Saturday, February 23, 2008

lounge lizard / pit bull hybrids :

i like this species. they seem friendly.

in that loungey/pit bull kind of way.

Friday, February 22, 2008

the origins of names, and winter in chi-town -

dance dance, bitches. we're going to chicago for a DAY and a HALF
for meetings and running around . . .

ah, how i have missed the skyline:

the chance to wear fur.
i just did that in nyc.

the chance to wear fur again.

a chance to see tom!
dinner at bistro 110, and a moment to breathe and catch up . . .

a last minute dinner with cindy! a last minute dinner with cindy!
(of course at blackbird. it's cindy. i had the pig dinner. suckling pig starter. pork belly entree. beignets with caramel, oranges and BACON ICE CREAM. can i hear it for bacon ice cream? seriously, y'all. it's freakin amazing. it's like bacon, but in ice cream form with maple syrup. did i mention it came with beignets. which is creole for "donuts"?)

and then,
i looked over, and remembered that summer night,
waiting for a table, when i said to tim
"you know,
that would be a cool name for a dog . . . "

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

moments i don't want to forget about my first time directing:

the feeling the first day that it wasn't real. literally waking up and thinking "i'll be able to check email between shots like i always do".

standing on set with darius khanji, my director of photography, the man who shot "seven" and "evita", and watching him creating light in space that i thought didn't need light. and then learning what light really meant.

the way darius would look up at me after each take and say "you are happy? what else should i do?" and thinking to myself "oh god. he's asking ME."

the night i went out with paul norman and we talked about how it was going. and he told me i was doing well and that people liked working with me. and i told him i could tell a good story, i could pick talent, i knew my music, but everything else? i was just blessed to have people better than me, teaching me. cause that was what was going on.

the flow of the amazing argentine crew by day one. the way we got TWICE the shots we ever got with any other director. the models who had never acted, yet were more natural on camera than most actors i've ever cast. because i just told them to do what they would do if they were really in the situation. and to not do anything else.

the constant, constant support.

shutting down diagonal norte, the main boulevard of buenos aires, and spending the day shooting set up after set up down the length of the street.

sam and nina. their simple, friendly, joyous chemistry. the way it radiated through the lens. that day was simply magic.

the way every time sarah ruba got on camera, i barely had to direct her. the way she reworked a scene to make it more comfortable for everyone, including me. just on instinct. the way the camera "ate" her every expression.

the stairwell at that one location, that made me feel "blade runner" but see "breakfast at tiffany's" every time nina scampered down them.

looking up and seeing connie watching me, carefully, between takes. then handing me a water bottle to keep hydrated. then sending me to bed early.

hanging butterflies on the bedroom wall, randomly, and seeing a room come to life with richard's art direction.

watching Lights perform on film with a big crew for the first time. this little pint sized powerhouse with a voice from out of nowhere. and connie and michael manacop rockin the all asian backup band, black lips, extentions and all.

the way the crew would smile after each take.

the day people started introducing me as "the director", and i didn't know how to respond.

the day people started calling me "sir", and i still didn't know how to respond.

the way i never ever felt truly tired. i felt alive. i wanted more.

the way kira would smile at everything i asked, walk away and get on the phone, then later, calmly say, "it's done, love".

the way phillipe, the assistant cameraman, and i grabbed a digital handheld and ran to an alternate location with yamila and karim, a grip, rita, richard, and a bounce card, and rattled off two critical sequences on the street while the rest of the company made a move to another location so we could get the shots and keep the schedule.

creating alternate takes on the fly.


convincing people we needed sequences in slow motion, and watching their faces when we did playback.

watching richard creating a traffic jam. and a garage. and a jewelry store. and a neon-lit chinatown. and gasping a little inside every time i walked up to them because they were so real, and yet too beautiful to deserve "real".

watching the style team cry as we played the raw footage back on the wall of the alley the last night.

feeling the crew applaud me at wrap. and knowing they deserved the lion's share, but were generous enough to literally share.

dancing in the street after the final take to michael jackson's remixed "i want you back".

saying to myself "that's my film".

and having paul say "no one can take that away from you now."

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

LANDIS SMITHERS 2.0 - "Director"

the most unexpected part of this argentine shoot,
the part that changed me the most,
involved taking a risk.

in one of those classic, last minute, down to the wire moments,
our cinematographer fell out.
kira brought us darius, under the wire.
and through a series of other events and bumps and slight bruises,
we looked at each other as a team, and decided to do things differently.

we brought along the production team that knows us so well,
we had found killer talent,
we were shooting the whole thing on camera RED, hd digital, for the first time,
and the team let me direct the film.

which even though i am holding a clacker, actually meant that our team worked harder and tighter than we ever have. richard brought beauty to the world in all the production design, betania found the talent we needed, connie locked down the music and created puppies and change from thin air, kira found land rovers in a country that didn't even import them and moved schedules to make scenes work, paul norman kept us on time and the talent on point, rita brought out emotion and subtlety in the actors, sara fisher was an actual weather witch on at least four occasions, and we collaborated every inch of the way.

you know, that is simply a recipe for heaven.

my biggest task? keeping the bigger picture and guiding the performances.
with everyone else around me at the top of their fields,
loving their game, they made it easy.

i now know that i do two things, and i do them very well:

1) i tell a great story.

2) and i know how to find people better than i am to bring that story to life.

it was the most intense time i have ever had in my career.

And because of the faith of my friends,
and the support of a brand like old navy,
it was also
the best time i have ever had.

Monday, February 18, 2008

the old navy episodes : the urban explorer commercial pt. 4

one last shot to polish off the episode . . . a little "abbey road" homage with the old navy girls:

some self styled goofing with nina keita, sara ruba, and yamila:

ah, my girls!
(catch our new shopping bag . . . not bad . . .)

and here is the last shot of the day,
lovely sarah, wandering pensively down the long gray wall in her red suit.

so chic. we've come a LONG way in a year.

(and remember, you can see it all, including lookbook and cast and music,

Sunday, February 17, 2008

the old navy episodes : the urban explorer commercial pt. 3

let's take it to the streets. . .
you'll remember we shut down diagonal norte for a day to shoot our ourdoor locations, and this leg of the urban explorer exploded around a vintage land rover (which we repainted to match the collection. sigh. not that i've been influenced by the movie auntie mame and the fact that rosalind russell changed everything around her every time she changed her hair color. not kidding. whole park avenue apartment redecorated to match your hair change. wardrobe too. talk about severely traumatizing a twelve year old boy. i couldn't change my SOCK COLOR in jesuit high school, let alone my non-existent park avenue apartment. is this my revenge? i don't know.)

we start with nina rocking the "urban jumper":

and let me tell you, nina keita can rock an urban jumper. dayam.

yamila in more safari wear. oh wait, look at the subtle/not so subtle branding in the background, that somehow never made it into the edit because we didn't end up shooting in that direction. sorry richard. oops.

ah, yamila, sara, sebastian, and nina. waiting. what for?

permission to get into this:

yeah, sara. i wanted to ship that baby HOME.

talk about things everyone wanted to ship home:

i'm just sayin.

here i am telling the group how to get together for a "group photo". see. . .you hold the camera like. . . this . . . rita, translate this for me, will you. kira? anyone?

ah, they figured it out.

and let's not forget the real "urban explorers".
i owe em everything:

(and remember, you can see it all, including lookbook and cast and music,