Saturday, November 22, 2008

How to win when you fight City Hall...

Last Chance v1 from ccdna on Vimeo.

Karim Sahli, my neighbor and collaborator, created a great video in support of the Appeal against a huge development that's planned for our neigborhood. It's amazing how much he packed into this...and the motion graphics work is really wonderful!

I didn't have much to do with pictures here: voice over only!

And congrats to the Culver City DNA (Downtown Neighborhood Association)--we won the appeal!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Halloween 2008

Professionaly speaking, something like this falls under "Basic Research." Or maybe I'm just keeping my theatrical muscles limber.

And I think this also falls under "Story Tactics and Sons"

Good Samhain!

Good Samhain! (Halloween 2008, Culver City) from John Flynn on Vimeo.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Uh-Oh. It's Halloween. And they're back...

If you are anywhere near Culver City this Friday, Lafayette Place is the place to be: it looks like things are going to be completely out of hand this time around. We banished the boys and their abbatoir to the front yard (see last year's screamfest for an indication as to WHY), but these guys will be with us again...

Happy Hour starts around 6 both at our house and next least five houses on the street are going crazy this year. Worth a trip for the kids alone: we usually give out around 300 pieces candy!

Hey, look at all these videos on YouTube! Or these over here on Vimeo!

Monday, October 27, 2008

LA County Board of Supes

This is just a little piece I threw together this morning as a salute to some of the people I have been working with at LA County. Kara Taguchi, Debbie Innes-Gomberg and the "Navigators" at LA County DMH won a statewide award for their innovative work in connecting people with services is this all-too-large county. Hats off to them!

LA County DMH wins Challenge Awards 2008 from John Flynn on Vimeo.

There are little pieces of work by two of my collaborators here: Karim Sahli of logicalnot did the opening and closing title animations (but not the lower thirds...his lower thirds are MUCH more interesting), and Gerhard Guter (website here) created the little sntaches of music at the top and bottom of the segment. These two see a lot more daylight in the large series of videos we have created for LA County's client population...I haven't really posted those online for various reasons (mostly having to do with privacy rights), but some of that will eventually show up online.

I think this is also interesting because of the technology the Board of Supervisors have built for themselves in their hearing room. They are ofter called "The Little Kings." There are five of them, they lead a workforce of over 120,000 people, they are both legislative and executive, and they manage a government larger than all but a handful of U.S.'s a pretty staggering piece of political and financial real estate. Their hearing room is halfway to a TV studio. I think I counted 8 fixed/robotic cameras when I was there, and of course everything you see here is produced live and aired online and on KLCS.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Party Party ... One of the great Shoulda-Beens...

This might have been the most fun I ever had ALMOST creating a TV show...

Party Party Demo from John Flynn on Vimeo.

The wonderful and amazing Laurence Whiting and I got together a couple of years back to pitch a TV show we called Party Party!...but alas, I fear we were too naive. There wasn't enough greed, humiliation, and outright suffering in Party Party! for our show to survive the jungle that is Reality Television. As Martin Mull once opined, "I Haven't The Vegas Idea!"

Still, what a weekend: I brought the camera crew and Laurence brought the party crew. We all danced and drank and ate like kings...and of course I managed to slip in a wonderful-but-obscure Elvis Costello theme song, and the always-amazing Kosh gave us some appropriately pulsating titles.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Hey--hire THIS guy...

John Luker and I have worked together for many years on all sorts of docs: he is a great cameraman and an invaluable traveling companion. There is NO ONE I would rather be out in the middle of nowhere with as we struggle with 2000 pounds of camera and lighting equipment. And he seems to be able to talk himself into and out of all sorts of things.

He's been doing a lot of work related to Rocketdyne's Santa Susanna Field Lab and the mess there, and he's gotten sucked into Reality TV like so many people I know...but he takes pictures of everything.

This one is the late, great Ray Brown: I have a print of it up in my study. John and I shot video and photos at the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival for about 5 years...he taught me a hell of a lot about using the camera. His Flickr Photostream is amazing: pictures of music, nature, fire, name it.

What are you waiting for? Check it Out!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Keeping it Real in Mayberry, L.A.

Well, the scale tipped about a year ago, and our lovely little ol' Culver City has now become Hip. God help us all!

With the arrival of Rush Street, an otaku bar (RoyalT), Father's Office, Fraiche, and so on, the hordes of movie-going teens of two years ago have been replaced with hordes of what we used to call Yuppies. I don't know what to call them anymore: I guess the crowd is an amalgam of Foodies, Hipsters, Metrosexuals, and the like. Normally my kind of crowd: but en masse it's a bit much. Walking the dog on Sunday morning means walking around trash...and forget walking the dog downtown in the evening!

