5 films shot in the director’s home

With recent scandals, we normally suspect a movie made in the director’s home. When the director is alone, it doesn’t matter whether the audition is in an office, an auditorium, or a hotel room, but hotel room usually seems suspect.

Let’s return to a more innocent time, when many directors didn’t have bad intentions, they just didn’t have large enough bank balances to rent a location.

1. The Brothers McMullen : Edward Burns (1995)

A few microbudget films really start the director’s career. You might say Brother’s McMullen was one of them, it shot Ed Burns through to the stratosphere as an actor.

Reportedly made for 40,000 in the director’s home, it was liked by Ebert, and one of the darlings of the microbudget scene in the 1990s.

Burns wrote, directed, acted in, and co-produced this film.  Others who share his surname were also involved.  Hey, when the budget is this low, you’ve got to save money somehow.

2. Smiling Fish and Goat on Fire (1999)

A similar budget to Brother’s McMullen, if not as famous.  Roger Ebert liked this film, even if you might not have heard of it.  He says that it received a standing ovation at the Toronto film festival, and gives it praise.  (He’s not normally a fan of films this low budget, or shot in the director’s home.)

The director co-wrote this film with the two stars, perhaps giving them credit for improvisation.

3. Going Shopping: Henry Jaglom (2005)

This film seems to have heavily influenced “He’s not That Into You”, with the interview style of non-characters and extras talking about shopping predating the other film’s interview style of non-characters speaking about relationships.  And, Going Shopping must have sold well on DVD, because it’s fairly easy to find second hand.

Okay, so this film doesn’t appear to be set in a house, when you have a mansion like this, you can make your shed look like a clothing store, and your garden look like a park.  But, watch the making of if you don’t believe me, this is all based on the director’s property.

The director co-wrote this film with the star.

4. Paranormal Activity: Oren Peli (2007)

One of the most famous microbudget films made by a nobody, this horror film inspires millennials to make their own movies.

The Oren Pei wrote, produced, directed, edited, and shot this film.   He’s uncredited with set design, because hey, I guess he decorates his own room.

5. Much Ado About Nothing: Joss Whedon (2012)

The same year that Joss Whedon directed “Avengers Assemble”, he adapted Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. He said that the budget was so low, that it had to be shot in black and white.  This critically acclaimed, microbudget Shakespeare movie was shot in his house, and starred his friends and neighbours. Of course, he has a huge house, and has some pretty experienced friends and neighbours.

Should the director get a screenplay credit?  Well, he gets one, because he adapted Shakespeare’s original script for the screen.

Lesser known films

The films above seem to have been written by the director, or by the director and the stars, or the director wrote and starred in the film.  We don’t have as much information about these other films, but they seem to be similarly low-budget, with writer-directors.  Here are some lower profile films that seem to be shot in the director’s house.

Multiple Maniacs (1970)

Is it in John Water’s apartment?   I’m not sure.   – weird movie though.  This guy went on to create Hairspray, but most of his films were for a cult (meaning small but loyal) audience.

Chronicle of a Disappearance (1996)

Not entirely shot in the director’s house, but partly there. A strange film from a Palestinian perspective.

Amateana (2012)

Short film, shot in the director’s house. The director’s names is Lud Mônaco

Four Twenty (2012)

The entire film was shot in the director’s house.  Or, so claims the IMDB page.  I’m not sure if you can see this film anywhere.

Rita Dove: An American Poet (2014)

Partially filmed at the director’s house. The readings at the end readings were recorded at the director’s house.

Dara Says (2014)

Most of this film was shot in the director’s and producer’s living room, in the course of a month.  A half day in the kitchen, and a couple of days in the dining room.  They played two of the film’s three characters and edited it along with the crew of two.  A stunt director arrived for a day and a half so the director could do his own stunts.

The entire house is probably smaller than one room of the other films, but oh well.  The budget of the crowdfunded feature film was tiny too, with the crew’s salaries paid for by a Jobs Growth Wales scheme.

Don’t worry if you haven’t heard of this film, we might not have heard of it either if we didn’t create it ourselves.

Why I connect to shady characters

Some of you are great. If you’re reading this, you’re probably one of my best connections, one of the real people I trust. Or, you’re connected to them, trusted by them, and a great person.

However, there are other people who invite me just to expand their own network, or to try and con me out of money. You’d think I would avoid these people. But, hey, I’m a screenwriter. Or I used to be, before rebranding myself as a “Project Manager.” I love stories, and comedy.

