Things I Say

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Garrett Gilchrist
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Re: Things I Say

Post: # 11300Post Garrett Gilchrist »

So, Marvel's She-Hulk TV series. Back in 2007 I directed a micro-budget feature of She-Hulk, and even parts of a pitch for a bigger-budget sequel, which would have adapted Dan Slott's early run, and some of John Byrne's ideas.

John Fiorella, who created the 2004 Batman fanfilm Grayson, asked me my thoughts on the casting.

I think that Tatiany Maslany turned in one of the great television performances, playing the various clones of Orphan Black.

I don't know if that makes her a good She-Hulk, because that's so dependent on the writing and production of the series.

About half the time, when someone takes on the She-Hulk character as a writer, they don't "get" the character and turn her into a female Hulk. I can't stand that. When written right, she's an A-list Marvel superhero. And she knows it, and that's the fun of the character. Dan Slott wrote her very well, showing the two sides of her as a more grounded human character and a celebrity hero.

My fanfilm was done in a very different landscape, where Marvel movies had mostly failed, and the idea of doing an Avengers film set in the larger Marvel continuity seemed like a niche, fannish thing. And that's where I was coming from.

But we portrayed Jennifer Walters as an introvert, and She-Hulk as a confident extrovert. That's an interesting dynamic. I cast two separate actresses because I felt it was two separate ideas.

I thought it would be hard to cast She-Hulk, and certainly I had good luck with actresses Kierstyn Elrod (as She-Hulk) and Lesley Youngblood (as Jennifer), who were very good in the roles.

But we held hundreds of auditions- in a time before the economy had crashed completely, when people were more willing and able to work for free.

If I'd had to go for second choices, there were actresses who auditioned who would have been decent.

The role is not an impossible ask, casting-wise, because it's a good leading role and the actresses know it. They like playing a character who knows her own power.

It just depends on how you write her, and I hope the upcoming TV series does it well.
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Garrett Gilchrist
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Re: Things I Say

Post: # 11331Post Garrett Gilchrist »

Social media is like if, twenty years ago, you were minding your own business one day when some bullies pushed you down six flights of stairs while calling you "poopypants." And now, most of the questions you get on social media are, "hey, aren't you poopypants, the guy who falls down some stairs?"

And you Google yourself and the results are all "poopypants, the guy who falls down some stairs." And you do a guest spot on a podcast, and the host says, you might know my next guest as poopypants, the guy who falls down some stairs ... and so on and so on forever and ever amen.

Also, the bullies who pushed you down some stairs definitely had poop in their own pants at the time.

And, you know, the situation's a lot more nuanced than that?

I'm a serious artist and filmmaker who had a real career, and I've been doing cool stuff since the 90s. I Google myself now and it's mostly nonsense made up by children. Unless you're hearing it from me directly, it's very difficult to find information about pretty much anything I've ever done. Maybe that shouldn't surprise me, but it's still twenty-five years of creative work. Gone, like that. Twenty-five years spent building a career which just crumbles to dust now, when you look directly at it.

I've been thinking a lot about where it all went wrong, and one thing keeps coming up. Projects where I worked too hard, took too much control, took too much initiative, and did too good a job for the assignment.

That's going to sound like self-aggrandizing nonsense, when really I'm looking at projects which went horribly wrong. It wasn't the right fit. And I've spent a lot of time wondering if it was my fault. Wondering whether I or the client was really to blame here.

So how do you know if you're working too hard on the wrong project? And how do you choose clients to stop that from occurring? Well, if you do figure that out, let me know, because for me this crap is still happening. I can only speak from my own experience, but hopefully that's enough.

Imagine this: You're a struggling freelance filmmaker and/or artist. You accept a job which is really too ambitious for the budget provided, but you think you can pull it off.

You work alone, but you're used to working alone. It doesn't raise red flags, for you, that you're not getting any support or communication from your client.

You work hard. You work yourself down to the bone. For weeks, for months, for a year. You're tired but you've done the best job possible under the circumstances.

But when it's time to deliver the final product, or deliver something anyway, there's no reaction.

You try to communicate with the client, and they flip out on you.

They have no intention of paying you, or releasing the product. At least not in any form you'd recognize.

Not because you've done a bad job, but because you've done a good job.

You took the project much more seriously than the client actually intended, and now that's a problem for them.

For a lot of different reasons. Maybe this was always a scam. Maybe they're a bad artist or writer or creator who doesn't understand what you've brought to the table, and doesn't trust it. They bought you as an artist for cheap, and now you're turning in a professional product on a level they didn't expect, and they think you're cheating somehow, or they would rather have hired someone who did cheat somehow (and is cheaper and doesn't make a fuss). Maybe you're too intense and they don't like your energy. You're jazz and they don't like jazz. They don't like the cut of your jib.

