A Political Fiction (Part II)

This is for entertainment purposes only. It is not based on any credible threat or Intel. It does not advocate treason or sedition. It is fiction and any coincidence, people or events portrayed in this story are also fictitious.

Read Part I here

PART II – On the Brink of War

The generals come to terms with what they have just heard. He’s their president, they are to obey his orders as commander in chief. Yet their faces ask a question they won’t dare pose aloud “what if he is wrong?”

The senior most general, head of Defense chimes in, “sir I’m not sure we have the man power you need. We’re spread thin at the moment. Most of our fleet is patrolling the waters off Iran in the Gulf, not to mention off Africa and around the Middle East.”

“Then scramble what we do have. We won’t be met with our pants down.” The president abruptly gets up. “Find me a working twitter account.”

“Sir might a speech to the nation be better suited at this fragile moment in time?” His staffer gets out of his way as the President swiftly exits the situation room.

News crews gather around the island of Oahu in Hawaii. All cover the same story. We focus on CNN, “I’m here live from Oahu where several credible sources at the Pentagon are saying there is a large Chinese naval presence offshore. Are we headed to war?”

Another crew covers the concurrent narrative of the presidents personal Twitter, “the latest message is tweeted in Chinese traditional characters, when translated reads ‘America is no longer the world’s greatest super power.'”

At the White House, the President emerges from the situation room to his lower level staffers surprise. They watch the news unfold on several TV monitors.

“Turn it off! Turn it off. It’s fake news, turn it off.” Embarrassed for him, they comply. All stand around waiting for orders. He doesn’t say another word. Suddenly his advisor emerges from the room too, grabbing his shoulder.

“Are you just gonna let those career assholes run the show? This is your time to lead! Get back in there, I’ll have your back.” The president gets the jolt of energy he needs. They head back down.

The president re-enters the situation room as camera footage shows naval cruisers preparing to meet the Sino forces. “Give me updates, now.” The president speaks with forceful confidence as he takes a seat at the head of the table.

“Sir we have activated our entire Pacific fleet, mobilized from Pearl Harbor with backup forces on alert in San Diego. We will approach by air first without firing. We have already scrambled Navy jets to issue said fly over.” The general eyes the President as if to expect a retort.

“Good.” He sits, almost too comfortable. “What is the status of my Twitter?”

The two generals eye each other – their faces suggest ‘how do we tell him?’ The head of Defense steps forward and clears his throat. “Mr. President…”

A long pause. Too long of a pause. “What, what is it?” The president grows impatient.

“Mr. President the Chinese have asked that you resign the office of the presidency, along with your Vice President due to violating Chinese territory in Taiwan.”

He throws a tantrum, banging his fists on the table. “I will not bow down to these thugs! We will win this war. Taiwan isn’t theirs. The whole world knows that! If I have to build hotels up and down Taiwan I fucking will!”

The general continues unfazed by the outburst, “sir that’s not all. They said failure to comply with this request will result in escalation. You have five hours to comply.”

His advisor chimes in, outraged, “we don’t negotiate with terrorists. This man was democratically elected!”

A lower ranked general chimes in, “they’re not terrorists, they’re a nation state. There are people rioting in our streets across the country demanding you step down and a Republican congress ready to impeach. We risk war with a nation of three billion people and likely no allies to help.”

“You’re fired.” He says it with almost a grin. But the general doesn’t move. “I said you’re fired!”

The head general tries to restore order, “sir, respectfully, I think you need to take a page from the Nixon administration and consider what is best for the country.”

News footage shows massive protests across the nation. Fires, and Black Bloc mobs setting storefronts ablaze all over the nation. Sirens, and first responders overwhelmed. Protesters chanting for impeachment. It’s 1968 all over again, as the national guard is activated in response.

With the drumming of protests and the slow burning fire not far off in the distance, we catch site of a familiar rail yard. In the background is Washington DC. Just past the entrance to the rail yard, the refrigerated rail car. The agents have been operating out of DC the whole time.

Inside the men make their final preparations. They rig the train car with timed mines. The senior Intel officer bows, “it’s time.” They swiftly gather laptops and anything with traceable evidence and flee.

Guards spot them exiting this time, and a chase ensues. The dogs are let out ahead of them. The men reach the exit as the guards pull their weapons and aim down sights. Target locked. Finger on trigger. A massive sound.

Just as the guards approach the train car, it explodes killing them instantly! The agents continue on foot, with the dogs still in pursuit. Finally, the German Shepard takes down the slowest agent. The senior agent stops, turns to the dogs. He raises a handgun… instead of shooting the dogs, he shoots the agent in the head and continues. A black Mercedes sprinter van opens its doors for him. He jumps in. Smoldering wreckage in its wake.

