The Campus Copy Center is Closed Indefinitely

It was my pleasure to have this piece, The Campus Copy Center is Closed Indefinitely, published by McSweeney's Internet Tendency.

I hope you enjoy it.

John August's Highland and The Kindle are friends

I wrote awhile back about the challenge of getting a screenplay in PDF form to display readably on a Kindle.  At the time, I was tinkering with software to crop the PDFs.  Well, to hell with that.

Highland, a program developed by John August's team, converts scripts from PDF or Final Draft into their plain text markup language for screenplays, Fountain.  I don't know exactly what that means, but I do know it it's the best solution I've found to get PDF screenplays onto my Kindle.

Once you drag the PDF into Highland, it will convert it into Fountain - recognizing all the screenplay elements.  Export as a Fountain file, then save as plain text.  From there, you can get the file onto your Kindle by e-mailing it to your Kindle address, upload using a program like Calibre, etc.

The file still won't look *exactly* like a screenplay on your Kindle.  Everything will be left justified.  But the line breaks will stay the same, character names will be capitalized... all in all, it will look like a screenplay.  And the text will be scaled appropriately for the Kindle screen, rather than the micro text that comes from trying to display an entire PDF page at once.

Highland is now a public Beta, and definitely worth checking out.  It's also worth keeping an eye on Fountain based development in general, which suggests deliverance from many of the square peg, round hole problems that arise with the traditional proprietary screenplay software.

UPDATE: John August referenced my post and challenged developers to create an even better way to get PDF scripts onto the Kindle.

The discussion which followed is interesting.  Several advocate using Screenplain to save a Fountain file as HTML.  I tried this myself and found that, while the Screenplain HTML looks great on my computer screen, once it hits the Kindle it's still got the usual quirks - everything left justified, etc.

80/35 Promo #2

Jam Band Guy and Indie Rock Chick are back in this second promo for the 80/35 Music Festival.

Eleven Bulls is now

After the warm reception for Shit People from Des Moines Say, I've been asked to produce more videos, including this recent promo for the 80/35 music festival.

As a result, I'm sort of relaunching my nascent production company, Eleven Bulls.  We now have a proper website, featuring logo designs (including the animated logo) by the very talented David Rogers of WR Design Lab.  A website and a logo?  Can't get more legit than that.  My talented team of collaborators and I are looking forward to more projects in the future.

I wrote more about why I initially formed the company and WHAT IT ALL MEANS in this earlier post.

8035 Lineup Clues Video

I was asked by the organizers of 80/35 to produce a video promo around the lineup announcements for this year's festival, and the first went up last night.  The video features clues to some of the bands who will be announced as part of the lineup on April 3.  Also: comedy!

After being up for just a few hours, the video's getting some great traffic and generating lots of speculation as to the lineup, especially on the 80/35 Facebook page.

Thanks to the talented actors and crew who rocked it.  We are currently planning a followup video leading up to the second lineup announcement.

People Love Our Shit

In the two days since we uploaded Shit People From Des Moines Say, we've had more than 50,000 views.  Given the local angle and the fact DSM proper has a population of only 200k, we're overwhelmed by the numbers.

We're also flattered the positive feedback.  For a YouTube video, there have been relatively few comments ordering us to hang ourselves or riddled with racial and gender slurs.  We really appreciate all the nice things people have said about the writing, performances and technical stuff.  This was a fun project, but we still tried to make it look great.

We're also grateful for the media folks who have featured our work.  We're told the video got some airplay on Murph and Andy's radio show, and Keith Murphy also posted it on his blog.  An article from Joe Lawler was briefly on the Register's homepage, before more sound news judgment prevailed.  Lastly, and most importantly, we were in The Juice.

Here it is again:

True/False 2012

I came into my fourth True/False Film Festival eager to see a film from a director I was introduced to a couple festivals back.  Mads Brügger is a truly Gonzo filmmaker.  Think of him like Sasha Baron Cohen with a sharper underlying social/political agenda.  In The Red Chapel, he travelled with two Koreans into North Korea under the guise of being a "performance troupe" to expose the insanity on the inside of that state.

For his new film, The Ambassador, the mad Dane goes through underground channels to get himself Liberian diplomatic credentials and travels to the lawless Central African Republic.  Striking the pose of a European Colonialist in riding boots and cigarette holder, he bribes government officials and buys blood diamonds.  It's equal parts hilarious and horrifying - often at the same moment.  At the Q&A following the screening, Brügger said The Ambassador may be the last film where he goes undercover and puts himself at risk.  I hope that's not true, but even if it is, he's already carved out a niche with his distinctive voice.

Another distinctive documentary voice, Morgan Spurlock, surprised by not appearing in his new film Comic Con, Episode IV: A Fan's Hope.  It was no surprise that the film was funny, fast-paced and engaging.  What impressed me the most was the emotional arc of the ensemble of characters Spurlock follows - illustrators seeking approval, a young "geek" looking to propose to the woman he met at the Con, a veteran comic dealer, and a talented amateur costume designer.

Whereas so many documentaries rely in part on the compelling nature of their subjects, or put demands on the audience with a more art-film aesthetic, Comic Con was a reminder of the engaging power of a more traditional narrative - even in documentary.

Another brilliantly structured film was the closing night's Searching for Sugar Man, about the mysterious Detroit musician Rodriguez, who recorded two critically acclaimed but commercially failed albums in the early '70s.  While ignored in the the US, the records became enormous hits in South Africa, on the order of Elvis or The Rolling Stones.  Rodriguez vanished, and stories swirled that he had killed himself on stage.  Filmmaker Malik Bendjelloul allows the story to unfold as a mystery, and the ending is truly revelatory.

While Sugar Man offers a glimpse into life in impoverished, increasingly abandoned Detroit, that's the sole focus of Detropia, from Jesus Camp Directors Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady.  It's a stark portrait of life inside a vanishing city.

Recurring images of Detroit are the kind of connections that inevitably pop up at a festival as well programmed as True/False.  Another striking contrast came from the timeshare billionaires trying to build the largest home in America in Queen of Versailles, and the prisoner in solitary imagining and designing his dream home in Herman's House.

As always happens, filmmaker after filmmaker praised the festival and vowed to come back even without a film to show - and many keep that promise.  I know of no other festival where the enthusiasm of being a film fan so unites directors and audience.  After four years as a festival attendee, it was nice to see I've been remembered in Vox Magazine… even if it was for kinda-sorta-accidentally blowing the cover on some Secret Screenings a few years ago.

For another take on this year's fest, check out fellow DSM resident Brianne Sanchez blog.  As a better journalist than I ever was, she even has the sense not to disclose the titles of Secret Screenings.

Shit People From Des Moines Say

About a month ago, Jill Haverkamp approached me with the idea to do a Des Moines riff on the Shit... Says meme.  We gathered a crack team of cast and crew, much like a montage from an '80s Action Movie, and this is what we came up with.

We had a blast making the video and are flattered at all the positive comments and social media whatnot today.

By way of Special Edition Bonus Content, here's a photo Jill took while we were shooting at Mars Cafe.  We had to retake this picture a dozen times until I got my hand up in exactly the "Director Pose" I was looking for, but I'm happy with how it turned out.

I'm grateful for everyone who lent their time and talents to put this together, but especially Dan Welk for shooting the thing and Andrew Roger for assembling the footage we threw at him into what you see.