In about 24 hours (maybe fewer), we’re going to release Entropy in a fashion that makes it readily available to anyone in the world with an Internet connection, but which instantaneously kills its chances of ever being released through traditional, properly-advertised channels, or of recovering any of the money I spent making it (which is nearly all of the money spent making it). It’ll almost certainly disqualify us from the four remaining festivals from which we’re still awaiting a decision – although based on our 2.7% acceptance rate at the festivals we have heard back from, the net result wouldn’t change even if we waited until the last of those answers are delivered in mid-September. And after the upcoming screening in San Francisco (at which we’ll probably play to 25 filled seats and 105 empty ones), it will likely never again be projected in a big dark room, or with that 5.1 sound mix we spent so much time on. For most of the seven years since I first identified the urge to make a film about a misanthropist in San Francisco, I have kept all expectations of financial success ridiculously low (which is to say, realistic), but I never really accepted the possibility that the film would receive such a short and undistinguished big-screen life, or that I would have to literally beg people to see it. Recently, the question came to me whether I would repeat the experience – the seven years of writing, scouting, casting, rehearsing, permitting locations, shooting, editing, and finishing; of reigning in spending on things like concerts, traveling or even a new car (since the one I’ve had for 13 years is, like all cars and ultimately all systems, breaking down); of essentially working two full-time film production jobs simultaneously, being paid for one and paying to do the other; of dreaming that all of this work would ultimately make it easier to make another movie – knowing that this was its outcome.
The answer came pretty quickly. I absolutely would.
There are times when the next movie feels increasingly further away, but no matter how dark things get, I remain – even after living with it almost non-stop for so long – extremely proud of Entropy as a movie. As someone who has very high creative aspirations as a filmmaker and an adventurous appetite as a viewer, I feel strongly that our movie offers a singular narrative and visual experience in service of provocative (if not entirely refined) ideas about the birth of morality and the end of existence. We set some fairly rigorous formal goals (particularly in the difference between the first and second halves of the film) that I think not only mostly succeeded in theory, but also translated to some incredible and transporting cinematic moments. Through a combination of skill, vision and fortune, we were able to maximize both digital and analog film formats, in a way that (should the film ever be more widely seen and considered) proves there is room in cinema for both of them. We have a KILLER original score. We not only feature a mesmerizing lead performance, and a dynamite performance by our key supporting character, but also consciously shunned sci-fi conventions by making the geniuses at the center of our film a pair of gay women – and while I completely accept that my own demographic as director will negate all enthusiasm over that fact for some people, I feel that the similarly inclusive nature in which we chose the collaborators who brought Nicole and Monica to life allowed us to do them full justice.
Those collaborators are the other reason why the experience of making Entropy has been so incredibly special. It’s difficult to imagine a better group of people with which to chase one’s dream – a perfect combination of my longest-running and most loving supporters, and my newest best friends for life. Even a summary glance at our BTS gallery affirms the beautiful, diverse, hard-working, and talented-beyond-belief team we had, but you have to watch the film to see how brilliantly they did the things that I asked them to do, particularly with such little money as I had to offer. The shoot schedule in the Bay Area should have literally killed them; I think there’s actually a Cube sequel in development about their experiences. I can only hope I get the chance to make another film with this group, with the proper resources.
Catalina, in particular, is the person who took me furthest (in terms of my education and growth as a filmmaker) in the course of making Entropy, but also with whom my collaboration has the most room to grow on the next one. There are so many things about our partnership that defy explanation: the fact that I located her via a random Google search of LA-based female cinematographers; that she wasn’t / isn’t already a heralded, superstar DP; that we were able to find a common wavelength so quickly and fluidly. There were times where we weren’t on the same page, but nowhere near as many as there should have been, considering how little time we had to prep this movie together; while she never sacrificed her bold convictions, she navigated those situations with incredible grace and positivity and resiliency. And in addition to having a dynamic eye for composition and remarkable intuition as an operator, she would literally do anything - contort herself into the front seat of a moving car, play chicken with other moving cars when she wasn't in one, dare a pot farmer to literally throw us off a rooftop (you get the idea) - to get the shot that she felt we needed. I’m not sure what this movie would look like without her, and without the amazing support team (especially Jean and Garrett) she brought on board…but I’m grateful that I’ll never know.
Following that thread…Nic is perhaps the person who will define Entropy – in my mind, and likely in the minds of everyone who watches it - for the rest of its life. From the moment she walked into our first casting meeting, her personality embodied everything Jen and I had imagined when we wrote the script, and the act of making the movie wouldn’t have been possible without her intense commitment and unbreakable belief in what it could be. But while those things allowed us to complete the movie, it simply wouldn’t work if she didn’t create an unforgettable human journey; in spite of a virtual absence of acting experience, she did exactly that - beautifully, fearlessly, and unforgettably commanding the screen in every frame she appears in (which was about 97% of them). As with Cata, the process that led her to this movie defies logic: Nic was only checking LA Casting notices in Spring 2014 as part of a school assignment that required her to seek an experience that would expand her boundaries of comfort. It remains astonishing that this badass even has boundaries of comfort, let alone that acting wasn’t firmly within them. Entropy literally wouldn’t exist without her.
