Oct 30 2021

Be An Audience

I’m a filmmaker… but I’m also a guy who loves watching movies. Those are two different things. Because enjoying someone else’s art requires a different part of your brain than putting your own stuff out there. This has me thinking about how we ALL consume art these days. There’s been an unsettling change in the past ten years and I think I’ve finally crystalized it:

We’ve forgotten how to be an audience.

AudienceI could easily blame this on social media or even as far back as iTunes. But it’s a groundswell of numerous factors. About 15 years ago, the biggest media corporations in the world (Yes you, Apple) started catering to our sense of SELF. Technology made it possible to cater to all of our unique, singular, microscopic choices and opinions. Your point of view and YOURS ALONE became the target — not just a wide demographic. You no longer had to buy a whole album. You could make your OWN album of just the five songs YOU liked from that artist. The artist no longer decided what 12 tracks you should listen to, or in what order, to take you from the beginning of that album’s experience to the end. Nope. It’s up to the listener. Hey, you don’t even have to listen to a radio station tell you what the “hit singles” are. You ARE the radio station. You’re the DJ who decides what playlists are playing in your car or headphones. It went beyond making a mixtape. iTunes and Spotify changed our philosophy on how we even consider music. An “a la carte” mentality prizes the individual’s tastes above the general consensus of trends, age groups, social groups, etc. It’s all about YOU and what YOU want.

As consumers, this sounded great to us! And it’s created a wonderful buffet of art and media for everyone. We pick and choose. We take only what we want, nothing more. And not only that, we gained the ability share right back to each other what we chose and why. We could now evaluate each other’s opinions. YouTube and social media came along to allow each and every one of us to have our own “TV Channel,” so to speak. Every single one of us could post to the ENTIRE WORLD what we thought of a show or movie, seconds after we’d seen it. And we got feedback from others just as instantly. WE were the critics now, with our reviews instantly published.

Phone reviewIt felt so good to be heard and validated! If we love something, now we’ve been told it’s good that we love it by lots of others! But the weird thing we also discovered is that, in a sick way, we kind of like arguing with people who don’t like our choices. Sparring in the dusty arena of Twitter and Reddit can be addictive. If someone punches back, it releases a similar rush of dopamine, and makes us dig deeper into our opinions.

So now here we are, a couple decades into this new mentality… a mentality that says that if an artist presents us with art, our immediate response is to evaluate it. To be a critic. To instantly respond with the thought, “Would I have done it that way?” “Is that the best choice for me? For my sensibilities?” “How does this art serve me?

We have forgotten how to be an audience. We’ve forgotten that another way to respond to art is to just… take it in. Listen. Watch. To sit before the storyteller at the fire and say, “What do you have for me today?” Whatever the artist wants to show us, we can receive it as the choice that artist decided to make, even if it is surprising or weird to us, or not at all the choice we would make in that story.

If we cannot accept the contract between artist and audience anymore, we are rarely satisfied. We are disappointed that the artist did not “do what we wanted.”

“That’s not my Luke Skywalker.” “That’s not my James Bond.” “How dare they ruin my childhood with this version of Ghostbusters!”

Dune Scene **This all hit me again as I left the IMAX theater from seeing “Dune.” Denis Villeneuve’s version of this tale feels slightly foreign and strange and off the beaten path from my own instincts. So many moments of the film were entirely at odds with my own sensibilities. He did things I would not have done with this story. And it was great! I sat there saying, “Whatta you got for me, Denis? Hit me.”

Dune DirectorThat’s how I watched “The Last Jedi.” That’s how I went into the last episode of “Lost.” Things happened that I was not expecting or even satisfied with. But I accepted that this particular storyteller wanted to tell me this particular story in this particular way. This is how they wanted it. I am the audience. I am getting hit with this artistic expression solely as a receiver. It’s making me feel things, think things I never expected.

It’s actually a hard shift to make in yourself, especially now. We’ve had this new indoctrination of “catered self” thrust upon us. But try it. Next time you watch a new thing, or listen to a new song, make the conscious choice to BE THE AUDIENCE. Tell yourself, “It’s not my job to be a critic. It’s not my job to weigh this art against my version of it. I am not the artist here. I am the audience.” Allow for the surprise and even alarming reactions that a contrary choice creates in you.