The cockpit of a naval fighter jet. Several jets in tow in a V formation. Our pilot makes out the lead cruiser in the Sino naval command. “Got them in sight over.” The jets make a low altitude pass over the boats bow. Two hover in place.

Several Chinese officers cheer at its sight, ready for a fight, fists in air. The jets begin a broadcast. “You are entering US Waters, turn around now. You are entering US Waters, this can be construed as an act of war.” On the captains deck, the admiral smiles. He gives signal for the horns to be blared again. Then he gives another signal, “lock on target.”

In the situation room, things grow tense. His head of defense hangs up the phone. “That’s a no from France, a no from all of NATO actually. Even the U.K. says it will only cautiously watch the situation right now. Most cited your desire to defund NATO as reason.”

“What about Russia,” the president asks almost dumbfounded. “If our so called allies won’t help, let’s see if they will.”

“Also a no due to sanctions, we tried.” The president shrinks in his chair as the general tells him this. Perhaps the lowest blow of them all, his face can’t help but show incredible disappointment, heartache even.

“These are our allies!” The advisor is outraged. “This is why NATO is obsolete, they pay nothing and won’t come to our defense!”

A staffer enters. “We have word from the UN, almost the entire body is willing to take this up in special session and call for the resignation of the US President to ensure restoration of peace.”

“I don’t answer to the UN, I don’t answer to anyone!” The president is furious now. “Who is using my twitter? I will sue them for defamation and criminal hacking.”

“Sir, perhaps you will answer to us. Step aside or millions may needlessly die in conflict.” The president almost seems to not be listening. A phone rings, cutting through the tension. It is the emergency phone, he puts it on speaker.

“Sir, two of our naval planes were shot down. The pilots have been taken hostage.” The general slowly hangs up in disbelief and turns to his president.

“Do what is right for your country and resign, sir.”

“You’re all fired.” The president won’t back down, yet his voice seems weak if only for the first time. Nobody moves. “I said you’re fired. You’re fired!” He remains seated in his chair with his arms crossed, obstinent and determined like a child in the grocery store aisle who refuses to put the pop tarts back. He looks small, helpless. Even his advisor seems unsure of him now. Never has he seemed so weak in his life.

The advisor gets up. “Sir, let’s go.” The two exit the room. The five hours are up.

On the Chinese destroyer, the admiral is aware of the time as well. “No response. Set course for San Francisco.”

A Political Fiction (Part I)

The following is pure fiction intended for entertainment purposes only. It is not based on any empirical evidence or based upon any credible threat, foreign or domestic. 

PART I

A rail yard in an undisclosed location, two masked figures in black move decisively in the dusk toward a refrigerated train car. German Shepards bark in the distance, we catch first glimpse of a guard tower to the East. Flash lights appear beneath other cars, guards footsteps approaching fast. One masked figure tries to key into the rail car from outside. The keys remain red, the code is no good. The other man pushes him out of the way, tries another combination. It works, just as the German Shepard’s and guards round the corner – to a dead end.

Inside the train car is a state of the art computer terminal with servers and several monitors. Two Chinese men meet them. One, clearly senior in rank, steps forward and speaks in Mandarin, “did you bring it?” The man removes a brief case from a black backpack with a nervous nod.

Washington DC. A red carpet gala awaits this years new Congressional leadership. Media gathers, photographing and interviewing several politicians in line for the black tie event.

In an undisclosed location, the President lays out a choice of bold red ties before returning to his cellphone. He is distracted by several messages. He can’t help but begin to reply to them. A knock — a secret service officer enters.

“We depart on Marine One in ten minutes.” The president gives him a curt nod before returning to his phone.

The messages appear to come from Twitter, indicating that a password change has been requested. He pauses, when another message comes in.

“If you believe this message was sent in err, please reenter your old password and hit send.” The president pauses. A knock catches him off guard as he types in a series of characters and hits send. Two secret service agents enter this time.

“Sir we have reason to believe you may have received an unauthorized text message.”

“No only from Twitter. Everything is fine.”

“Sir, your phone is not secure we need –”

“You said I could continue to tweet. Everything is fine, I’ll turn the phone off. Is Marine One ready?”

The two men aren’t going to fight it any more. They hold the door for him.

Meanwhile, in the rail car… The two masked men have settled in before monitors. The brief case has been converted into an encrypted radio device. One of the senior men step in to use it.

In Mandarin, “Project Shaolin underway.”

At the other end of a radio, a naval officer hangs up the receiver. He gives order to sound the horn.

