March 2006

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Tragicomedy

Last night I got heckled at a comedy gig.

No, I wasn't on stage. I was in the audience. Yianni was on stage. He's the one who heckled me.

I love working with comedians.

To be fair, I kind of had it coming. I'm working on my reputation as a hard-arse director who doesn't let anyone get away with anything. Except for a public heckling. He's allowed to get away with that because he has to have an outlet for the pent up rage and frustration of being subjected to my forensic precision day after day in the pursuit of a better final product.

I like to think of Yianni as a ballerina and me as the artistic director with the big stick and the limp from that injury years ago that put an end to my brilliant career in dance.

But there’s no need to tell Yianni that, if you see him.

Now, if life were a Shakespeare play at the moment, it would definitely be a tragicomedy. All this face-achingly ridiculous comedy that I’m going to night after night at various different venues around Melbourne, juxtaposed against a couple of really quite tragic events. Namely the departure of Nick Jaffe, the brilliantly named (it was him, not me) Internet Butler for Standing There Productions.

Nick, who we originally knew through Stewart, our Director of Photography, from Art School, volunteered to help out on our film, I Could Be Anybody. Turned out, he was nearly everybody. I can’t remember what credit we ended up giving him, but there wasn’t a credit that said “nearly everything”, so we just short-changed him completely.

Anyway. Nick is leaving us to live in Germany. We’re trying not to take it personally. I went to his going away party the other night and someone accidentally burned a hole in my neck with a cigarette. A lasting scar to remind me of the metaphorical hole left in Standing There Productions now that Nick can only provide his Internet Butlering service from overseas.

Nick, we will miss you. Probably more than we’ll give you credit for. As usual.

As for the other “tragedies” in life at the moment, well they’ve been eclipsed now. I can’t remember them. Probably just things like me wearing brown with black. But needless to say Shakespeare would find a way of weaving it all in to the Comedy Festival/Nick leaving subplots in a way that was both poignant and naughty.

But I’m not Shakespeare. So, in summary: comedy is funny and it’s sad that Nick is leaving. Turn it into a rhyming couplet and I’ll get you a free ticket to the Comedy Festival.

Bring on the real theatre

I went to the Commonwealth Games last night. I went with Melanie Howlett, Standing There Captain of Industry and our Production Manager on People Watching, whose initial comment when we got there was, "Wow. Imagine production managing this".

Excellent point. First of all, imagine organising the schedule for an event where there are half a dozen things going on at a time and one of them involves hurling an enormous pierced plank of wood through the air.

Production Managing Highlights included:

1. The teensy little remote control car that drove the javelin from one end of the track to the other.

2. The 10 000 metres race. If you saw any footage of this on the TV, congratulations. There were no Australians in it, so the antics of the crowd got more coverage than the astonishing performance of everyone in the race. Weren't the antics great, though? Some of them were even wearing face paint!!

3. The extremely excited Kym Howe, who managed somehow to applaud herself on the way down from the pole vault after breaking a games record. Whereas I'd be concentrating on not doing a face plant, she virtually poured herself a beer and called her mum with the good news on the way down.

The downsides would have to be:

1. The empty Sierra Leone lane. I hear we're revoking their visas now. Nice to hear Ray Martin telling us all on the telly that The Games are all about hospitality, though.

2. John Howard waddling up to present medals to the poor buggers who just won things. There's an endurance event joke somewhere here but I'm feeling nauseous so I'll move on.

3. I wonder who wrote the opening ceremony? My favourite line so far was in the thanks to the volunteers: "You are the Paris End of Collins Street". Meaning, for those of you not from Melbourne, "You are the posh bit where no one goes".

So, now Melbourne gets to refocus its attentions on the real theatre scene. Hopefully there won’t be as much shooting, although conversely there’ll be less John Howard. About the same amount of lycra, though, if we factor La Mama into the equation.

Australia Post

By way of following up on my previous post (see somewhere below) I feel I must inform you all that "there is nothing in the Australia Post Rules or Charter that precludes sending a package through the mail marked WARNING: CONTAINS HUMAN HEAD".

The guy said though, that "in these times" it might "freak people in the mail room out".

Sometimes I wonder what my ASIO file looks like.

(For more details on Melbourne International Comedy Festival Show, Yianni's Head, go here)

Goings on

This post is for those of you who don't live in Melbourne.