You don’t have to love Rian Johnson’s choices, but respect that they were his to make. Discuss your thoughts on Twitter, sure. But do it as someone completely outside of the decision makers. Take away the smug layer of “He did it wrong” and step into the discussion with “It made me feel ____,” “It made me think ____,” or even “I wonder why the director did _____.”

StorytellerNews flash: Art is not created to cater to your whims or serve you. It’s there it shock and move and surprise you. It might even be there to offend you. And i f you didn’t like it, you can certainly walk away from it saying “Not for me.” But try consuming it the old fashioned way… as a pure “audience member.”

As an artist, I am always hoping to have such an open and willing audience before me. And as an audience member myself, I think I’m having a better time at the theater.


Oct 5 2021

Demo Song from “Fe@rleSS”: “I AM THE MASTER”

Here’s another demo for a song that never made it into the Netflix movie “Fe@rleSS.” Once again, lyrics and vocals by me. This was to be a theme song for the villain of the movie, a real diabolical world-destroyer. So I had a lot of fun with lots of sci-fi tropes and writing from his evil, ego-maniacal point of view. I also got to flex my “Rage Against The Machine” muscles. Fun.

Once again, high hopes for a big artist to record this, but alas, not meant to be. But wow, I sure had fun making this.

Open your ear holes, Earthlings, and prepare for “I AM THE MASTER.


Oct 4 2021

Demo Song from “Fe@rleSS”: “NEW GAME”

That’s right, here is an unreleased song for the Netflix movie I wrote and directed, “Fe@rleSS.” Lyrics and vocals by me! I had this wild idea to write a rap song for the end credits. I must emphasize this is a DEMO, so while I’m using Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” for the hook, I knew I’d never be able to use it in the final version… but it’s a demo, baby! And it was the vibe I was going for. And while I am living out my rap fantasies here, my plan was to snag a known artist to perform this.

My hope was for this to be recorded by one of the RocNation artists we were gathering for the soundtrack but… it was not meant to be. So I thought it would be fun to listen to here.

It’s all about the main character Reid and his journey to finally get off the couch and live life in a meaningful, adventurous way.

Feast your ears on “NEW GAME.”


Jun 18 2021

CORY GETS FUNNY

I’ve taken the plunge and started a YouTube channel. This is mainly for my weird comedy ideas. Some are very small sketches, some are pop culture rants. Hopefully they make you laugh on a weekly basis.

Screen Shot 2021-06-18 at 9.55.25 AMTake a gander at the comedy buffet, here. If you like them, please subscribe!


Aug 25 2020

Animation Magazine Interview

Some great new press from Animation Magazine.

I dive a little deeper into the making of “Fearless” and techniques used for other animated films. Enjoy!

Fearless - Couch


Jul 23 2020

NEW PROJECTS: NETFLIX AND BEYOND

Screen Shot 2020-07-24 at 12.43.30 AMI’m finally able to share exciting news on not one, but two projects! This is a crazy business where many things I work on for a long time I have to keep secret. Well now two big secrets are out! While Deadline Hollywood broke the news yesterday, I can give you a lot more details here.

FEARLESS

Fearless Netflix PicMy recently-completed animated feature, Fearless will be premiering on Netflix, August 14. This is the project I moved my whole family to Montreal for, and it was quite a life experience. The film is about a teenage gamer who has never gotten off the couch, until he mistakenly opens a portal that brings the game characters into his backyard. He has to protect super-powered babies from a super villain who’s chasing them. It’s got a really cool look and some big fun superhero/sci-fi action sequences. It’s really amazing to see it out in the world now because, to be honest, it was one of the most challenging productions I’ve ever been on. The budget and script changed drastically several times throughout production, and the final film ended up very different from the film I originally set out to make. But is it fun? Yes!

The voice cast includes Susan Sarandon, Yara Shahidi, Miles Robbins, and rapper Jadakiss. Jay-Z’s Roc Nation produced the soundtrack, which is also very cool. The characters were designed by legendary artist Peter DeSeve (Ice Age, A Bug’s Life, Mulan) and my production designer was Kevin Conran, The guy who basically designed every single thing in Sky Captain And The World Of Tomorrow, a favorite film of mine. Cinesite animation was the studio that created everything from start to finish, and were a pleasure to work with. If you love babies throwing tanks, angry floating robots and goofy alien sidekicks, this is a good one for you!