Beside them are several hundred naval vessels, including aircraft carriers. They all turn up their engines and begin to head in the same direction.

At the red carpet gala, the president exits his limo with several secret service agents building a wall around him ahead of gathering media. Lights flash as cameras capture the presidents arrival. Reporters throw questions at him from all angles.

“Mr. President, many say your ramping up in rhetoric with regards to China is inappropriate.”

“Look – we’re going to put America first. I really don’t care if the Chinese are offended. Next questions.”

A friendlier face catches his attention.

“How are you dear, you look terrific.”

“Oh thank you. Um, Mr. President, can you please explain a tweet sent by you exclaiming we will defend ourselves against any Chinese attacks?”

“I’m sorry can you read me this tweet?”

“‘China is weak. We will defend any attacks with the full force of our SUPERIOR military’ — what does this mean, has there been a threat of attack?”

The President grows pale, silent. His detail rushes him inside. The media erupt in pandemonium. “Mr. President!”

A situation room has been set up. Several military officers in uniform, and the presidents heavyset advisor in an ill fitting suit and crooked tie.

“When was this tweet sent?” A senior official asks.

“I never sent it.” The president is stoic, almost unfazed.

“Sir, it was time stamped fifteen minutes ago.” A military officer looks at the President. “We’ll need your phone sir.”

A staffer enters, hysterical. “We’re locked out, we can’t get into his account!”

Another military officer enters. “I have word from the pentagon. A large Chinese naval presence has been spotted 3000km off Hawaii. We sent a spy plane out. There’s close to 100 vessels, possibly 250,000 men.”

The advisor speaks up, “then bomb them. Why are we sending out spy planes when we should be sending out destroyers!?”

The officer retorts bluntly, “you have no experience to make that call. War with the Chinese is a loosing proposition — Mr. President?”

A long pause. “They got my twitter password. I thought the text was from Twitter.” The room goes silent. Several officers then look at one another. Finally, “scramble all available ships and blockade our borders.”

Read Part II

Stop Swimming With Sharks

In the annual Hollywood Reporter director round table, one of the points of conversation touched upon what everyone did before they got their industry break. The answers ranged from factory worker to landscaper and right up to their industry positions before being launched to fame. The one answer I really latched onto was Barry Jenkins response:

‘Oh, I want to be a filmmaker and this is my way,’ but I wasn’t really trying to be a filmmaker, you know? I was trying to be a development assistant. Realizing that about myself, I felt terrible.”

Barry Jenkins’ directed this years sensational drama MOONLIGHT. His rise to stardom couldn’t be any more atypical; he was raised in poverty in an overcrowded apartment in Miami. His real father died when he was 12. His mother was addicted to crack cocaine. In spite of this adversity, he went on to Florida State and became interested in film. Finally, he had an epiphany realizing that the road he was on – development assistant – wasn’t for him. He was more ambitious than that, he wanted to direct. He had an innate ability to tell harrowing stories and it dawned on him that in order to showcase his abilities he needed to move beyond the industry desk job.

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I titled this post stop swimming with sharks because I think it’s time someone challenge the notion that in order to achieve our industry goals we must settle for the traditional Hollywood route (agency to production company to whatever beyond). It’s time to challenge the notion that to get anyone to consider you or take you seriously you must have CAA or WME on your resume. It’s time to stop being a lemming for this lie.

You want respect in this industry? Here’s a start, how about you stop responding to job posts noting “must have thick skin or do not apply.” Why? Why should anyone who respects themselves apply to a position where they’re guaranteed to be treated with all the respect of a frat pledge? Why endure verbal abuse and a complete lack of respect for you, your work and your time? If you truly have thick skin you won’t take shit from anybody where it is not warranted. If you let people walk on you they’ll never stop walking all over you. Stand up for yourself. When you’re wrong, own it. But damn it, stand up for yourself. Don’t ever kiss someone’s ass who doesn’t deserve it.

What’s worse is so many of these positions are either unpaid or poorly paid with ridiculous hours and no overtime (illegal). This includes positions at the major agencies. Yet in order to get into the frat of Hollywood you must first pledge this abuse.

Uh wrong. Just so wrong.

Look up one of the directors or writers you’ve admired. Chances are none of them took this route. Why? Because they had too much self respect to devalue themselves before people who would ridicule them and treat them like shit – and who were likely half as smart. They knew they were intelligent and took any job they could in order to invest in their creative passions. You enter the cesspit aforementioned and you’ll be so mentally drained you’ll be lucky you ever write or direct something again. That is until you move on – like Jenkins.