And with the incipient (2010) arrival of the Expo Line, we're supposed to go high density. So begins the pushback by those of us who bought here when it was deeply unfashionable, built up the town, and are now in danger of being paved over. In this political season, a little political video for my friends at the Downtown Neighborhood Association.

Scale Back 4043 Irving in Culver City from John Flynn on Vimeo.

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Happiest Race on Earth

Disneyland Half Marathon 2008 from John Flynn on Vimeo.

...unless you're running in a Snow White costume. Lucky for me, I left that second pair of ears at home. Still, a great race!

The only downside: it was so humid that I was just soaked by the end of it...and managed to fry two camera. Still hoping to get them back online...

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

What YouTube is good for...

Way back in the ancient days of Napster, a wonderful thing happened: all these obscure and terrific tracks you never thought you would hear again suddenly appeared. I never downloaded music that I could buy, but I did love the fact that I could find stuff that was rare or would never be re-released for any of a number of financial or legal reasons. I found a Bram Tchaikovsky track I hadn't heard since I was 17 that way!

Seems like YouTube is providing a similar service...Kosh sent this one 'round last week and I have to agree with his assessment: LORDY LORDY! To hell with the Three about these three?!?!

Ray, The Killer, and

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Playing DJ with a new Samson mic...

A couple of weeks ago I happened on this piece on the new Samson USB mic in the NY TIMES...a must-read every Thursday, if you ask me. It looked like just the thing for scratch narration. Turns out it's designed for aspiring podcasters and singer-songwriter types. I plugged it in and away I went. The voice quality is really good, but the ease-of-use factor is the BEST. Laying down some VO is a piece of cake.

I still haven't bothered to learn the software that came with it...I just recorded in to Audacity, cleaned up and exported the audio, and then cut the final piece in Vegas Movie Studio (which is what I use to cut video).

As a test I created a piece to send to Weekend America, a radio show I like to listen to on Saturdays when I am kicking around. They have this great segment called "Weekend Soundtrack" where people talk about what they listen to on the weekends. It always made me think about the Jam song, "Here Comes the Weekend," and that got me thinking about what I love listening to on the weekend.

The answer was obvious...

Listen to the Weekend Soundtrack piece I did: Powerpop

...and watch this space for more pieces in the future....

Sunday, July 27, 2008


A couple of years ago I had the pleasure of producing Julie Jensen's TWO-HEADED at the John Anson Ford...what a terrific play that was. And just last month I saw Julie in Salt Lake at my old theatrical home: The Salt Lake Acting Company. My dad and I caught the 30th anniversary edition of SATURDAY'S VOYEUR, a show that my brother and sister and I did a couple hundred performances of.

Anyways, Julie just published a book that lives up to its title: PLAYWRITING BRIEF AND BRILLIANT. It reminds me of the Ars Poetic of's to the point, it's funny, and it's full of practical advice. As I told Julie, if I were teaching at the moment I would fill a full shelf at the college bookstore with her book and put the REQUIRED label right in front of the stack. You can read it in an hour, and it is absolutely inspirational...and I think it's got things to say to playwrights and to screenwriters and storytellers of all sorts.

Julie hails from little Beaver, Utah...which is also the birthplace of my old pal David Howard (he dreamed up GALAXY QUEST), Butch Cassidy, and Philo T. Farnsworth. I wonder what it is about the water in that town...

Make Julie smile! Make yourself smile!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Influences? Yeah, I'll tell you about influences...

When I was 13, I could do this whole album from memory...
RIP, George. And Thanks.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Big Stroll

The Big Stroll 2008 - Walking Wilshire from John Flynn on Vimeo.

My father-in-law, Norm Palley, used to work for the Rand Corporation. Every spring he and several of his colleagues would take a Saturday to hike Wilshire Blvd. From the One Wilshire Building downtown, through Westlake, Koreatown, the Miracle Mile, Beverly Hills, Westwood, Brentwood and finally to Santa Monica (and yes, there is a Saint Monica waiting for you at the end of the road). We had a spectacular day...I'm sure we will repeat next year.

Life's Little Ironies Department: After all my admonitions from my allegedly knowledgeable position as a marathoner, I was the only one who got a blister. Sheesh! I have to say that it was VERY hard to JUST walk: starting around mile 9 or so I had an almost overwhelming compulsion to RUN. Maybe next year!