SC 7Every project is a growing experience that sets you up for your next project. Every film teaches you something about yourself as a creator and what you want to do better next time. That’s why, as difficult as this last film was to finish, it makes my second announcement all the sweeter…

DOOMSTAR JANITORIAL

My next film is a real labor of love, something I’ve wanted to do for a long, long time. It’s a sci-fi comedy that is basically a love letter to 80’s science-fiction and touchstone comedies like Ghostbusters, and Galaxy Quest. It’s a movie about the kind of guys that never get their moment; blue-collar workers who are usually invisible in a Star Wars kind of world. They aren’t bounty hunters or freedom fighters… they’re janitors. This is Doomstar Janitorial.

Doomstar PosterThe story is about Gabe, who mops the floors and changes the lightbulbs of a very powerful space station. When he finds out its planet-killing weapon is targeting his own home planet, he rallies the rest of his janitorial crew to sabotage the whole place. I’ve been working on the script for years. It was originally planned as a live action project, but when I realized I had a better chance of getting it made as an animated movie, I added a lot more funny robots and aliens and animation-friendly jokes. It’s truly one of the funniest things I’ve written and I can’t wait to get started.

I’ve got a fantastic team behind me on this one. Executive Producers are John Williams of Vanguard Animation (Shrek), Tom Jacomb of DNEG Animation (Puss In Boots, Rise Of The Guardians) and Peter Seaman (Who wrote a little Academy Award-winning film called Who Framed Roger Rabbit). Characters are already being designed by another legendary artist, Carter Goodrich (Despicable Me, Finding Nemo, Coco).

The poster displayed above is based on some “work in progress” versions of the characters, but they’re close. Screen Shot 2020-07-24 at 12.58.57 AMEven the poster itself is a realization of a long-time dream of mine: to create a Drew Struzan-style movie poster for the film. If you don’t know who Drew Struzan is, look him up! He’s basically the master of 80s and 90s movie posters. Star Wars, Harry Potter, Indiana Jones, he’s done them all. The artists at DNEG worked very hard to refine the brushstroke style of Struzan, and it’s pretty cool to see.

The next big hurdle is locking in the remaining financing and moving into the all-important greenlight for production. We are also currently casting, out to some pretty big names — names I will be very excited to share if they say yes! Bottom line, I want to fill this cast with the funniest people I can and really let them play when they get on the mic. Spontaneous comedy from actors is hard to capture in animation, especially improv and funny moments between two people that you usually get on a live action set. But I’m going to try… This film will center on the performances first and build from whatever crazy alchemy we get in the studio.

So tune in to Netflix on August 14 and enjoy Fearless, and I’ll give as many updates as I can about Doomstar, right here on this blog. It will be my joy to share as much as I can.


Jul 9 2020

Notes: Just Put The Couch By The Window

332_swoon-chairI love metaphors. As a writer, they really help me explain concepts, especially to myself. One particular metaphor helps me survive notes and story changes that I don’t agree with. On any script, pressure will come from the studio or the producers to second-guess what you feel is the natural choice. In these times, it is better to view them as a CLIENT rather than a collaborator.

Here’s the metaphor: A COUCH.

The client will ask you to “decorate” the “room” that is your story. You know where the “furniture” will look best before you even move it around. You know where the couch should go right away. It seems so obvious to you. But you serve the client, and they want to put the couch by the window. You already know it won’t work. You explain all the reasons why the furniture should be arranged in the way you envision, why the whole room will work better that way. After all, that’s what they paid you for — for you to arrange the “furniture” of this “room.” You discuss, you push your point, but they just don’t see it. They just really want that couch over against that wall.

You want to please the producer. But if you are a good writer, you can’t help but think of what’s best. You think, “I know the couch won’t be good over there. I know that every day at 3 pm, the sun is going to hit them in the eyes. And it’s too wide for that wall. And it makes the whole room smaller there. I have to say something.”

But sometimes, the client just wants the couch by the window. Period. They want it there, you know it’s not best there, but that’s that. Put the couch by the window. Just do it.