Now that’s not to say all bosses or companies are like that but many are. Many, many, many are. That’s because they once endured that abuse so now they think they can give it. This is a toxic cycle that will never end until people stop accepting this behavior as normal. Literally just quit or find a better placement. I have almost entirely avoided working with Sharks and jerks because I am selective in where I will work and have thus far avoided the agency grind.

You are in my opinion ten times better off finding a group of filmmakers who want to go out and make things. Make something and get it into a festival. Put yourself out there. Finance your passion any way you can. That’s something I’m doing now and I’ve found I have expanded my network considerably versus fetching coffee and making copies.

Another alternative of the agency route, production. Granted you’ll endure some abuse here too, but you’ll transcend it faster and move up quicker if you work hard and are reliable. There’s more camaraderie and appreciation for what you do on set. It’s also easier to meet people higher up. Of those I know who are assistants now, many started as PAs, became office PAs and are now producer and director assistants. I include myself in this; I worked Production and events at Tribeca and then went on to be a development assistant and an academy award nominated producers’ assistant in New York. I’d still be there now if I could afford to live on independent film wages, but there’s a lot of famine to the feast in this industry so it’s understandable it doesn’t always work out.

Point is there are so many paths to what you want in this business. Stop settling for abuse. Stop fearing what you say on Twitter will cost you opportunities- definitely don’t be an asshole or act nuts – but don’t censor yourself too much either. I didn’t get attention from those in the business by being a bland as fuck writer who does nothing but talk the business and play diplomat by complementing people. I call bull shit when I see it. And I’m calling bull shit right now. Go be you and stop accepting abuse as normal – it’s not.

Twitter Trash

Our president is baited into petty argument by an actress, sitting on a gold toilet bowl shouting accusations of elitism on Twitter. He is mass-producing Twitter trash.

He’s addicted to the adulation it provides him; the instantaneous gratification of likes and re-tweets. He has tanked stock prices and even triggered talks of a pending trade war using the medium to blast his opponents and anyone who doesn’t share his world view, or simply praise him as a god.

While Trump remains the best example of infantile word vomit on Twitter, the trash on Twitter doesn’t stop with him. In fact, most of us are guilty of saying things on the medium we would certainly never say in person.

Twitter is all real-time. There is no edit button. It is a live-wire, where what you blast out in 140 characters or less is what stays in its original form unless deleted. As things move quickly, as your feelings build, the urge to just spit something out is all too tempting. Twitter is often our subconscious made conscious, and that can be a dangerous thing.

“What is wrong with you, calling people assholes?” I could practically hear him shouting at me from thousands of miles away across the Atlantic.

I was upset that after months, I still hadn’t heard from him regarding my latest spec effort. It was a second chance from him, to try again with another script. It was a script he explicitly told me to write, and told me to send to him. After months had gone by, he started to drop hints that I wasn’t going to hear anything. Most notably this hint was conveyed via a New York Times article about Louis C.K.  discussing the dreaded “no by way of silence.” I tweeted a generic remark about the way people in the industry play games, including the word asshole. It wasn’t directly aimed at him, but he and I both know what the catalyst for the tweet was: him.

What followed was a difficult and painful DM conversation that lasted over an hour. I like to think that it ended on a good note. But if there is one thing I could point to as reason for him to never hire me in any capacity, it is that tweet. He is a very patient man who has given me a lot of opportunity, and has even read my posts as recently as last Fall. He is most certainly NOT an asshole. When I re-read that DM encounter, I know I cannot ever expect to hear from him ever again.

Impulsivity. That’s what it really comes down to. It is all too easy to just blast something into cyber space without thinking about the way people will react to it. I’d never call him an asshole to his face, or even complain to him in any way –  I was then and remain today nothing but grateful to him and his time.

Yet on Twitter, it is too easy to complain. It’s too easy to let your emotions be worn on your sleeve. It is cathartic to just get whatever is bothering you off your chest, but some things are better left unsaid. I was hurt and unfamiliar with the industry etiquette of rejection at the time and made a stupid mistake I will probably regret the rest of my life.

Trump I imagine, in all his narcissism, is almost certainly not thinking about the way he comes across. That is not only a danger to him personally, it is a national security threat as well — a danger to us all.

The difference is whether you choose to admit your mistakes. Trump has never once apologized for his remarks on Twitter. I don’t think I have ever stopped apologizing to Paris in hopes of being forgiven. I am so so so eternally sorry.

With several years industry experience under my belt since that conversation, as well as personal growth and maturity with age – I look back on my trash tweets at 23, 24 with great embarrassment. I’m not sure Trump has any such remorse.