The recent addition to my list is a so-called hedge fund manager. Here’s an excerpt from his profile: Continue reading Why I connect to shady characters

Screenwriting is the most competitive profession in the film industry

Reading the trades, I discovered that only about 1100 writers worked on films in Hollywood last year.  Sure, more than that worked on TV, but most elite members of the WGA only work about one year in three (if at all).  And, when they do find work, their pay is still less than many less glamorous roles.

(I know Squanto.  You were unemployed long before I made that discovery.) Continue reading Screenwriting is the most competitive profession in the film industry

Are you an employee, freelancer or co-founder?

Okay, so there are also retired people, students, volunteers, homemakers and so on. However, when you’re considering recruiting, or trying to earn a living, there are three common kinds of contracts.

Most of the time, we assume that job adverts are looking for employees. When I was in my late teens, and I answered an ad that I thought looking for an employee, only to find out it was commission-only MLM.  I was a bit miffed.

Freelancer, commission only, subcontractor, all these differ from employee.   While a zero hour contract is technically an employee, sometimes you feel like a freelancer who accrues holiday pay.

However, sometimes job adverts aimed at subcontractors look similar to those aimed at employees, but I suppose it depends upon what is expected within the industry.


Now, as I’ve hinted, most of my job searches over the past 20 years or so have been for employee positions. That’s what I expect to find when I’m looking on a job board. Continue reading Are you an employee, freelancer or co-founder?

5 myths about film grads and film students

Film studies has gotten a lot of bad press recently. That might be because there are some second rate film schools, especially in Britain, where film is treated as a dumping ground for academics who’d rather be in the social sciences (and the social sciences are already a dumping ground.)

Well, just because film students don’t learn anything in a lecture on post-Soviet-mise-en-angst, which ends up being a rant about some political thing that has nothing to do with film whatsoever, that doesn’t mean the stereotypes of the actual students are true. Continue reading 5 myths about film grads and film students


Catalan and Portuguese flag superimposed on our 1812 timeline page
I made this image with the help of technology. It cost me a man hour, based on a blog that cost me longer, but I don’t know how much of the tech was devoted to me.

The following post is filled with #irony making it #ironic . It’s not meant to be useful, any utility is purely accidental. Punctuation is intentionally misplaced to suit the hashtag.

You know one of the most ironic sayings ever? “A picture is worth a thousand words. ” That’s seven words long. Try drawing a picture that says over 142 times that. (Use a calculator to do the math.) Some pictures are worth a thousand words, but those are either powerful pictures, or lame words.

Another ironic thing: I recently received an essay about the importance and power of stories. The essay was structured in such a way that it didn’t tell a single story. Okay, so it tried to conjecture on the key themes of a few stories, maybe even hinted at a few plots, but it didn’t tell one. If stories are so powerful, why was it written as an essay? Continue reading Irony

How the masters dealt with disapproval

At first, i was going to call this “dealing with criticism.” Artists, writers, students, historians and jobseekers often get unsolicited feedback from friends, former colleagues and relatives, and it can seem like a lot to deal with.  When you write or create art for mass consumption, criticism can come from complete strangers.

But, criticism isn’t always disapproval, and criticism is not the only form of disapproval.

I think it’s easier to deal with if you know what it is.

I’ve decided to break down the most annoying forms of disapproval, to

  1. Condemnation
  2. Frustration
  3. Rating
  4. Advice
  5. Persuasion
  6. Pessimism
  7. Rivalry


We all have heard condemnation.  Usually, it’s reserved for killers and tyrants, or at least someone who has done something morally wrong, but some people seem to throw condemnation on people who use the wrong font, wear a wrinkled shirt, or who cross their arms instead of being akimbo.

When you condemn, you’re saying that their actions are not only inexcusable, but unredeemable.

People like Moliere dealt with condemnation by poking fun at those who condemn them.  Anyone, from critics and academics to clergy and nobility, even doctors and lawyers, were fair game.  If you condemned Moliere, you were asking to be parodied in his plays.

Of course, he did pay the price for his retaliation.  After his fell ill from his last play, neither doctor nor priest would see him until he was dead.  So, the playwright received neither medical treatment nor his “last rights.”


Sometimes, people take their frustrations out on you.  Perhaps they wished they’d studied math while they were younger, and they think they see you slacking in your study of math.  Or, maybe it has nothing to do with your actions, maybe you’re just the closest person to them when they are feeling frustrated.

This is not as bad as condemnation, as you can get on the person’s good side again.  Here, if you can find out the source of the frustration, you might be able to help.

A lot of movies and books, from the old Ukrainian plays to Jazz Singer* to Billy Elliot, show familial disapproval for a career path.  Many artists play out this frustration, trying to understand the disapproval of others with their art, while others just dismiss it.