Here are some of the things you didn't get to see this week:

1. Tim Stitz squeezing his enormous feet into high heels and doing kung fu. Tim was really excellent although you wouldn't want to meet him in a dark alley because he is SWIFT wiv da MOVES.

I also enjoyed the fact that because I was a tad late I had to sit in a Dunce's corner. More theatres should do that.

2. You've missed the Commonwealth Games, which among other things has become a much more direct way of seeking asylum in Australia. Forget about paying a people smuggler to get you over here on a boat. Qualify for an obscure event, get flown over, tell the games officials that you're just popping off down the shops, and then disappear. So far, eleven athletes are confirmed missing, mostly from Sierra Leone (although Tanzania and Bangladesh are also represented).

See here for more details and here for a much more essential story about Jana Pittman's wedding plans.

3. You've missed the brilliant thing that happens during any sporting event, which is that you can be walking down the street and a huge group of cyclists go cruising past you, and it's only when they've gone past that you realise they're the Scottish Cycling Team and that one of them was talking about The Simpsons episode you watched on the TV last night.

Also, the weather's behaving. Gorgeous place to be.

Of course, in a few months I'll be peeling ice from my bike in the morning and complaining about public transport again. But until then, tra la! Life is good!

Politics

Hey so I've found a new hero.

Her name is Helen Thomas. She's an American journalist who sounds like an Auntie asking how you're enjoying school.

I heard this on News Radio this morning. Imagine it as a scene in a movie. A press conference in which George W actually thanks journalists for their questions... and then...

QUESTION: I'd like to ask you, Mr. President -- your decision to invade Iraq has caused the deaths of thousands of Americans and Iraqis, wounds of Americans and Iraqis for a lifetime.
Every reason given, publicly at least, has turned out not to be true. My question is: Why did you really want to go to war? From the moment you stepped into the White House, your Cabinet officers, former Cabinet officers, intelligence people and so forth -- but what's your real reason? You have said it wasn't oil, the quest for oil. It hasn't been Israel or anything else. What was it?

BUSH: I think your premise, in all due respect to your question and to you as a lifelong journalist -- that I didn't want war. To assume I wanted war is just flat wrong, Helen, in all due respect.

QUESTION: And...

BUSH: Hold on for a second, please. Excuse me. Excuse me.

No president wants war. Everything you may have heard is that, but it's just simply not true.

My attitude about the defense of this country changed on September the 11th. When we got attacked, I vowed then and there to use every asset at my disposal to protect the American people.

etc... Full transcript of him backpeddling is here.

Sometimes, scripts for future Hollywood films just write themselves.

Another great piece of politics this morning was also a little gem on News Radio. The Premier of Queensland, Peter Beattie, was talking about the hurricane in that State, when he was asked about support from the Federal Government. Now I'm paraphrasing:

"No it's been great", he said, "Everyone's been great. We've got the Prime Minister, John Howard, and the Deputy Prime Minister Kim Beazley coming up today. I look forward to meeting them both".

One of the more accurate Freudian slips.

Anyway. Carry on.

Thought I'd spice things up with some politics.

Search Profile

So, on Sunday I was sitting in Rita's kitchen having cups of tea with Yianni and talking about whether it's legal to send a human head through the mail, and then today I've been working at Radio National organising a story about how the Smithsonian has decided to start a hip hop collection. On Friday, I'm organising a whole lot of performers to wander around central Melbourne in late May, dressed as judges and telling lawyer jokes. And to think I find it difficult describing to people what I do for a living.

You know how google does targeted advertisements? I'm sure my profile goes like this: "We've done several search profiles and we're not sure what the hell is going on. Web user seems to have a lot of time on hands. Web user may be dangerous".

In the past, strictly work-related, I've searched for:

1. "Neighbours plot lines," when researching for the book I helped write about the history of the TV show neighbours. (Of particular note here is the rather specialised research I did about the episode that featured a dream sequence where Bouncer the dog dreams he's getting married to a sheep dog called Rosie, who saved him in a previous episode from certain death in a perilous storm water drain incident). Seriously.

2. "Boy bands" and particularly "the sexual and gender politics of boy bands" (there is an excellent PHD thesis somewhere online about this)... all in aid of some research I was doing for the Molloy Boy film, BoyTown. It was interesting how many boy band lyrics involved sheltering people from inclement weather. Also much use of the phrase "my girl" in film clips unpopulated by females of any kind.

3. "News Stories: sexually aroused animals". Yes, yes. It's true. I worked in commercial radio.