Maybe they changed their mind about the whole project shortly after offering it to you, and didn't tell you. Maybe they never really knew what they wanted, and were wishy-washy about the whole thing, and by delivering a polished final product they can't change the entire thing now. Maybe they've quietly lost interest in the whole thing, or dropped it, for reasons that have nothing to do with you. Or have everything to do with you.

Maybe they have to pay you now, and they don't want to do that. Maybe they always intended to take credit for the whole thing. Maybe to them this was just a proof of concept and was never intended to be a full and finished feature. Maybe, by doing so much work, you've made the project your own, and now it feels like your project, and not like theirs. Maybe now it smells like you. Maybe that's because you did 100% of the work, and now that's suddenly a problem.

Maybe you've brought your own style to the table, and they can't have that. Maybe you've made your own creative choices, rising above the level of minimum wage labor they expected from you. Maybe they had a vastly lower opinion of your skills and basically hired you as a joke, not expecting you to deliver something that would require a response from them.

Maybe they thought you were young and hungry and could be pushed around, just because you'd be so impressed by the IP you're working with or by the other people involved.

Maybe it's political. They're trying to impress someone else who they consider more famous and powerful than you. Maybe that person is difficult, or temperamental, or has no idea who you are and what you're working on. So, the client, for whom you've been working for a year, now has to pretend that they don't know who you are either.

Maybe they think that you think you're better than them. Maybe you are, and maybe they want to take you down a few notches, and set fire to your career as best they can. Because they're competitive, they know you can help them, and they can pretend to be your friend just long enough to ruin your life for awhile.

Maybe they were trying to teach you a lesson. And rub it in your face. Maybe they've hated you for awhile, and hired you to fuck with you. They wanted to get close and learn whatever you know, and then throw you down some stairs.

Maybe the client wasn't actually interested in this project. They were interested in something or someone else, and this project was a way to get to them. And you're the poor schmuck who's been working at a fake job thinking it was real. And you've accidentally exposed the whole phony operation. Maybe they're a creep with a history of bad behavior, and just by working with them you now know too much.

Whatever the reason, the problem was not that you've done a bad job, but that you've done a good job - too good for the project.

Which is not to say that all of the work I did was incredible or amazing, but it was at least competent. I put my best foot forward, and the client didn't want me to put my foot forward at all.

This has, by now, happened to me over and over again, dozens of times. That's going to sound self-aggrandizing, and it isn't really. I'm trying to make sense of my career, which has completely shattered beyond all hope of repair. And while every project that goes south is unique, certain things have remained the same. Patterns of behavior that sort of repeat themselves.

Where I was hired on a project where the client wasn't paying much and probably didn't expect much in terms of quality, but also had asked for way too much from me, if I was doing it in any kind of quality.

Like an art project where, if I was a teenager drawing stick figures, it would be a simple project, but I'm an adult doing really complex professional work. So the budget and timeframe becomes inadequate very fast.

This has happened even with people I consider friends, where they've asked for something way too complex without taking into account how difficult that actually is for an artist. There's a lack of knowledge or a lack of respect, somehow.

Sometimes it's well intentioned- it takes a few seconds to write a crowd scene with hundreds of characters, and that's much harder to draw. If I've shot fifteen hours of footage, that's going to take a long time to edit.

In many cases where some version of the final product came out, the client put out something much worse than I intended. Maybe they genuinely didn't understand what I'd turned in and genuinely wanted something much worse, or they'd gotten weird advice from someone else in the interim. Maybe they just don't know what they're doing.

I don't always actually get any kind of explanation. In some cases after months of hard work I turn in the project and I never hear from the client again.

So I look at myself. I look at my personal life. Am I needy? Am I lonely? Needing to be loved? Am I using my creative work to validate myself? Do I lack self-esteem, so I'm doing these projects, looking for an audience, looking for applause, looking for someone to say, that's good. External validation that never comes. Or if it does come, if people say, "hey, that's good, that's great, that's amazing," that's still not enough for me. It doesn't fill whatever hole is in my soul. I forget the praise, I forget the compliments, and I remember the mean thing said to me by a stranger.

Is that the energy I'm putting out into the world, to the point where clients pick up on it after awhile? They neglect me, underestimate me, mistreat me and ignore me, because I'm used to that. That's the energy I'm putting out. Again and again and again.

Most of these projects seem very solid until suddenly they're not. It's a failure of communication too, but a client isn't going to just come out and say, hey, I'm a huge asshole, or I think you're a huge asshole Garrett, or I don't respect you very much Garrett and I would not mourn you if you were eaten by bears. Or, we hired somebody else and didn't tell you. Or, I was just doing this to get laid and that didn't happen so I'm out. Or maybe, I just don't understand you Garrett. You're like the wind, you slip through my fingers like an Athenian zephyr.

And if you're one of my clients and you're worried that I'm talking about you here, I'm not. I'm being vague. I'm not mentioning you by name. I'm not mentioning details. It was a long time ago, it's water under the bridge now, and would you really want to admit it was you? Please, just, let it go.