There are no do-overs. There is no edit button. Instead of tweeting it out, save it as draft and review it in a few hours, or even days. Outside your emotional state at the time of writing, is it still appropriate to post? Probably not. Delete it as a draft, not as a public tweet.

Twitter trash is toxic. Don’t be an asshole. Pass it along.

 

 

The Regressive Left

Progressives hate Trump so much, many are willing to believe almost anything negative written or said about him. As these unsubstantiated rumors wind up in the mainstream press, it does the anti-Trump movement and progressive movement beyond it serious lasting damage.

Case in point a popular rumor grasped on to just these past few days: Blackstone Group is wholly owned by Russian billionaires, and Trump owes them a significant sum of money. Ergo, because Trump owes Russians money via the Blackstone Group, Russia had a vested interest in hacking Trump’s rivals.

Except, Blackstone Group isn’t owned by Russian billionaires, nor are there any Russians in ownership positions. In fact, Blackstone Group doesn’t even have a major Russian portfolio due to risks associated with the country. The firm pulled out of all Russian investments in September 2014, a full year before Trump even announced his candidacy. While Trump does have a relationship with Blackstone, so do most New Yorkers in the real estate sector. Blackstone has the largest portfolio of New York real estate on record.

So how did such an obviously false rumor wind up in Mediaite and other major left-leaning blogs and opinion commentator appearances? It seems to have been spammed all over the Internet first.

A quick google search of the exact phrase “Blackstone wholly owned by Russian billionaires” reveals approximately three pages of results! Possibly more, but I figured three pages of the exact same 500+ word comment were enough evidence to prove my theory of comment spam. In fact, the same comment appears on numerous media sites’ comment sections – from Variety to MSNBC. Most notably, a top comment on Donald Trump’s official Facebook page.

You can see the Facebook comment here: img_6085

It is so long and rambling a comment, a single screen shot could not capture it all. I am not sure who started this comment, as all are posted within a short time frame of one another. It could be human, or bot. It’s possible that it is the same person behind the spam, or just guilable people passing along the rumor. What is clear is that it is a completely unsubstantiated rumor not supported by any facts.

Since the fallout of Russian meddling in our election process, progressives have lost their ability to reason. Many trusted media outlets’ opinion sections (and even beyond editorials) are beginning to read like a rant from Alex Jones. Jones, a notable conservative conspiracy theorist, is well known for his emotional tirades and nonsensical rants on his website and numerous documentaries. He is so passionate about his beliefs that he will print and say almost anything with little to no peer reviewed research or legitimate sources provided. Progressives have long criticized him and eventually sought to ignore him altogether since he clearly lacked any credibility.

Now progressives are engaging in the same behavior. They will print or say almost anything that is negative about Trump. Progressives are so worried about Donald Trump, they will stop at nothing to undermine him. They have lost all reasoning ability – reposting Facebook comments as political theory. There is a sense of hysteria on the Left right now and much like the hysteria of Alex Jones, it has the ability to seriously undermine credibility.

Donald Trump is a very flawed man and an even more seriously flawed politician. It is not hard to act within the bounds of professionalism and journalistic integrity when criticizing this man and his dangerous incoming administration. Lets not stoop to the level of Alex Jones and the numerous opinionated fake news propaganda pieces that helped to elect Trump. Someone has to be the adult in the room, and right now there doesn’t appear to be one.

Film Twitter Credits

 

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Ever watch a movie or read the credits and notice no less than a dozen producers credited on the film? It happens all the time, and more often than not those reading the credits have no idea who was the “producing producer,” you know the guy or gal who made the project happen from development to the moment you watch the movie on screen. This upset a lot of folks who put in hard work only to wind up squeezed into a credits roll with a bunch of people who may have done as little as write a check. In 2012 the PGA sought to remedy this with a special designation – the producers mark. The guild set a list of requirements so that the “producing producers” would have a PGA designation after their name in the credits, like “PRODUCERS NAME, pga.” So now with the producers mark, suddenly everyone would know which folks are the real players and who just cut the check etc.

On Twitter there are no such designations. In fact there may not even be a credit list. Yet young filmmakers put in their bio “producer” “screenwriter” or any number of above the line titles with no accountability all the time. This post is about why you need to stop this or just never do it in the first place.

Saying you’re a producer on twitter with a single small indie under your belt and no theatrical release is in my and many other’s eyes extremely unprofessional. Unlike those folks dog-piling behind those with a producers mark, you’re likely not making any money as a “producer” nor do you likely have a distribution deal or any viable way of making money on your film.