Now shoosh. I'm going outside into the sunshine. Thankfully, you don't have to type "breath of fresh air" into google. It just happens.

Making Maths Fun

In a move that is sure to surprise anyone who has ever watched me count change, I have been immersing myself in maths lately.

As you may know, I'm directing Penny Tangey's Comedy Festival show, which is called Kathy Smith Goes to Maths Camp and which is at the stage now where I have gone so far as to actually refer to Penny as Kathy and Kathy as Penny.

The show is all about Kathy Smith's adventures to Year Nine Concentrated Extended Acceleration Camp. She grapples with complex numbers, puberty (and, frankly, fashion) and she does the kind of maths that looks like rock art or hieroglyphics. In fact, watching Kathy doing maths proves the theory that watching someone doing what they love is fascinating, even if you don't understand a blind word of what they're talking about, which is what got me through some of my law subjects at university. It's also why I can have a crush on the entire cast of The West Wing without being entirely sure what a tariff is.

In other maths-themed news, I saw Proof last night, which used to be a play and is now a film. I don't entirely agree with this review but speaking of people who are good at things, read Anthony Lane (who doesn't actually come out and say Kathy Smith Goes to Maths Camp is better than Proof but I think we all know where he stands).

And last but not least, here's some maths music to get you through your Friday. I personally recommend The Number Rumba.

Am I taking this maths thing too far?

Melbourne Events

So the Commonwealth Games is starting in my home town today. Some of you will be wondering what that is. Sounds kind of like a really lucrative computer game. Nay, it's like an Olympics for people who still believe in the Queen. So far, a couple of kids have escaped from a youth detention centre (conveniently located just up the road) and have actually been caught climbing the fence into the Games Village. The papers are also reporting what has become known as a "groping incident". See how the word "incident" makes the word "groping" look like a grown-up word? In court, it's called "indecent assault", but they've simpled it up for us. Good on them.

In other news, Melbourne is also home to the sickest production company in Australia. Rita and I have been fighting off fevers all weekend and we're running out of time to do our cast and crew screening before the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. This may not be a problem if Yianni keeps missing his plane home to Melbourne, though.

In case he does come home, check out his gigs at: Butterfly Club (South Melbourne) on 29 March, The Local (St Kilda) on April 3, and Glitch Bar (North Fitzroy) on April 9. Most gigs start at about eight, but email us if you want to know more. His Comedy Festival show is shaping up to be quite something.

Meanwhile, Kathy Smith (aka Penny Tangey), is playing in Geelong on April 7 and 8 and you can now book for her show at the Festival.

Paul, otherwise known as Superman, who built this website, is playing with Brendan Welch at the Rob Roy in Fitzroy on Friday March 17. Doors open at eight.

Also, don't forget to see the scantily clad Tim Stitz at La Mama before Sunday 26 March.

So, there you go, while the Commonwealth Games deals with groping incidents and escapees clambering over fences, the Standing There Productions kids are going for gold. Go team!

Everybody Stop Please

Sometimes I think my friends are mocking me.

Here I am, limping through the final stages of a short film I'm doing for nothing, and all of a sudden I'm getting the distinct impression that other people's lives are not actually taken up discussing dropped frames, colour palettes and mistakes in the closing credits.

Much to my joy and somewhat to my befuddlement, I have recently attended the following events:

1) The wedding of my old school friend who should in my opinion still be getting chucked out of our info tech class for bad behaviour (nothing to do with me).

2) The wedding of a couple of friends from university, who (when I picture them) I always imagine in a student union meeting, eating vegan chocolate cake out of a recycled serviette.

3) The engagement of one of my oldest and dearest friends from school, whose crowning achievement so far in life has in my opinion been her uncanny ability to - after just moments of meeting someone - determine how many siblings he or she has, and in what order.

4) A dinner to celebrate my sister's graduation and the beginning of her training as a lawyer. That's just obscene because she should clearly still be seven and I should be eleven and we should be playing that fun game I invented called "Let's Clean Lorin's Room".

5) I have also discovered that some very amusing (married) friends of mine are pregnant. More precisely, she is pregnant. He is just grinning. And occasionally breaking into a white hot sweat.

So what is going on, precisely? Why have people suddenly started abandoning their reliable and, I can only imagine, stimulating posts as class clowns, sibling guessers, room cleaners, and student politicians? Have they not noticed that I trudge heroically on, doing the same sort of stuff I was doing when I first met them? Have they no respect?