This is going to be hard to explain without getting into actual details of projects which went badly. There will be no details here. Partly because I am afraid to talk about some of this stuff publicly in a way that can be traced back to the client. My life and limb has been threatened on many occasions, in Los Angeles especially. This is mostly just because I was poor in the city and surrounded by shitty people, but sometimes out of fear that I would talk about what I know.

Hell with it, I'll tell some stories and try to be vague. This will get me in trouble if I'm not vague enough.

A large painting, that I was happy with, was cropped to just a single face in the final release, with ugly text effects put over it, making it look like a direct-to-VHS action movie. It turned a good piece into the very epitome of tacky bad taste. Maybe the client had gotten advice that this was the only way to sell a property.

I had communicated with him, showing rough CGI layouts for the piece, which he was happy with. He was, however, apparently horrified that the final painting looked very much like those layouts. Maybe this triggered some superstition in him that made him feel that no part of that could be used.

Two people were involved in this one, and I knew one of them very well and had been treated respectfully up to this point. I had no reason to expect that this would go south, but the other client's reaction was completely unfathomable to me.

Another client had written a very bad script, and I shouldn't have taken the job but was desperate. The client wanted an entire book done with full paintings, but as it turned out, had no intention of paying, or any real sense of quality, or what an artist does. I finished several paintings, worked for months on layouts, and did pencil sketches for the whole book. I was never paid for this.

The client freaked out over the few finished pieces, and demanded lots of changes to make them worse. Anything too clear was to be smudged out. If two characters were present the client only wanted one. And so on. (As with the previous job I mentioned, I believe that certain minor details of the paintings were so polished and professional-looking that the client assumed they were somehow copyrighted.)

The client, without paying or crediting me, kept my half-completed work and handed it to an outsourced lowest-bidder Photoshop "artist" who was definitely working way below minimum wage. That "artist" just stole photos and bashed them together, and put MSPaint-like colors over my sketches. It is the ugliest thing you'll ever see, and apparently the client can't tell the difference, or wanted that to begin with.

If I was really communicating with this client, I would have seen how ridiculous the situation was much earlier and gotten out. I was desperate for money and thought I could make it work, and as with most of these projects I didn't get paid at all.

One client wanted me to film his musical act on three different nights, in a city two hours away, and edit a compilation DVD of the results, for about $300. I spent about $100 in travel for two nights and never got paid. When I asked for payment he called me unprofessional, feeling he could bully me into submission. He had a full band at the time but seems to have been working alone ever since.

One client had pretended to represent some major names, and hired various artists including myself. The client had no connection to those names, and no intention of paying us. Whatever art we handed in, this client submitted to those clients as their own. When I figured this out, the client called me pretending to be someone else offering me a job. When we met, the client pulled a gun on me and robbed me. I ran, got away, and slept at someone else's house for a few days, just in case the client wasn't lying when they said, I know where you live and I may look fancy now but I am from the streets and I will drop you.

One client had me do all the artwork for several different entire video games. That included box art and all the cutscenes and animations. This took awhile. When I turned in the work I never heard back from them about it. I don't know if they even saw or looked at it. They had been working with other, much worse, artists. And a couple of good ones. They acted as if all the work I'd done never happened. And that's happened a lot. They hired me for one more project after that, and I don't know if they used any of that either. I never got an explanation for what had happened.

This, and other projects like this, had a very negative effect on me, as it made me feel like nothing I was doing mattered, creatively. I labored for months on projects that the clients then pretended never happened. And most of my own personal work was never seen publicly either. So at this point I've done about ten years worth of creative work that basically no one has seen.

One client had me work for a month doing filming, and I got paid. When it came time to edit all of that footage, I worked for another month or two and never got paid. The client was used to working with fans at conventions and elsewhere, and felt that I was a starry-eyed kid who would do free labor based on the names involved. But I wasn't a fan and hadn't heard of these names previously. They hired a friend to edit these actual films, a very important job which the friend did very badly. The movies failed, and the client never got out of that small world of working the convention circuit.

I once had a desk job in the heart of Hollywood. I was excited about it, and dressed nicely in a dress shirt every day. This angered my supervisor, who said "we don't do that here." He wanted me to wear a T-shirt and shorts. He seethed with rage every time we met, and I was used to getting that from a certain kind of pale white guy in the entertainment industry. I think he saw me as ambitious, the sort of guy who could have his job unless he took me down a notch. Before too long he got me fired. Some of my other desk jobs have been like that too. At first they're impressed with me, maybe a little too impressed by me. Then they need to grind me down into a fine paste. So they bully me and call me a girl and give me jobs that they can sabotage and set up to fail, until I'm fired or quit.