But you produced a film, you may say. That’s a very low bar to set. Literally thousands of films are made every year, but few ever see a theatrical release. Making a small film released direct to video does not qualify you as a producer. Merely having done something – the task of a producer – does not make you a producer. It does not qualify you as a producer any more than drawing a doodle in a note book qualifies someone as an artist.

Ok but you still might introduce yourself as such. So why is this unprofessional? Simply because relatively speaking, it looks like bullshit. You’re probably a small timer – like me. You not only lack PGA affiliation, you lack a list of **theatrical** credits to call yourself a producer. So when someone browses your twitter – maybe even a producer looking to hire you as an assistant – you look like an idiot. You throw up red flags because you look like the person who will exaggerate their station in life, and frankly Hollywood has enough of these people.

What distinguishes a producer, writer or any other above line title is theatrical credits — not dubious IMDb credits — a film that was actually released, aka produced credits. Something people could go and see in theaters – no matter how small the release.

So when is it acceptable to put above the line titles in your bio? Apart from produced credits, there are a few acceptable instances:

1. Promoting your work. Perhaps you want to draw attention to something you recently did, “director of FILM NAME” is fine. I think this only works when you’re actively promoting a film in release or are trying to raise awareness. Also, I would never put “producer of FILM NAME” unless it was a financial or festival success. After it’s been out and failed to gain traction, I would just leave it off the bio altogether in all cases. Nobody cares that you made a film no one heard of.

2. Writer v working writer v screenwriter. What’s the difference? Working writer is a good way to differentiate yourself from the legion of folks in the film twitter community who call themselves writers. It implies your day job is writing. Screenwriter in my opinion is also a professional designation and unless you have produced credits, optioned properties, i.e you write for the screen in a professional sense, I would not include that in a bio. I personally see the value of having writer in my bio, because I do write. For networking purposes it is important to introduce myself as such but I would never introduce myself as a screenwriter even though my primary medium is script writing. That’s because once you do so the next logical question is “what have you written” and unless you can reply with produced credits or optioned scripts, it doesn’t look good. Writer allows you to discuss your medium, genre and what your goals are in a professional sense without giving the impression you already made it.

3. Finally, actor or comedian. Actors/comedians need to put themselves out there in a different way. From headshots to reels, I think it’s fine to include these titles in your bio because you’re actively recruiting interest in yourself for networking purposes. I would still be cautious of adding dubious credits or unknown projects to your bio. Personally I’d rather see a cleverly written bio than “actor in PROJECT” every time. It also helps if you have reels or things to link to, otherwise you too may look like little more than an aspirant.

I think the key in all this is that perception is reality. You can really cost yourself reputation points trying to make yourself look more professional than you are. In an industry full of bullshiters, it’s quite easy to spot bullshit. Don’t look like the person who takes themselves too seriously, adding unearned credits to their bio. Be the person people want to work with. Tell a joke, let your personality shine in your bio. Don’t be another kid with “director/screenwriter” and a link to their Vimeo, they’re a dime a dozen and the key to this business is sticking out.

Blue Zones

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Concept Image of Google Dome via Google

Blue Zone is defined as an area of the world where sociologists have concluded that people have a statistically higher chance to lead a longer life. When applied to discussions of future society, it means those with means and those without it. When automation leads to masse unemployment and historic wealth inequality, living in a blue zone could literally mean the difference between life and death.

A few months back, I discussed the pitfalls of various futurist visions, namely their inability to foresee problems — or more likely that they just don’t care. The post was titled Trickle Down Tech, a play on words inspired by trickle down economics.  In both cases, wealthy folks promise average working people that if they wait a little longer the profits, or technological innovation will increase their quality of life.

This promise of better quality of life is a faulty promise. Research continues to show warning signs about AI, and predicts that by 2025, a third of our jobs will be automated. By 2050, some researchers theorize the majority of our current workforce could be out of work. While many in Silicon Valley, like Google’s Ray Kurzweil, assure us AI will also create new jobs — this time is different than the rest of history.

It is smart for Silicon Valley elites to not ring the alarm bell. It would lead to revolt, and the potential to have their VC cut off, or have their inventions be subject to preventative regulations. These people are in it to make a profit and to test the limits of technology because they can.

Meanwhile within their circles, the Technorati have already begun to talk about future blue zones and how to prepare now for the coming societal unrest.

“They already know millions will suffer…the population of earth which is overpopulated will have to decline…it is a matter of resources, even if we can 3d print them, there is only so much space on earth.” This is what a friend of mine currently studying advanced artificial intelligence at a major west coast research institution told me. He had attended  a retreat with his peers, the term “blue zones” actually came up. All theorized that because of their jobs within the tech community, they would have the requisite skills to live within one of the planned blue zone communities — perhaps like the concept of Google Dome as pictured above.