I’ve spent a lot of time talking about the people who brought Entropy to life; now it’s time to single out the person who frequently kept it from falling apart. Chris is the type of person who commands instant respect and admiration from nearly everyone, each time they encounter him, so it’s natural that my expectations of him as a producer would be astronomical….and he blew them the fuck out of the water at every interval. He didn’t blink at a single crazy notion I threw at him – not the idea of casting our lead role in untraditional public meetings as opposed to the efficient confines of a casting room; not the idea of keeping entire storylines and characters off-screen; not the idea of shooting 13 locations per day in the traffic dystopia that is San Francisco; not the idea of shooting nearly a fifth of the runtime on film when we had barely (and unsuccessfully) attempted it previously, then destroying that film physically before putting it in the movie. His reaction to my every idea was “why”, and if I had an answer, then he found the path toward realizing it. I used to be in awe of the fact that he supervised post-production on gigantic tentpole films and has never – in the time I’ve known him – struggled to find work. Now I know that it’s because this – the management of difficult creative types and maximization and their resources, whatever the boundaries might be – fits him as snugly as that omnipresent Dodgers cap.
Lastly, I need to extend the most profound gratitude of my entire life to Jen. Jen is EVERYTHING that one should aspire to. Her creativity, curiosity and generosity are STAGGERING. She may be committed to deflating her own sails (as proven by her typically hilarious and self-deprecating bio), so the one thing you can’t rely on her for is to represent her own endless array of talents, but a quick census of the people who know her would yield miles of superlatives. She isn’t exactly kidding when she says that she isn’t interested in film production, and yet she somehow managed to devise the entire premise for this film, put together all of the assets that were needed to make it, and then gave it a hypnotic, transcendent aural identity. For me, ALL roads lead back to Jen, except the roads that predate her – those roads simply led to her.
It’s not hard for me to see why Entropy doesn’t really have a place on the festival circuit; it starts slowly, is often far-too-wordy (especially for a film doggedly committed to encircling its protagonist without ever explaining her origins) or not wordy enough (the many attempted visual metaphors for physics scenarios achieve varying degrees of success), contains several rough edges both technical (a soft focus here, a blown-out highlight there) and creative (the elision of faces in its first half is a choice I will always stand behind, and may even revisit in another film, but there are some scenes where its execution draws far too much attention to itself), and it wraps up in a deluge of ideological and sensory extremity that doesn’t exactly leave one in a comfortable place and ready to get in line for the next screening. Combine those limitations with the low profile of all of us who made it, and it becomes a challenge to figure out who its audience should be. Even the cinephile community – the group that should be equipped with the sensibility to appreciate a film whose primary inspirations are Pickpocket, Primer and Johnny Guitar - has (with a few notable and treasured exceptions) shown very little interest to date in finding a place for Entropy within a nonstop diet of new releases, festival catch-ups and repertory programming. Which is an unfortunately (but understandably) difficult dance card to crash without the precedence of positive reception from established channels – which, for films coming out of the ether, basically means festivals. Commence fixed groove.
I could quickly derail this essay with a digression to the effect of, while cinema is the greatest art form in terms of creative potential, it is the unequivocal fucking WORST in the sense of economics and its position in our culture...but let’s skip past that. For starters, this has already been covered much better in other places (Tarkovsky’s Sculpting In Time diagnoses the issue better than I ever could). Also, I’ll be goddamned for this to turn into a James Gray profile. Instead, I’d rather express my pride in the way that we – Jen, who designed this entire website, and Merne/Saiya/Dave, who designed the poster art and ran the social media feeds – ignored the film world shrugging at us and found a way to make it available to the world. Before our first screening (a private cast/crew/friends affair in August, when the film was newly finished and had barely scratched the surface of festival submission), I was already talking to Dave and Merne about how we could release it ourselves – not because I didn’t seek the attention of distributors (I absolutely did), but because I knew the odds of finding one were steep. I wanted to devise the film equivalent of a mix-tape in hip-hop – the way that artists like Frank Ocean and Chance the Rapper had circumvented the industry spaghetti strainer to build an audience when they had no other means (or in Chance's more recent case, to sustain an ethos). Further inspiration came a few weeks later, in the form of Joel Potrykus and the essay he wrote detailing the release plans for The Alchemist Cookbook. In commercial terms, Potrykus exists somewhere between the level I’m working at (which is in the dirt) and the equivalent level of those in the music industry (Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails, etc.) who have adopted the pay-what-you-want model, so it pretty quickly occurred to me that if The Alchemist Cookbook (which, like Potrykus' earlier Buzzard, is fucking excellent and deserves a wide audience) was available to people at no cost, then those should be the terms by which Entropy is available. Others have suggested a platform in which viewers have the option to give us money for watching it, but after two years of “owning a business” (since what I’m doing only simulates the actual meaning of that term), I’m at the point where I want to simplify the proceedings. It’s hard enough to get people to spend 98 minutes watching a movie (especially if they’re spending about that much time reading this fucking diatribe) without the implication that money needs to change hands. The bottom line is that I just want people to watch this one, and hope for enough positive attention that we can do it again.
By now, I’ve made several references to that Next One. Jen and I have only begun discussing it recently, and if I’m being honest, it feels daunting already. I’m not sure I have another one of these in me. Actually, that isn't true at all. I know I have another one in me – probably several more. What’s uncertain is whether I’ll ever have the chance to get them out.
If you were generous enough to watch the film, the only thing I can ask further is that you please make your feelings known. We’re hoping for as many viewers as possible to visit the Reviews section and share their thoughts. Also, if you have seen the film and can think of other people who might enjoy the film, please tell them to stop by here and check it out. I really don’t like to solicit unpaid labor (especially in something that falls within the abhorrent realm of advertising), but word of mouth is critical for a film like this to find its audience. In fact, it’s the only way that will happen.
Thank you forever for your time and attention.