One client cast a whole team of very talented performers for a reality-show pilot on a very major network, that actually succeeded and got picked up for series. They even called me to ask if I had friends who could play my part in future episodes. When it aired, we all realized that the show had been a prank on us. We were all supposed to be ... kind of like the untalented ones on American Idol. The fact that most of the cast were very talented was inconvenient to the editors, and the most talented cast members were edited out entirely.

I was barely in the final result, which was certainly a compliment. They'd hired comedians, and would have voiceover claiming that this person was being serious. They would show a singer's performance for exactly one high note, and then edit in a "judge" rolling her eyes, or something like that. The same "judge" clips were used in multiple episodes, and shot later. There had been some red flags, because the pilot was very poorly and unprofessionally shot, and they didn't seem to be capturing the performances in the way that the performers intended. (There were a few ringers who had no obvious talent at all.) The edit of the final product was incoherent, and would fool no one. It did go to series but vanished quickly.

I felt that the footage being shot for that pilot could have been a very good series. It reminded me of A Chorus Line. A group of young hopefuls auditioning to show who they are. But the whole thing was a prank on us, and they didn't use any of it. It was an entire show made out of out-of-context moments. It appears they had a script for this unscripted show, that none of us were allowed to see, and that the final pilot was edited to match that script, whether it made any sense or not. That's reality television for you.

This is not the only project I've done where the final project was purposely edited or reworked to hurt me, as a prank on me. And you always work very hard on projects like this, and you give your best effort. And then that best effort becomes inconvenient. They have to cut out the good stuff you did, and try to find moments they can pretend were accidents. The performers on that show were talented and beautiful and had star quality. The filmmakers were unprofessional hacks. And this was for a big TV network. That should have been a red flag.

In my younger filmmaking days, I would sometimes run into very motivated and career-oriented filmmakers who had some skill and wanted to collaborate, but who were also very competitive and wanted to make sure that, in the end, only they would benefit from this arrangement, and that I would be blacklisted in that circle afterward. I worked very hard on these films, and built and designed something which the collaborator used as a basis for furthering their career. I thought it was a good collaboration, and then they worked behind my back to destroy my career to whatever extent they were able. I'm not talking about any single person here. This happened several times at college, in Los Angeles, on Youtube, and in no-budget filmmaking circles. In most cases it set my career back by several years and destroyed everything I had been trying to accomplish in the meantime.

It was said of Sauron, in the Lord of the Rings, that for him "there can be only one Lord of the Ring, and he does not share power." Any success I might have was a threat to them.

And part of why this worked is that I couldn't tell it was happening until it was too late. They were friendly to my face, but in some cases manipulated me into acting out, being difficult, and burning my own bridges. I was a brat. I certainly share the blame for that. I saw that they were being difficult and abusive to other people, and that I was caught in the middle, but it didn't raise suspicion because I thought we were on the same team. I could tell I was being bullied, but I didn't know who was bullying me. I was being gaslighted to an extent where I didn't know who my friends really were. I ended up isolated.

In several cases, these filmmakers tipped their hand by not treating my own work with respect. All these filmmakers had a certain charm and it was easy to overlook the red flags. But once I started to see it as a pattern, the biggest red flag was that lack of respect. They wanted to work me very hard, usually doing things that they weren't capable of doing and needed to learn how to do. And my own large body of work as a filmmaker and artist was what had drawn their attention. But they didn't talk about my work with any respect. There was a competitiveness, and they were happy to work with me as long as I was a subordinate. They wanted to grind me down into a barely-paid laborer and assert dominance, even when I was being forced to direct the scene for them. They needed me to do difficult things that they didn't know how to do, and acted as if these were easy. They wanted it faster, and they didn't want to pay for it.

Afterward, they contacted my teachers. They contacted the press. They contacted my peers, my mentors. They contacted people within the industry, within our friend group. They contacted the internet.

They blamed their own mistakes on me. Blamed anything they could on me. They called me a devil and a monster and a tyrant and a nerd and a fanboy.

They made sure that, as the cliche goes, I would never work in this town again. It worked, to an extent. Maybe they only had sway with a handful of people. But even one or two people was enough, if it got me fired or blocked or held back, or made me cautious to work with anyone doing similar work.

I'd like to say that this didn't work for these creatives in the long run, but it did, for some of them. Some of them didn't, and accomplished nothing of note afterward. Presumably people saw through them. But others had mainstream success within the industry, and made a lot of money doing it. But I bet they were very careful to present themselves from only one side, because if they don't people will still see right through them. And there's a certain level of success they'll never touch.

Enough people did this to me that I lose track of some of them. They really aren't special.

Now, with the internet being the way it is, it's easier to smear somebody's name. When I Google my own name now, I don't recognize much of it. It's mostly stuff made up by some weirdos, troll kids on anonymous Ch*n boards. Interspersed with their right wing bullshit. Not much of it is true, but it's convincing enough that it's part of why my career has stalled out in recent years. There's enough there that raises red flags with people, and if I try to talk about it privately I'm sure to get blocked. Lord knows what employers think. I'm sure they do a quick Google and it's a mess.