There are a brand of people, called critics, whose job it is to rate things.  In our day, not only artists are subject to these people, as freelance drivers and ebay sellers are subject to the same star system that filmmakers deal with.

How many stars was your delivery experience?  When I was selling books on eBay, sometimes, I found that if you rated another seller negatively, they’d buy from you just so they could get revenge.  They didn’t care if they deserved it and you didn’t, they just wanted to retaliate for ruining their ill deserved high rating.

Well, sometimes you might get a low rating when you don’t feel like you deserve it.  The English poet Byron was scathed by Scottish critics after his first book, and he replied with “English bards and Scottish critics”, in which he got revenge by criticising their criticisms.

Liberace had another way of dealing with his critics, by counting his blessings, or his money.  When they called his music kitch, he merely said “I’m crying all the way to the bank.”

Sometimes, however, you might just ask for more detailed feedback.  What was it about the work that you disapproved of?


Advice isn’t the same thing as criticism, but advice can seem like a form of disapproval.  If advice is given at the start of a venture, for instance during a university orientation or during employee training, it just seems standard, and not personal.  If, however, you get advice when you’re walking down the road, it’s easy to take the wrong way.

To understand advice, it’s good to understand the motive and the knowledge of the person giving it.  If the advice does not have a story attached, it might be best ignored.

When I worked in customer service, most of the warnings we were given were in the form of video re-enactments of poor customer service.  Some were imaginings, or exaggerations.  This advice was not pointed at anyone, but rather a warning that showed the consequences of sloppy action, as well as the rewards of good action.

Understand that some people will sometimes just give advice to make themselves feel important.


Sometimes, people aren’t trying to help you, to criticise you, or to get at you.  They want you to do something for them.

Most people know that persuasion works best if you play to a person’s strengths, but there are people who think that by showing disapproval, they can get you to do what they want.  They think that if they tear down your dreams, you’ll do menial work for them, that if they make you feel worthless, you’ll work for less money.

The main thing to understand is that these people who who dissatisfaction in order to get you to do what they want are idiots.  History has shown that people who feel like rubbish do rubbish work and are more likely to lash out at those who make them feel like rubbish.


Sometimes, however, they just don’t think you can do something.  People will tell you to give up your dreams because they don’t believe they are possible.

One such case is in the movie tooth fairy, where the main actor dissuades the kid from playing guitar because he has given up on his own dreams.

In the Disney film Chicken Little, the father says “Don’t get your hopes up too high.”  He seems to be more concerned with being embarrassed than with his son’s happiness.

Many pessimists have forgotten how much fun hope can be, how great it is to strive.  They don’t realize that when the journey is a challenge, that’s when getting there is half the fun (riding in an airplane through turbulence, or trapped in a the back of a windy bus, can be very boring, compared to tracking through the jungle, hitchhiking, or feeling the wind in your hair while riding on a dodgy motorcycle.)

The great stigma of failure is a disease in our society.  It’s only when you do something were failure is a possibility that you have any chance of achieving anything great.


Often, you’ll get a person telling you to give up because they see you as a threat.  In war, it’s often a technique to destroy the morale and confidence of the other side.

If you look at history, you’ll find plenty of classic writers who tried to knock down others.  Like boxers or “professional” wrestlers before a match, they’ll attack their opponent off the field before going on.  Mark Twain totally trashed the writer of Last of the Mohikans.

This kind of nasty rivalry is especially prevalent in entertainment.  As Joe Esterhaus said, quoting Guy McElwain, “in this business you don’t pray for your friends to fail, you pray for them to die.”

In addition to disapproval, many will give bad advice, in order to rid themselves of a rival.

Too many people seek feedback from their peers, but in a competitive industry, this might not be a good idea.  Instead, seek feedback from those who would actually pay you.  A writer’s best friends for feedback are those who have skin in the game, those who already paid a down payment on their work and who stand to gain more if the work is successful.  Your worst enemies are rival writers who stand to gain if you fail.

Open by setting the scene

A lot of writing advice will pretend to teach you how to grab an audience’s attention. Well, there’s more to writing than getting attention.  There’s the reader to consider.

This is an editorial essay, so we start with an introduction.  In the first paragraph, I let you know the purpose, to determine whether or not this is something that interests you and is useful to you.  Good writing respects the reader, it doesn’t try to waste the reader’s time with sensationalism.

Not all writing is an essay however.  In fiction, and in especially in journalism and in most other storytelling genres, writing usually starts with setting the scene.  If you were to write for the Ptara blog, or an article for our journal, we’d normally expect the writing to start in the appropriate way, depending upon the genre. Continue reading Open by setting the scene