In fact, while it isn’t revealed to the public as a blue zone, those familiar with the project have confessed to me that Google Dome is an early concept of a blue zone, similar to Peter Thiel’s proposed Sea Steading colony. Many tech companies know that history will repeat itself — when they say “let them eat cake,” people will be ready with pitchforks to storm the Bastille!

Only this isn’t a castle prison in 18th Century France, it is far more secure than that. These mini-Elysiums will have all the technology, resources and clean energy residents could possibly need. The dome would be entirely self sufficient. Most importantly it would be impervious to attack by the commoners.

Silicon Valley has given us a lot of great things — but what stuck out to me during the conversation with my Technorati friend was that in his industry, all know eventually many will suffer. A lot of folks in the tech community have grown almost aloof to this fact. They see it merely as a necessary moment in history for human evolution. They have developed almost a callousness to it. Eventually the course will correct itself, but not at their expense — but at the expense of the masses — so who gives a fuck?

It is time to take the threat of automation very seriously. Amazon just launched Amazon Go, a grocery store with no human employees. It won’t stop at retail, it will eventually bleed into technical and white collar jobs like law, finance and accounting too! It’s time to get government and labor unions involved. It is time to take the threat of mass unemployment seriously. Universal Basic Income isn’t the answer, because whatever money you get the Techonorati will have much, much more. The answer is fighting this before it is too late. Otherwise, it will be up to whether you can save enough to get into a blue zone. Most of us won’t get there, we’ll be stuck in the desert with no water like Mad Max.

What is Next for Gareth Edwards?

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Why has nobody been asking Gareth Edwards about his ‘Robot Star Wars’ original Sci-Fi film?

From recent Rogue One press conferences to a Twitter Q&A, the “what’s next for Gareth Edwards” is a question that hasn’t gotten much if any play in the press.

Gareth Edwards rose to prominence with his original science fiction thriller, Monsters in 2010. It was widely reported at the time to carry a $500,000 budget, and Edwards, a former VFX artist, was reported to have done all the special effects on his laptop.

That effort got the attention of Wanted producing-team Timur Bekmambetov and Jim Lemley. In 2010 fresh off the success of Wanted, it was revealed that they would be producing Edward’s next directorial/writing effort then titled Forever. However the project wound up on hold as Edwards went on to direct Godzilla.

The film has been described as ‘a robot Star Wars,’ a galactic adventure in which a young human child sought the origins of humanity in a world devoid of it. Producer Timur Bekmembetov in a recent interview this year (April, 2016) described the project as “a warm story” and expressed his desire to still make it. At the time, Gareth was still attached to direct the sequel to Godzilla 2.

In May 2016, Gareth dropped out of Godzilla 2 citing his desire to take a break from Blockbuster cinema and focus on smaller projects. Many journalists at the time speculated he might return to Forever, which is reported to carry a budget in the $35 million range. It was also alleged that Venom scribe Dante Harper had written a draft with Edwards, who also shot test footage for the film.

Since then, there has been almost no word on the project. The title is only available on IMDbPro, the paid subscription version of IMDb and it is not visible on the free site. A quick glance at the professional page reveals the project was again updated to script status on October 17, 2016. Of course the site is notorious for misinformation and it is unknown without verification from the filmmakers and producers if that is even the case.

What is clear is that despite it being the only other project in development on Edward’s page, nobody has seemed to ask him during the Rogue One promo “what’s next?” It is a question I and many others would like to see answered.

 

 

 

 

 

Bekmambetov and Lemley are represented by Mike Simpson (WME)
Edwards is represented by the Curtis Brown Agency (London) 

Turn Off Autopilot

Our cultures intellectual laziness is just as responsible for the top-40, remake, rip off culture as is the election of Donald Trump.

People don’t care that you voted for Trump as an anti-establishment message. Nor does the Republican Party. You still voted for a racist in spite of that. Hollywood doesn’t care that you just wanted to check their crappy superhero films like SUICIDE SQUAD out. You still voted with your dollars for them to continue to put in little effort for maximum reward.

We can no longer just expect to find good candidates, films or music simply by what the big corporate political and cultural entities push. We must now resort to doing our homework. It’s true that we must be the change we want to see. We must build a progressive movement locally from the ground up to get a seat at the DC table. We must financially support & promote independent films and films of cultural and aesthetic import (especially films by underrepresented creators). We must support local music and buy their products.