Most of the work I'm proud of, nobody's seen, and the work I've been able to put out publicly at this point is such a tiny fraction of what I've done. I hope that it can serve as a stand-in that shows what I'm capable of, but at this point that's not really working. For various reasons I've done at least ten years of work I never put out publicly, and the work I did put out publicly sinks like a stone and gets no notice.

It is increasingly hard to get anyone online to notice anything that I'm doing. I continue to work on various projects all day every day. And I'm getting old and tired, and it's harder to get anything done.

I do get asked about projects that I'm very proud of. Generally it's not my personal work, it's not the work that's most like me. But still, I'm grateful to have worked on projects that people love, projects that mean something to somebody. It's rare that I do something that lands with people in the way that I would want it to, but it does happen. And for everything I've done, there's usually somebody out there who appreciated it.

Still, on your average weekend I get some really weird messages from some really weird weirdos. I get asked about the same handful of things, which half the time are the worst things I've ever done. Stuff that nobody would know about, if it wasn't convenient for making fun of me with.

Because I didn't always do too good a job for the assignment. Sometimes I tried very hard and worked very hard under extremely difficult circumstances, but I was doing exactly the wrong thing. I didn't fit. I was the wrong guy in the wrong project, with the wrong energy, doing the wrong things for the wrong people. And I couldn't see that at the time. Hindsight is the only 20/20 vision I've got.

It's harder to trust people, because I've been stabbed in the back so many times. Even my college experience was set up to do that in a lot of ways, and I was a naive twenty-year-old with no frame of reference for that. I was bullied a lot in my twenties and it took big chunks out of me which I was never able to grow back.

But filmmaking isn't really something you can do alone, or should do alone. I've been archiving my old footage, and I've got a lot of stuff I shot which was just me, which I never bothered to edit, because who cares? It is, however, an interesting archive of versions of me that don't really exist anymore. Rare Garretts, collected looking forward to a future that never actually happened.

I don't know to what extent my career and life got sabotaged behind my back. Probably not a lot, apart from whatever's clogging my Google results, made up by weird internet strangers. But it's impossible to know.

I know I share some blame for all of this. I had an ego, and I really did act like a weirdo for awhile in my twenties. I didn't love myself enough. I wasn't happy about how my life was going, and I leaned into some annoying and ridiculous behavior.

I was, for awhile, a comedian. I thought the people around me were in on the joke, but it was really that I had low self esteem. Los Angeles judges you by who you pretend to be, and took me at face value when I was acting out in character. And others around me saw this as a competition, which I was conceding by acting that way. I should have figured this out quicker, because there were times when I was in character and acted like a complete asshole onstage, and then afterward had to talk to some very pretty girls, who had come up to me, and who had seen all of that, because of course this would be happening now.

But I try not to judge my past self too harshly for being cringey. We're all kind of cringey when we're young. And when you're young, you think you're invincible. I thought I had the energy to bounce back from any setback.

Turns out, I don't. You only get so many tries, and now I'm forty years old and old and tired. I thought I'd be a Hollywood filmmaker. I learned how to be that, got good at being that. In theory. Then the economy crashed, and I sent out thirty thousand job applications to no response at all. Like most people my age, I was educated and prepared for a better future which never happened.

But I grew up, and I'm learning how to keep going, and to care about myself more, if only as a survival tactic.

And all these bad experiences were because I was working hard for people who didn't value what I was doing.

It was like that big network pilot, where they'd hired all of us expecting us to fail. The fact that we had talent was inconvenient to them, but not so inconvenient that they couldn't edit around it. The sort of people you'd cast in a real TV pilot, they edited out entirely, or edited around.

They must have seen something in all of us that I can see in myself now- I didn't love myself enough. I was being bullied by strangers but also by my closest friends, and I couldn't figure that out at the time. I was confused and acting out. I was, like most comedians and performers, desperate to be loved. And that's easy to exploit, if you're a network filmmaker with no scruples. "Send us some weirdos," they must have said. "We'll stress them out for awhile and see if anything embarassing happens."

I attracted that same energy over and over, but eventually I learned my lesson.

Like a lot of people in my generation there is a vast gulf between what I thought my career would be, and what it is now, which is almost nothing to speak of. There is a vast gulf between what I'm capable of doing, and what I've ever been hired to do.

It always seems to be a prank, in the end. I've put in so much work thinking I was building something, and it's always a sandcastle which gets kicked over and washed out with the tide.

I don't have much of a network. I don't have much in the way of friends, at least in person outside of the internet, but who does these days? I've protected myself by going it alone, so that I can actually release the final product without the client destroying it, but the stuff I've done alone hasn't been noticed either. And it shouldn't be that way. I shouldn't be alone but I trusted the wrong people, too many times. And the metaphorical phone stopped metaphorically ringing. People don't know what I'm capable of, and they don't think of me for it.