Maybe a week later they will call you back and complain about the afternoon sun and tell you to move the couch again. And you can say, “What a great idea.” It’s not about winning your position. Just make them happy. At the end of the day, they may just want what they want, even if it’s not the best.

For artists who listen to their instincts and trust them, this can be tiresome. But this is part of the job. It’s really the difference between writing for yourself as a hobby and writing for clients as a career. As painful as it is to admit it, even your own original idea, once paid for by a studio or producer, is not entirely yours anymore. You are now in collaboration with another person. And you must view that person in a “client” mentality to get over these annoying, annoying moments. When you “put the couch by the window,” defying all your instincts, you can take comfort in the fact that on this point, for now, you are serving the client.

Lonely CouchNine times out of ten the best version of “where the couch goes” will be revealed to everyone. It may even be revealed to you too. Just remember the couch is never done moving until the movie is in theaters.

Metaphor over!


Dec 15 2019

That Man… dalorian

the_mandelorian_-_publicity_still_-_h_2019_The Mandalorian is cool. We all know that. But he’s also a character as old as time. He’s what I would call an “Uber-Male.” Strong, silent, gruff, he squints a lot. He’s never used a beauty product in his life. Probably drinks Scotch. He’s a man’s man. Oh sure, he might have an energetic young sidekick or a wide-eyed kid to protect. He might be saddled with someone who talks too much, or  “experts” who know all the answers. But he chews his toothpick silently and puts up with it. Because he knows he’ll be the one left standing. He’ll be the one who has to do the hard thing that those chatter boxes couldn’t do.

That man.

1680x1050_px_Clint_Eastwood_western-592360Some would say that in this day and age that “That Man” is too outdated. There is a new sensitivity to the traditional, male-centered stories we’ve always told. And rightly so. The dark side of a man like this is toxic, abusive, and allows no emotional connection. Let’s be honest, the bad version is an a-hole. That said, there’s something to be gained about keeping the positive version of him around.  There’s something comforting and exhilarating we feel when “That Man” shows up on the scene. Even in these modern, #MeToo times, we keep coming back to him. We need him.

Andy-Lincoln-Rick-Grimes-1024x681Don’t get me wrong, we need him to evolve too. We need him to use his strong Alpha status to reach down and help the weak. We need him to listen to the feminine point of view and fight for it. But in his best form, we still need him. You can put a badass silver helmet on him, but “That Man” is still the same guy he was in “The Good, The Bad And The Ugly.” He’s still Rick Grimes, standing up to evil in the zombie apocalypse. If you’ve got a problem, and no one else can help… maybe he can.

harrison_ford_indyHe’s Steve McQueen, he’s Indy Jones, he’s staring us down with that 100-yard stare. Maybe he smokes, even though he’s not supposed to anymore. Maybe he’s been kicked out of a few places. Maybe he did the kicking. He’s dangerous!

But when the bad versions of him come around, when the bad Alphas abuse their power in some low-life bar, we’re happy he’s there. And he’s as cooooool as a cucumber. He just walks up to those guys like Denzel and calmly says something we all wish we could say. Then he takes them all out the way we wish we could.

equalizerKids have their own “wish fulfilment” movies, but a lot of grownups have a man like this. Women like to live through this kind of Alpha hero too. It is cathartic to watch him. He has power we don’t, and gives us a release from all the stuff we can’t conquer in our own world. Even though he’s currently showing up in a Galaxy Far, Far Away, he’s still someone we recognize. Even in a silver helmet.

Welcome back, buddy. We missed you.


Jun 23 2019

Who is this “Hollywood?”

hollywood_corporate_overlords_illoFrequently, I see posts on Facebook or Twitter from disgruntled moviegoers that sound something like this:

“Well Hollywood, that was terrible.”

“Hollywood really dropped the ball.”

“Why can’t Hollywood make more movies like _____?”

“Get your act together, Hollywood.”

People are talking to “Hollywood” like it’s some singular, giant thing that cranks out movies. I imagine these irritated folks standing in front of the “Hollywood” sign, shouting at the mountain, and the mountain shugs and says, “SORRRRRRRY! I’LL TRY BETTERRRRR NEXT TIIIIIME!”

Screen Shot 2019-06-23 at 4.30.25 PMI need to clear something up: “Hollywood” is a location in Los Angeles. It is a boulevard. It is also a nickname for the entire entertainment industry. But it’s a nickname — a very broad, abstract idea for what the industry really is.