Like a lot of the running videos I have done, this was shot with an ordinary digital camera with about 15 minutes of video time available on the card. I used an X-Shot to get the fun stuff (up high, down low and 360), which has turned out to be sturdier than the Quick Pod I started with last year. The street-level stuff was flipped in Sony Vegas Studio. Hmmm...gotta get a bigger card.

There is a spectacular site that the LA Conservancy put together about Wilshire: check it out right here.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Descent - a short film about Joyce Dallal's new installation

My friend Joyce Dallal is part of the COLA 07-08 show at Barnsdall Art Park, and I decided to make a little film about her spectacular installation DESCENT.

Take a look...even better, go by Barnsdall before July 16 and see it in person!

Joyce Dallal DESCENT from John Flynn on Vimeo.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Free Mickey!

Click on the comic to see a full-sized image!

I think the irony of this comic strip for me is that Disney has planted its flag on most of the characters in a parade at Disneyland, and you'll see the Disney versions of the Little Mermaid, Snow White, etc. etc. It's strange to think that for most adults under 40 or so Winnie the Pooh is not the creature of those marvelous little drawings by E.H. Shepard in the A.A. Milne books. Instead he and his friends are all creatures of the Disney empire. They have been captured, branded, and set to work.

The endlessly extending copyrights mean that Mickey and his pals will never get the treatment that Disney and Company are extending to Alice in Wonderland or Sleeping Beauty or Mr. Toad name it!

Even imaginary property is subject to robber barons...

Monday, May 12, 2008

Bob Boyle. Production Designer extraordinaire

One of the most interesting interviews I ever had a chance to conduct was with Bob Boyle, another one of those genius PD's who appeared in MASTERS OF PRODUCTION.

The Academy gave him an honorary award...good on them! He's one of a kind...and STILL teaching!

Bob Boyle Production Designer from John Flynn on Vimeo.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Everybody into the Pool!

Best Curtain Call Ever -- Orpheus and Euridice from John Flynn on Vimeo.

Well, this has been a while in coming...I have been cutting a lot of video for the last two months (more on that in a week or so), but I have had this little piece on my desktop since February. It's the amazing finale to Orpheus.

It will explain itself...enjoy!

PS: Go Vimeo! Once again, much better quality than YouTube.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Pitch Me Smart

This is turning into a semi-annual tradition...a great 600-800 words on a topic of interest to people in production lifted from the local dog trainer. In this case, on-target advice from Turner's Michael, I really do try to hit all these points myself...

Turner Entertainment's Michael Wright tells how to pitch
Trying to sell a project idea to a network or a studio? To be successful, you have to be smart about it.


One of the weirdest memories from my time at CBS was a meeting I refer to as the guitar-guy pitch. I was a creative executive in the television movie department (remember when networks made TV movies?), and, in that capacity, I took pitch meetings in which producers, writers and so on tried to sell their ideas.

This pitch began normally enough, with the producers telling me about their project. Then one of them opened a case he had brought, pulled out an enormous Martin guitar and proceeded to sing the rest of his story. I have no recollection of what they were pitching. Or singing. I do remember that I passed on the project.

The moral of the story is . . . well, there is no moral; this is Hollywood, after all. Rather, the observation I made was that gimmicks rarely work when pitching. I've had people come in with flowcharts, collages, recorded soundtracks, actors to read parts not yet written and mimes. Yes, mimes. None of it is necessary--or even helpful--because only one thing gets a project set up in this town if everyone is doing his or her job correctly: walking into the room with a pitch that makes sense for that buyer.

That sounds straightforward, yet the sheer number of pitching courses offered seems to belie that simple truth. If you've come with material appropriate to the network or studio you're pitching, and you have the talent to execute it (or have the right talent attached), you're ahead of the crowd. No performance art, special effects or b.s. should persuade an experienced buyer to choose something that is not, at its core, right for his or her audience.

That said, the first rule of successful pitching is to understand the buyer. We live in the era of the brand, when every network and studio has (or believes it has) a specific personality that is understood by its audience. You wouldn't pitch the same project to TNT (my own beloved drama network) that you'd pitch to my other beloved network, TBS (our "very funny" network). Yet I've had comedies pitched for TNT and epic dramas for TBS (granted, some of the epic dramas were unintentionally hilarious).

Similarly, you wouldn't want to take your dark, dystopian, toxic family tragedy to Disney any more than you'd pitch a zany comedy about nuns who enter a baking contest to the folks who produced "Saw." Successfully selling your project starts with knowing which studios and networks do what and why and targeting the appropriate home. Let them know you've done your research. It flatters the hell out of the buyer because they think you actually know their work. Or care enough to pretend. Either way, it's all good.