People who know me, tend to know one thing I've done at best. There is no one else on this planet who has any real awareness of my larger body of work. And so much older work is obsolete now. You wonder what all that work was for. The economy collapsed, then collapsed again, then collapsed again. And we're all dealing with that, especially if you're my age or younger.

I'm at the point where a lot of my work is just a secret. And I'll show it to one person at a time. And maybe they're not even interested. I don't feel that I'm intentionally hiding my work, and my self, away from the world, but that does seem to be the subtext, and that does seem to be what's happening, intentionally or no.

That flows from my own actions, and where my head is at these days. And at this point I don't know how to fix it. I feel like I ran away from the world a long time ago, for a lot of very good reasons, and I don't know how to get back into the world again. Especially under the peculiar circumstances that we're all dealing with now.

I've never been able to pretend to be someone other than myself, and if I tell myself that so much of this is not my fault, the consequences still flow from my own needs and wants and scars and pain and PTSD and personality, and how I approached the situation.

An old friend, who I knew in my no-budget movie-making days, said something to me recently, which I'll quote in part.

"My upbringing was no picnic. I think a lot of us got into moviemaking because we wanted people to love us. All that obsessing over movies. All that writing and studying and dreaming ... What was/is the goddamn point? I really have always been rooting for you. It always seemed to me that California was terrible for you. Karma will see to [them] ... especially the horrific late life realization of what they’ve done to people. My dreams died just as so many people’s do - but yours? They were murdered. And that is positively criminal."

I hope I haven't crossed a line in sharing that, anonymously. I thought that was kind of him to say. It's hard for me to be angry about all of this, and maybe I shouldn't be, so many years later. But I am scarred by it. And I'm trying to care about myself more, and not be so hard on myself when I've been down a difficult road. While I share some blame, I can also accept that things happened for which I was not responsible.

I hope I've been vague enough here without being inaccurate or getting the eye of Sauron on myself. I write this partly to vent and get it out of my head, and partly as a warning to anyone listening who might end up in the same sort of situation.

Recently, a friend contacted me, who wanted some drawings or paintings done as part of a series. He seems nice enough, and I hate to call him out on this, so I'll keep it vague here.

I am never entirely sure to what degree his creative pursuits are ironic or not.

He said, another artist did a number of drawings for us which we're very happy with, but he's fallen ill and we need another artist to complete them in the same style.

He showed me the art, which looked like a child drew it. If I were twelve years old drawing the same material, I would have done a better job.

I turned the job down. I've learned that lesson already, the hard way, many times over.

I apologized.

But you should never take on a client if you're going to do too good a job for the assignment.

One way or another, they will get a bad job out of you.
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Garrett Gilchrist
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Re: Things I Say

Post: # 11334Post Garrett Gilchrist »

Flintstone
Got an iPhone
But he cannot tell his family
Blame George
and Jane Jetson
They've been messing with causality
Someday
Apple's gonna lose the fight
Expensive
And it isn't working right
Flintstone
Got an iPhone
Not an interesting story
Barely a story
More like an anecdote
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Garrett Gilchrist
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Re: Things I Say

Post: # 11341Post Garrett Gilchrist »

Old business. 3 TB worth of it, in MiniDV format. Captured some old tapes. A few hundred of them.

Now I'm secretly uploading some of my old movies from high school, for an audience of about four people. Looking for any evidence of these on the internet, and a newspaper in Indiana mentions them in the TV listings three times in 2000. Also some reviews still exist. Otherwise there's not much anymore -- which is fine, and good actually, as I moved on from these twenty years ago. I'm just archiving these to make sure I still have them, and get them off of obsolete formats. But I wouldn't have expected, back then, that the internet would sort of just gradually wash away its history like an eroding tide.

DM me if you were in these movies, or already owned them back in the VHS days, and I can send them your way. Anyone else though, nah.
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Re: Things I Say

Post: # 11344Post Garrett Gilchrist »

If we understand "Gangsta's Paradise" as a dark parody of Stevie Wonder's "Pastime Paradise," then Coolio and "Weird Al" Yankovic were effectively doing the same exact thing. In this essay I will
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Re: Things I Say

Post: # 11345Post Garrett Gilchrist »

In 2016, a Youtuber posted a trailer in which he threatened to review a movie I’d made as a teenager, back in 2000. He was one of those Nostalgia Critic knockoff types- I’ll call him The Cinema Psycho. It was something like that.

Between 2001-2003 I attended a tiny amateur film festival in South Dakota. Attendance was in the dozens. This movie was a comedy, and played there twice. This Youtuber knew a local who’d gone there.

So he had an old VHS tape, with a label hand-drawn by me, and dubbed from the only copy of that comedy. A half-hour of other work I’d done around the same time filled out the rest of the tape. This was not a mass produced object. It was a very homemade artifact of a very homemade movie.