CNN, Warner Brothers and their various record labels aren’t going to do their part unless you do yours. Nor are their rivals. Even then the corporate 1% will continue with the status quo. Why? Because the model of late stage capitalism punishes risk. It rewards consolidation, vertical integration and monopoly. It rewards laziness and cookie cutter formulas. It is not interested in saying anything other than “buy our product in every category and then buy more.”

If you don’t like this then it is up to you to stop financially supporting it. It is up to you to research the products you buy. It is up to you to recognize native advertisements that aren’t actually sincere recommendations. It is up to you to rebuke corporate takeovers and mergers by calling your congressperson. It is up to you to be informed as a consumer but also in life.

Our institutions are crumbling to greed and late stage capitalist urges. I have no hope for them, but I do have hope that we can build anew from the ground up but only if we first exercise good judgment and sound thinking. It’s time to turn off autopilot.

For Profit ‘Facts’

Former president Jimmy Carter once said “the government is only as good as its people.” A government can also be as bad as its people — or only as dumb as the idiots who elect it to power.

Regardless of your opinion on Donald Trump, one thing is clear: independent fact checkers noted that what he said on record is either a flat out lie or half truth 71% of the time. Politifact also noted in its analysis that almost 50% of what he says are considered to be outright lies. On top of that, there are numerous instances of Trump denying having said something in spite of video evidence to the contrary. The man bold-face lies so often and so frequently that holding him accountable has proven impossible; to his supporters even irrelevant.

The problem with America is that in an endless pursuit of profit, we have outsourced facts to those who sought to make them subjective. Instead of hiring and patronizing experts to inform us on various matters, we have flocked to echo chambers and fake news purveyors who have a vested interest in lying to achieve a certain outcome.

Facebook played a huge role in misinformation this past election cycle. As it sought to get into the news business, it never employed a filter to root out fake stories or misleading information. A site like The Converative Tribune held just as much weight as The New York Times. Whereas the Timea employs vigorous standards in terms of its story research and editing practices, politically biased sites like the Tribune and its numerous Leftist equivalents do not. Everything is editorialized on those sites in order to achieve virality. Even the facts come second to virality in order to maximize profit in ad revenue. The more outrageous and ridiculous the more likely the story would trend; and also more likely that it would be false.

Just this past week on his show, John Oliver noted this trend of misinformation on Facebook and found that 38% of stories on conservative leaning Facebook pages are outright false, along with 19% of stories on left-leaning pages. Just today the BBC interviewed an editor at a fake news site that used Facebook to make its stories go viral. He told the BBC “people read a headline and then don’t even bother to check the content before they share it.” That’s alarming when studies also suggest that just under half of all Americans get their news from Facebook!

While Facebook and Google now tell the mainstream press they plan to crack down on biased and fake news sites that don’t employ good practices, it’s too late. We already elected a man who lies 71% of the time. Your conservative aunt and uncles, like mine, have already been radicalized by lies on Facebook. The sites may shut down, but they already made their millions in ad revenue.

What’s worse is that legitimate news sites have tried to compete with them using similar headline tactics, like entertainment trade Variety with the headline “John Oliver Encourages Violence Against Trump.” It doesn’t matter that it simply isn’t true, and is a very unethical play on words, millions reading it who are partial to Trump will believe he did because as the fake-news editor above noted “people read a headline and don’t even bother to check the content…” The Hill today employed a similar tactic, suggesting that “Half of Trump Protestors in Oregon Didn’t Vote.” Despite the low sample size and poor research methodology, millions will read this as truth. The source shows that less than 25% of a 112-person sample size actually didn’t vote. People don’t check the source! The Hill got its clicks and Trump supporters to share – job done, facts be damned!

America has become a fact-free society. It’s perfectly fine for us to disagree on what direction to take our country in, but we still need to accept the facts. How do you begin to discuss solutions to climate change when 50% of our population refuses to even believe climate change is real? How do you debunk fake stories and inaccurate Facebook memes when conservative relatives and friends say “Snopes, ProPublica & Politifact have a liberal bias”?

Basically anything which contradicts their worldview is a liberal bias. They would rather hold conservative pundits like the abhorrent White Nationalist from Breitbart, Steven Bannon (now a White House advisor), in higher regard than 99% of climate scientists and trained journalists. It’s time to support good journalism, subscribe to the NY Times or Washington Post. Donate to Pro Publica (a non-profit fact checker of the press). Report bad news pages on Facebook and don’t interact with garbage posts on the site. Their algorithm mainly pushes things interacted with — don’t help trash to trend.

We may be a fact-free society right now, but it doesn’t have to be this way. It’s up to us to make sure our government, our press and our entertainment is as good as its people. Right now, the people are failing in their responsibility.