The second rule of pitching is to be brief and clear. Believe me, if you pitch longer than half an hour without being asked to elaborate, it's a pass. At some point, you should hear a form of "Tell me more" from the buyer. If you don't, and you're continuing on anyway, you are risking death by schedule (by going on so long, you've screwed up the exec's schedule and now he hates you).

The third rule of pitching (and, for the record, there is no rule book--this is Hollywood) is you must be able to back it up. You might walk in with the most center-of-the-target project of all time. But if you can't write, produce or otherwise execute the brilliant project you're pitching, you'd better hope that, right before your meeting, the buyer met with a brilliant writer or director who was looking for a project just like yours.

The truth is that ideas are a dime a dozen, and the real currency in Hollywood is the ability to write, direct, produce and/or create the great idea that 800 other guys already thought of. When your uncle is watching TV and gets mad and shouts, "I had that idea!," remind him, "Yeah, but you can't write." This is why the talent--and, with all due respect to myself and other creative executives, we are not the talent--is the heartbeat of our business. Talent is crucial to your pitch. If you are the talent, refer to rules No. 1 and 2 and proceed. If you are not the talent, find it, attach it to your project and have at it.

There's certainly more to it than this, but if you follow these basic rules, you'll be OK. Start your meeting by making it clear that you understand the buyer. Then set up the basic world of the pitch: the concept, the central character or characters and so on. From there, pitch--briefly--the basic story outline. Then move on to the "Here's why we can pull this off" part of your pitch: "Brad Pitt has decided he wants to star in a TV series, and this is the one!" Or, "Can you believe it? Quentin Tarantino has a series he wants to write and direct, so here you go!" If options like those are not available to you, a simple explanation of how and why the talent involved will be able to execute it will suffice.

One last thing. I once took a pitch that included attending a concert and having the show pitched to me from the stage as part of the performance. Seriously. I was invited to the concert by the performer, who was certain her current hit --a lovely ballad about lost love and misbehaving men--would make a wonderful television movie. I sat in my fantastic seat, enjoying the concert, when she turned to me during the instrumental break in the song and, in front of the whole audience, smiled broadly and said, "See, Michael? Wouldn't this be a terrific movie?" I bought the show.

So, OK, I fell for the gimmick. I broke my own rule.

But guess what: Rules are meant to be broken. In fact, we love people who break the rules. This, after all, is Hollywood.

Michael Wright is senior vice president in charge of Turner Entertainment Networks' Content Creation Group.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Mmmmm...PBWiki 2.0! Tastes Great!

I love doing video and my clients seem to like what I do for them. It's the most successful part of my work...but right behind it comes Wikis. People just can't get enough of them.

I've been using PBWiki for a couple of years now, and it's really taken off for me. I use it for government clients like LA County, and I use it for my friends like Tai Chi teacher Jennifer Hill and of course for my LA Leggers pals. I also use it for project tracking and project development. It's a great place to organize everything large and small...your most fleeting and tiny ideas all the way up to your next Major Motion Picture. Examples here are Top Secret...but I can say that it works very well for collaborations.

As a long-time user I was given a chance to Beta test 2.0 (now in general release), and it is deluxe. I've just begun to scratch the surface, but I know I'll be building more with PBWiki.

1099's, Unite!

Hats off to one of my unions (!) -- The Freelancers Union. They are starting a membership drive this month & in support I've added the button at left.

I think this group is filling a critical void in today's workplace: where else can the 1099er go for insurance, business and tax advice, networking...even advocacy?

Drop by the Freelancers Union Site to see what they are up to.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Inside the LA MARATHON 2008


OK, I am posting this with YouTube under protest...

...why? Because VIMEO has much better compression. Check out the same video here for a better time!

There's nothing like that feeling...congrats and thanks to all the amazing runners and Angelenos who turned out that day. What a terrific race! I got a little punchy going into Boyle Heights, but then I saw the view of downtown from the 6th Street's like that shot from the Wizard of Oz!

I shot this (and all the video here) using a simple Quickpod and my little Nikon. Next year, I'm going for a little more image stabilization. Or maybe I'll just shoot more stills. Either way, it's like the man said when he arrived in the city of Athens: "Nenikekamen!"

"We are victorious!"

Friday, March 07, 2008

It's Dick Sylbert's Hollywood...

...we just work in it!