And it baffled him, apparently. I don’t know if he filmed a whole review of it, but he filmed enough to make a trailer where he’s angrily staring down the VHS tape like it’s tormenting him, then screaming in rage as he destroys the tape AVGN style. He’s being compelled to do this by some glowing force. And, oh, it’s driving him insane! All of the nerd reviewer cliches of the time.

I no longer recall if I found this via search and contacted him first, or if he contacted me. I do know that my reaction was to shout “What the hell?” and convince him not to ever release that review.

And boy, is this ever a good example of how reviewer Youtube types, unless they're really ethical and take context into account, are basically the sleep paralysis demons at the foot of your bed, if you're a filmmaker.

He actually seemed nice enough, though I don’t know how seriously to take that. To him, his “psycho” reviewer characters were on a journey of self-discovery, and the comedy movie in question was like going to hell for the character, and then the rest of it would be going to heaven.

He wanted to present the main feature as the worst thing he’d ever seen, and then said that a dramatic short which I’d released the same year and included on the same tape was the best short he’d ever seen.

“Best of all time” and “worst of all time” were apparently the only options, for a fifteen year old VHS tape of home movies I’d shot on video for no money with some friends when I was 19 or 20, and in my first two years of film school.

These were not big budget Hollywood product that had either gone wrong or right in a big way. This isn’t looking at a hundred million dollar blockbuster and wondering, “what were they thinking?”

And he did ask me, “What were you thinking?” I don’t know if he ever realized he was being hyperbolic to the point of abuse, in both directions. I don’t know if he ever had a crisis of faith, realizing that actually these two movies had a context to them that he needed to take into account, rather than screaming “worst ever” and “best ever” at the same old VHS tape.

I do think he was being cynical, and that “worst ever” and “best ever” are what people think gets clicks on Youtube, and so they’ll go to increasingly desperate lengths to try to find that.

The idea that a movie was trying to be funny is also something that’s convenient to ignore, if you want to call it the “worst ever” and try to paint it as unintentionally funny. He asked me questions from his strange contextless viewpoint, wondering if I was merely having an off day when I made a no-budget comedy, since a deeper, more insightful and very personal short drama was also on the same tape. These were from the same young filmmaker and released the same year.

I wanted to ask him, “Why are you like this? What made you this way?”

This work had a context, which he was doing intellectual backflips to avoid. At the time, I was a teenager with a video camera, making movies for no money with friends. The attitude there was not unlike that of a school play. I worked with the technology that was available at the time, which was primitive. The short drama was shot and edited digitally, but the feature comedy was shot and edited on 8mm analog home video.

If you watch these many years later and think the work is bad, or good, about half of your reaction would be to the video format- how creaky and old it looks now. That has nothing to do with my writing, directing, editing or performance.

And there is a lot to criticize there. I was 19 or 20 and didn’t know what I was doing. I was making movies in order to learn how to make movies. I was also starring in the comedy, and I had trouble even pointing the camera in the right direction. I thought that to be funny you had to be over the top and obnoxious, and I needed to take it down a few dozen notches. I learned much later that film acting is often about doing as little as possible. When I wrote serious work, I was writing from my own point of view at the time, which was young and naive. The comedy could be puerile and immature.

I learned a lot doing it, and I learned quickly. I wrote a lot of screenplays and eventually I was ready to do bigger, more complex things with higher budgets, and that never really happened. The economy crashed and I never had access to a real budget. I now look back with fondness at a time when that didn’t matter to me.

I made the short drama that the reviewer thought was “the best ever” the year after that comedy, although the comedy was released afterward because it took time to edit it analog- pressing pause buttons at just the right time.

The drama feels more grown-up, but it was intended for a harsher audience of film students. I did learn and get better fast, because I had to. I wanted to impress them by doing something more serious. With my comedy work, I wanted to impress my friends by doing something less serious.

These were for specific audiences in specific contexts, and one audience would not have understood the other. I hadn’t suddenly become the worst or best filmmaker, depending on what side of the bed I woke up on.

But I was pretty good at it. These were definitely higher quality than your usual student film. Still, they do have to be seen in that context. It’s not a hundred million dollar product. A hundred dollars, maybe. You shouldn’t be screaming at a VHS tape and pretending that it’s driving you insane because it’s not The Avengers. You’re not being sent to heaven or hell by a VHS tape. You’re pretending because you’re desperate for Youtube views and have watched too much Doug Walker.

And any of my movies on that VHS tape has far more artistic value than what that Youtube reviewer was trying to do. And he needed to interrogate that, and see the wrong turn he’d gone down here.

For the past couple of months, I’ve been archiving all my old work to digital, getting it off of hundreds of old tapes.

In the late 90s and early 2000s, in my teens and early twenties, I made about a dozen features and a dozen shorts on home video formats of the time. MiniDV, Digital8, Video8, Hi8, VHS.