In real life, the content we all watch is made by people — thousands of people. Many of these people collect in buildings in Los Angeles, but also all over the United States and the world. Many, many of these people have never met each other, or shared ideas, or have the same agendas. Not all of these people are motivated by money. Not all of these people make blockbusters, or are white men, or are out to remake your favorite childhood property. Bottom line, “Hollywood” is not some mulit-headed, hive-mind collective with one purpose. Most of the time, a lot of us don’t even know what the rest of us are working on.

HOLLYWOOD is just people: Many are creative people who care a lot about what they’re making. Some are executive people who care too. Then yes, there are the cynical a-holes who don’t care and just want your money. But most of the people I’ve met in the business are genuinely trying to make something good. Even when they’re misguided. Even when they are not good at their jobs. They’re honestly trying.

So if anyone falls short, it’s not like they planned it. They’re probably sorry and trying to figure out what went wrong, just like you.

It’s not an excuse for poor execution, but instead of rolling your eyes at “Hollywood,” get more focused. Seek out the creators and individuals that you like or dislike and start to reward or punish those people with your choices and dollars. Don’t fault the entire industry for “Dark Phoenix” or “Ugly Dolls” or what CGI “Sonic” looks like. Movies are made under crazy circumstances and pressures and everyone is working with a different set of tools. Every film is a different obstacle course.

Reset your expectations for “Hollywood.” Because it’s not really the mountain monster you think it is.

 


May 29 2019

Time To Get Weird

ThorRagnarokSometimes the death of a genre can be the best thing for it.

There is always a point in any movie genre where the greed of the industry over-saturates the audience. No matter what flavor is your favorite flavor, if you get nothing but that flavor you get sick of it. We’ve seen this happen with all kinds of trends in film, from Rom Coms to Fantasy to Superhero movies. But genre exhaustion can be a good thing. Because then the only place that genre can go to survive is… someplace weird. And when the studios stop getting rewarded for playing it safe, they get desperate and try a new way. That’s great for moviegoers! Sometimes a genre has to get really cliche and really tired and be on its death bed for studios to start taking risks in that genre. Time to get weird!

Let’s look at the superhero genre. People have been predicting the death of this one for ten years. It’s true, the market seems ridiculously over-saturated. But the only thing that died was the traditional version of a superhero film. The typical square-jawed hero in the flowing cape can’t get us to the theater anymore. We’ve seen that guy. Over and over. Marvel saw the writing on the wall very early and stopped looking at superheroes as a genre. They looked at it as a means to tell many genres of stories. Guardians of the Galaxy is a space adventure. Thor: Ragnarok is a trippy gladiator movie. Black Panther is a Shakespearean Drama. The only time DC was rewarded for their superhero movie attempts was with Wonder Woman — a female, Greek-goddess war movie. Now here comes Brightburn, flipping the entire premise of Superman onto its dark side.

BatmansBatman is its own lesson in exhausting a character. How many times has he been rebuilt from the ground up? After the fourth version of Tim Burton’s Batman, when Joel Shumacher added nipples to the batsuit and the “Starlight Express”-dressed crusaders literally ice skated and air-surfed, we were done. Enter Chris Nolan with his take: a gritty, stripped-down, ultra-real crime story, something Warner Brothers never would’ve dreamed of doing years earlier. But they were desperate. They’d tried everything. And in their desperation, they let the filmmaker try something crazy. How glad we are that he did.

Now we’re feeling the strain of the Live Action Remake. Disney made some new money by turning their animated classics into living, breathing, realism. But it’s getting old. Almost everyone I talk to says so. This live action thing was cool for three or four movies but… ten? Dumbo stumbled, showing signs of wear. Nostalgia alone can’t be the reason we go. These movies have to stand on their own and, dare I say, subvert the originals they are based on.

DisneyLiveAThe death of a genre is an exciting time. It’s the birthing pains of something new and weird. I can’t wait to see what is weird enough to reinvigorate the western, or the sports movie, or the epic fantasy. Personally, I’m waiting for the Hope-and-Crosby “buddy movie” version of Batman and Robin. Lethal Weapon with capes! That, I’d like to see.


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