seeing Before Midnight earlier this week and absolutely loved it. I was a bit late to the series, not seeing Before Sunrise until 2005 just as the sequel Before Sunset was being released. I quickly fell in love with the films (particularly the second one) and needless to say was eagerly anticipating the latest installment.

I’m happy to say that it did not disappoint, though it wasn’t quite what I had expected. I’ll spoil nothing after the amazing and utterly perfect cliffhanger that ended Before Sunset, which played off two of the greatest lines of dialogue ever uttered in film. Needless to say Celine and Jesse are both alive and we get the joy of again spending some time with them together, and the culmination of that time ties back in very moving ways to the two films that came before. While just a short slice of their lives, the film gives a perfect crystalization of where they’re each at and what’s been happening for them – I instantly felt like I knew exactly what the last 9 years had been like in their worlds. The perfect ebb and flow of their conversations that started in Before Sunrise and was perfected in Before Sunset continues in Midnight, as beat to beat there’s always what’s being said and what’s actually being felt, which rarely but occasionally do line up.

My screening was followed by a fantastic Q&A with co-writer and director Richard Linklater, who’s been one of my favorite filmmakers for quite some time. The most fascinating thing I learned from his discussion was that basically none of the entire trilogy involved improv. In fact, they rather slavishly worked from scripts down to the specific word and gesture, which is no small feat considering the amount of long takes and full conversations that make up the films.

What strikes me most about the series is how it’s actually very specific while being absolutely universal at the same time. Every line of dialogue is in some shape or fashion born from the life experiences of the writers or people they knew, which in my mind has a lot to do with why things often feel so real. Oddly enough, it’s the very specificity of the moments, and the real feelings of vulnerability, trust, love, doubt, and love they explore that end up creating situations utterly universal in how they portray the various up and downs of relationship and the passing of time and growing old. Continue reading

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My new short film SHARE

Excited to share that my short film SHARE is live on Kickstarter! Really proud of the script and excited to make it happen!


Here’s how you can help:

  1. Donate! – No amount is too small and I will be forever grateful to you for helping to jumpstart my career to the next level
  2. Share the campaign on your social networks and anyone offline you think might find the project interesting
  3. I’m looking for any kind of PRESS I can get – so if you know anyone that blogs, podcasts, or writes please send them my way. No interview is too small and I’ll talk about the film, technology, crowdfunding, whatever!
  4. Stay tuned, every day or so throughout the campaign I’ll be posting a short interview I’ve done with various luminaries from my life asking them, Would You Share? at the film’s website: WouldYouShare.com.
AW Awards

Love Sex God: Awakening World & Spirit of Evolution

One of the projects I’ve been focusing a lot on the last 3 years has been Sebastian Siegel’s Love Sex God documentary series. I co-produced, edited, and shot the first installment, Awakening World. It’s lighthearted and thought provoking short documentary about some of life’s deepest questions: Love, intimacy, heaven, hell, and purpose. It’s been playing the festival circuit recently and been received quite well where it has shown, so much so we’re now crowdfunding the resources to make the 2nd film in the series, Spirit of Evolution.  Spirit of Evolution will cover religion, god, spirituality, and how our beliefs can often change and evolve over time.  Get a DVD copy of the first film by supporting the 2nd one below!

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