texting.com

a blog by keith calder, a film producer

The Snoot Letter #13 – Lucky Number 13

I newslettered again! This time about sourdough, mailing lists, and bad apples.

Why shoelaces come untied when we walk?

I love everything about this academic paper on the roles of impact and inertia in the failure of a shoelace knot. In particular, I love this footnote:

The speed of the knot failure brings to mind a Hemingway line from The Sun Also Rises describing a character's descent into bankruptcy—which here we found to be an apropos description of knot failure—it happens ‘Two ways. Gradually, then suddenly.’

The Snoot Letter #12 – Personal Aesthetic

In which I discuss plague doctors, public domain, The Wild Bunch, and my personal aesthetic for film.

The Snoot Letter

I have resurrected my newsletter, and I'm back to publishing on a weekly schedule. You can read the latest issue here. I'm still trying to figure out how I will balance my twitter feed, this blog, and the newsletter. I suspect that the blog will become overflow for things that are a bit too long for twitter, but don't quite fit the tone or scale of the Snoot Letter.

I'll probably also do a blog post each time a new issue is published.

RIP Bill Withers

Bill Withers died today. One of the musical giants of my life. I grew to love him as a child, with my mother playing his music constantly in the car. Of all the artists she loved, he was the one immediately connected with and appreciated. At least that's how I remember it. Unlike Eagles, who I hated as a child, dismissing them as music for old people and even worse: country music, the genre I loathed for reasons I barely understood. Now I appreciate Eagles for their beautiful songs, and have found the niches of country that I can find myself within. But Bill Withers was love from first listen.

As a young adult at college, I brought Bill Withers with me. Probably pirated MP3s of his hits. Bill Withers and Marvin Gaye were my oldies. I still hadn't discovered Sam Cooke yet, but Bill was soul with vocal stylings that almost felt reachable. I could almost do that, at least in my head. The stretch of my range at karaoke. And by that, I mean the most karaoke of karaoke. Copying the stylings, but never the soul. Bill expressed his soul in a way that was direct; simple but powerful. His lyrics, melodies, and performance. It all felt easy, but carried the weight of the world.

In my late 20s, I saw Soul Power, the documentary about the all-star concert in Zaire that was paired with the iconic “Rumble in the Jungle” fight. The doc is full of amazing drama and performances, but nothing touched Bill Wither's rendition of “Hope She'll Be Happier.” This brought me to an exploration of all his live albums, and somehow they're even more soulful and powerful than the original studio recordings. The artists I most regret never seeing do a full live show: Prince, Sam Cooke, and Bill Withers.

So I'm sitting here at 40. Listening to Bill Withers sing “Lean On Me” on my record player. I have turned into my parents, and I'm fine with that. They had great taste in music! And being old is not so bad. Bill Withers is dead, but his music lives on. That is the only immortality available to us. Our work, our legacy, and the people we helped shape. And Bill shaped me, and I think helped shape the world, for the better.

A couple years ago, I started a Kickstarter for a project that I was calling the Snoot Zine. It was supposed to be a quarterly handmade 8-page zine. But I quickly got caught up in film production, and was never able to finish the project. I recently cancelled the project, and returned money to all of the backers. I also sent the the in-progress Snoot Zine, which contains some of my thoughts on the filmmaking process.

The original backers have had the zine for a few weeks now, so I thought I would also share the abandoned Snoot Zine with the rest of the world.

Click here to download a PDF of the abandoned Snoot Zine.

My Tarantino Movie Rankings As Of July 2019

I have seen or rewatched most of these movies in the last few years, excluding Jackie Brown and Kill Bill Vol 2, which I need to revisit. If I watched either of them today, I suspect they would move around on my list. But otherwise I’m pretty comfortable with the order, in terms of how the movies resonated with my personal taste. The top four are all masterpieces, as far as I’m concerned.

  1. Inglourious Basterds
  2. Pulp Fiction
  3. Kill Bill Vol. 1
  4. Reservoir Dogs
  5. Jackie Brown
  6. Hateful Eight
  7. Django Unchained
  8. Kill Bill Vol. 2
  9. Once Upon A Time In… Hollywood
  10. Death Proof

Favorite 2019 Releases The Farewell Fast Color John Wick 3 Long Shot Luce The Vast of Night

Favorite “New To Me” Movies Borg vs. McEnroe The Duellists Free Solo The Girl Who Leapt Through Time The Grapes of Wrath Happy Death Day The Housemaid (2010) In The Mood For Love Ju-On: The Grudge A Matter of Life and Death Minding the Gap One Cut of the Dead Paris, Texas The Secret of Kells A Silent Voice Wings of Desire

Favorite Rewatches Alien Beetlejuice Big Night Cutting Edge The Frighteners Moon Network Paris is Burning Possession (1981) Rounders Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse Wall Street

This article about mysterious Garfield phones appearing on the coast of Brittany contains two of my favorite pullquotes from a news article…

  • “Dismembered orange plastic cats and their electronic innards have plagued Finistère for years”

  • “In the meantime, both Ar Viltansou and local officials say they will continue to harvest Garfields from the coastline.”

One of my favorite mailing lists is Fred Wilson’s “A Venture Capitalist,” and I was really struck by this recent article about whether it’s better to back the team or the product, when evaluating investing in a startup company.

In the post, Fred makes the case that the three important factors are a mix of market, team, and product. The overall size of the market is important, because that determines the size of the opportunity. The founding team is important because they determine how the company is run, what its values are, and how decisions are made on how the product made. And the product is important because it’s the thing that actually has to appeal to consumers.

I think this analogy links very closely to how I tend to evaluate what movies to make. The product is the screenplay or the treatment or the pitch. The team are the writer, director, stars, and key department heads that will determine not only how the product develops, but also what the process will be like.

The market is a bit trickier. If a film already had distribution, the market is the moviegoing audience for this particular product and team. If a film doesn’t have distribution, then you also have to consider the market of what companies would distribute a movie like this. You have to plan for the eventual audience and the smaller audience of acquisition executives who decide what movies they want to buy and release.

But really all three of these things matter. The filmmakers, the movie, and the potential audience for that movie. If you get all three of those things right, then you drastically increase your opportunity for success. If you start getting any of those things wrong, and you’re going to have a very rough path ahead of you.

#filmmaking #filmbusiness