Anyway, congratulations to all of them and if anyone CARES ANYMORE... our DVD is getting closer and our cast and crew screening will hopefully happen before the birth of any offspring resulting from the above disgusting list of life-changing events.

Meanwhile, I have an announcement to make. The pressure has overwhelmed me. Mum, Dad, I want you to sit down...

I'm thinking of buying a new bike helmet.

Event Management

The Commonwealth Games is starting next week in Melbourne. The Commonwealth Games and a festival called Moomba, and there's the Port Fairy Folk Festival this weekend and then after the Commonwealth Games there's the Grand Prix and then there's the Comedy Festival (see below) and then there's Law Week (starring yours truly behind the scenes). There's the Melbourne Arts Festival, the Fringe Festival, the Melbourne International Film Festival, and there's also this little thing we in Melbourne like to call the footy season. After that it's Christmas.

We're trying to organise a cast and crew screening of our film. How does next August suit everyone?

Future Decisions

So we're preparing to make our DVD now. Six years ago, I didn't have a DVD player. Now I'm finally getting with the times and guess what? DVDs are yesterday's news.

Yes, apparently in three years we'll all be downloading movies that are cheaper, better quality, and legal, and watching them on our trusty old TVs. I'm trying to imagine how somehow this will benefit the creative teams that make the movies in the first place.

Hopefully it will be really democratic and grassroots and will open the market right up and enable people with no connections and lots of skill to make movies about things people genuinely care about.

Just kidding. As if that's going to happen.

In legal contracts relating to the broadcasting and distribution of television or film projects, there's this section that covers "future technologies". How cheeky is that? It's saying "we have the first right of refusal to broadcast this film in whatever form we like even those that aren't even invented yet".

Imagine if you could do that in real life. Assert rights in relation to situations that didn't yet exist. It would certainly make breaking up eaier.

In other news, I missed the dreadfully unexciting Oscars last night because I was at a gig in St Kilda. Penny Tangey was doing an excerpt from her show, Kathy Smith Goes to Maths Camp. She's really good. Did I mention that?

Looking forward to the festival, although I usually get sick right in the middle of it. I'm sick at the moment, actually. I went for a swim with Mel Howlett (Standing There Captain of Industry) and we were running late to the movies so I didn't get changed. Not a very good idea to go to the movies in your bathers, just quietly. My throat hurts.

So, in conclusion, instead of taking out an option relating to future technologies, I am hereby taking out an option in relation to the prevention of future stupid decisions. That way, I won't stay up late, go to the movies with bathers on, or hang out in smoky bars all month during the comedy festival. Because I've made a deal with myself that includes future unforseen possible behavioural mishaps.

Excellent. Nothing could possibly go wrong.

Status

Well, the film year is really kicking in. Tropfest was in the news this week for more than just the usual "would you believe young people make films using their home computers" angle. Sensational claims and counter-claims about lying and cheating, cancelled festivals and drenched celebrities... it's all very tinsel town. Funny that the boring, plodding world of unfunded and underexposed short films suddenly becomes a cute news story for half a day. And then Thorpie gets a "mystery illness". Talk about a headline from heaven.

The same is true about the comedy festival. I was looking at the program the other day (don't bother - the best shows will be advertised right here. I have a feeling they'll be Kathy Smith Goes to Maths Camp, Yianni's Head, and anything involving Lawrence Leung or Sammy J) when it
suddenly struck me that most comedians spend the whole rest of the year doing gigs in pubs, trying to amuse half-pissed barflies who are attempting to pick each other up before last drinks. Then suddenly there's a festival in their honour. From poor and unrewarded to "Here, have the town hall".

You've just got to love the way the world works sometimes.

Working in the law world a little lately, I've been reminded of the concept of "status". The legal system of course is very hierarchical (a concept which contradicts almost every central theme of the Western Legal System, except for maybe the central theme of the enormous pay cheque).

I've always thought the legal system's status structure is enormously open to parody. Someone pops a wig on and suddenly everyone's shouting at him in a court room politely. Like in Parliament, when some bloke leans across to the other side of the house and spits, "Will the honourable member please go jump up himself with an armful of chairs".

But it's not like that in the art world. It's "everyone's presumed talentless until proven famous" or something. And then when you get famous everyone says "Yeah that's great. Well done. Man. What a dick".

So, the fact that we don't have a structured system of status in the arts means that we're completely confused whenever we come across status of any kind. So, famous comes to mean important, which means talented, which means arsehole.

I love my job.