I am sending some of this material out privately, but won’t be sharing it publicly, because the internet is like this.

I think even back in the day, the response from viewers was always, this is the best thing ever, or the worst thing ever, depending on whether they had the right context for it or not.

But the work wasn’t either of those things, and it shouldn’t have to be either. It was early work from a twenty year old who was trying to learn how to make movies. The writing, directing and editing has some flaws but its heart was in the right place.

When I was in college, and shortly afterward, from 2002 to 2005, I spent about three years making a dramatic feature called Gods of Los Angeles. It was very overambitious. The script was about four hours long, and the movie is about two and a half hours long, with maybe ninety minutes of deleted scenes.

It was a very serious and heartfelt exploration of where my head was at, at the time. My thoughts about love and life and death. I learned a lot, mainly because I did just about everything wrong when I was making it.

And I think even at the time, the movie demanded, in its tone, that you think of it as the best thing ever or the worst thing ever. And I don’t think that’s fair to the confused twenty-one year-old film student who made it.

I think it’s a movie which tries very hard, and has a lot to say, from whatever naive perspective I had back then. I think the actors are absolutely wonderful in it. And its heart is in the right place.

On a technical level, it just looks kind of like a MiniDV home movie, because that’s the technology we had back then. So it’s hard to take seriously, especially for such a long film. You have to take it in a technological context which doesn’t exist anymore.

Widescreen 24p started to happen for home movie makers around that time, and HD within a few years after that.

If I’d been able to shoot Gods of Los Angeles in HD, or on film, or in higher quality somehow- well, I would have struggled with that even more on a technical level- but the movie itself would seem much more normal to viewers now. It would look like the movie that it was in my head. They wouldn’t need to scream “best ever” or “worst ever.” It would just be a movie, with good and bad points to it, somewhere in the middle of those extremes.

Same for that comedy movie that I shot on Video8, which the reviewer wanted to scream at a VHS of and call it the worst movie ever, and something that was sending him to hell. In HD it would still be a very silly movie, but it was intended to be a very silly movie. In HD it would be kind of unremarkable.

Maybe it looks silly that we were trying to make the equivalent of a romantic TV show or Oscar-bait drama or even a wacky comedy on a budget of nothing, but the idea is that you learn by doing. I didn't know how to make a movie like that, so I did it so I could find out how. I made a lot of mistakes on a technical level, and learned that I should have cut the script way down rather than trying to make a four hour movie. I learned by making those mistakes.

There's a well known collective that screens "found footage" VHS to make fun of it, and I realized at some point that they'd discovered some VHS dub of Gods of Los Angeles (which was shot digitally) and wanted to turn it into the new "The Room." A bad movie they could make fun of. Even though The Room had a big budget and bad acting, and we had no budget and good acting. They were mainly making fun of a low quality VHS dub, and how sincere we were for having no money. I convinced them to leave us alone, but it was a close call. They're sneering at outsider art rather than creating their own. If they can't pretend it's the best or worst thing ever, it's not of value to them.

In the 2000s, a well-known film website would review just about anything you sent to them. So I sent them the work I did as a teenager in high school. I'm amazed, these days, that a film reviewer would have covered these movies at all. I was mad at the time that they only skimmed the movies and spent the entire review calling me an unfuckable nerd.

The one really good professor I had at film school judged everyone on a curve, based on how much experience, resources, money and knowledge we had. He didn’t judge you for doing a bad job unless he knew you were capable of doing better. He judged everyone in the proper context. His class contained the most talented (and connected) and least talented (and most connected) filmmakers I met at that school. It contained someone who I'd call the worst filmmaker I ever knew or heard of (who was briefly successful in spite of that, but that's another story), and also contained lots of people with skills inbetween. He judged us all at our own level.

And that cultural context was understood, back then, if you were watching a VHS tape of a home movie that an amateur movie maker made for nothing with some friends. We wanted to be like Kevin Smith or Robert Rodriguez, getting famous for making a movie for nothing, but we didn’t even have the budget to shoot on film.

This reviewer, who I’ll call The Cinema Psycho, had gone down the wrong path, and I told him so.

Nowadays, everyone has high quality HD equipment that would have blown our minds back then. If you go back in time and hand the cheap equipment I have now to a twenty-year-old me, the younger me would think he could take on the entire world and win, and he'd probably be right. Which is why we can't time travel, that's cheating.

I watch a lot of Youtubers. There are a lot of good Youtubers. But the twenty-year-old me would say that they're not making movies. They're yelling at movies. They've accepted their place as inferior to Hollywood product, rather than trying to beat Hollywood at its own game. They've got all this amazing equipment and they’re wasting it. Because that’s just how Youtube is. You’re not supposed to create something new and original. You’re supposed to yell at a VHS tape, or crap your pants on camera out of anger that a Star Wars movie has a girl in it.

And that’s not the kind of content I grew up wanting to make.
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