Six years ago this month Richard Sylbert died of pancreatic cancer. He was amazing: one of the few true men of genius I ever had the pleasure to interview. His knowledge of story and of design was profound, and it gave us THE GRADUATE, CHINATOWN, THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE, ROSEMARY'S BABY, REDS, THE PAWNBROKER, and on and on and on.

I meant to put this out there before now: attention must be paid to this kind of skill. Here's a little peek into his genius through what is probably his most famous film: CHINATOWN. A short segment from MASTERS OF PRODUCTION, a doc I created for PBS a few years back.

I have two regrets about that doc: it isn't available for the many students out there who are struggling (as so many of us have) to understand the junction of story and design, and it's not out there to illustrate what people inside the movie business know:

It's Dick Sylbert's Hollywood, we just work in it.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

LBO Time Lapse: second night

Well, here's the fantastic ORPHEUS AND EURIDICE that LBO turned time lapse. You can even catch the pre-opera talk with Ricky & Andreas if you don't blink.

I did two others and will post one more in a day or so...after I get the footage of the Best Curtain Call EVER in order.

Wanna guess what we all did after the bows on closing night?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Orpheus and Euridice Tech...with life jackets!

We're coming down to the wire in Long Beach with one of the more interesting sets of challenges (technical and artistic) that I've seen in recent years: the LBO's production of Ricky Ian Gordon's ORPHEUS AND EURIDICE at the Belmont Shores Olympic Pool Complex.

That's Elizabeth Futral and Todd Palmer in the title roles...and in the water! The sound has turned out amazingly well, and tonight we'll get a look at lights and set. I was able to load in my video projections on Monday and things are looking good. The only problem (aside from the constant fear of water + electricity) is that much of the show has to be set up and struck every day. We've got three performances (Sunday-Monday-Tuesday 2/17-2/19) and three nights of tech and dress.

Elizabeth and Todd are both amazing artists and endlessly kind and pleasant in the face of 10,000 gallons of H2O...and I'm also having a great time working with Maestro Andreas Mtisek and designer Alan Muraoka (who got me into this). Links to press and video will follow in a couple of days, no doubt. Till then...More details here...

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Beyond YouTube... Tudou? Or: Notes from a Small Web

Recently I've been reading and researching Bill Bryson's work, and in my travels I came across some interesting video of him from a most unlikely location: Shanghai.
That is the home of Tudou, China's largest video sharing website. I saw an episode of his BBC series NOTES FROM A SMALL ISLAND (based on his wonderful book and unavailable on this side of the Pond).
My Chinese isn't what it ought to be, but I was able to figure out the design of Tudou well enough to find five more episodes posted by a Chinese fan of Bryson's. They are a little trucated, but well worth watching. Bryson's idiosyncratic tour is entertaining, and he himself is a fascinating product of Iowa roots and British soil. Dry, droll, and yet a man from the heartland.
Best of all for doc makers is the cinematography: the interviews are often shot at a distance with a lot of foreground: there's a fascinating combination of physical distance and conversational initimacy throughout...and some of it's just flat-out beautiful even as it's being streamed from half a world away.
Don't let the Chinese charaters bother you...just wait for a minute and the show will load...
Episodes: 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6

Monday, January 14, 2008

INNOCENT at the Smithsonian

Ken's play is going to DC...and the video's going too.
Just got the press release...looks like INNOCENT will be performed on Feb. are the details...
To mark the 66th anniversary of the signing of Executive Order 9066 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt which led to the incarceration of 120,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry during World War II, the Smithsonian APA program presents the critically acclaimed new play, Innocent When You Dream, by Ken Narasaki.

Fresh from its Los Angeles world premiere, the cast arrives intact to present a staged reading of their production, which was named a "Critic's Choice" by the Los Angeles Times and a "Pick of the Week" by LA Weekly, and won the 2006 Kumu Kahua Pacific Rim Playwriting Award.

A Nisei father lies in a hospital bed, only partly aware of his two adult children who have arrived at his bedside, unsure their father will survive. While the father returns to his interned past searching for a lost first love, his children bicker and argue, not quite ready to let their last parent go.

Want to buy a ticket?

Sunday, January 13, 2008

FFFFound It!

Thanks to my friend Karim over at Logicalnot for turning me on to, a really great place to wander around and a great place to get design ideas.

Users can upload their favorite images, but the really interesting thing is that you can "favorite" images which will then lead you to more images along the lines of what you're interested in. For some reason I kept stumbling on young Darth here...interesting image, no? It works on so many levels...

FFFFOUND's in private beta right now, but you can still poke around. BTW: the photo originally came from