Friday, October 30, 2009

Join the "Bollywood Steps" Facebook Group

If you're on Facebook (this is a feed from my blog at, I'd like to invite you to join the group I created for my documentary, "Bollywood Steps." The success of an independent documentary like this depends a great deal on a "grassroots" campaign of sorts, and this group is a way of keeping all interested parties informed on an ongoing basis with all the various aspects of the production.

Facebook users can find the group at:


Thursday, October 29, 2009

"Milo" and the Future of Entertainment

A while back, I wrote in this blog about my enthusiasm for a new development in gaming technology called "Natal" (it's an add-on for XBOX), and in particular a game employing that technology involving a virtual boy named, "Milo" (or girl, you can choose your preference. In a recent commentary in the UK newpaper, The Guardian, "Milo" developer Peter Molyneux wrote more about this incredible technology, and revealed more details about the game. If you haven't seen Milo in action, take a look here at my original blog entry, then read Molyneux's additional comments below:

So what we've done is create a boy called Milo with hundreds of little muscles behind that face. We've created this boy, or a girl, you can choose a boy or a girl. This boy starts off when you first meet him, he's moved from the city to the countryside, he hasn't got any friends, he is starting school in two days' time and he sits there and looks out at you and he says "I need a friend, and you are going to be my imaginary friend." And everything that you do with Milo inspires and changes him, and you see the glory of him improving.

Milo will recognise shapes, but what is really happening here? The process of scanning [shapes shown to the screen] is really lovely, you just reach your arm up. You can also scan in 3D objects, for example if you are eating an apple you can give it to Milo and he will carry on eating it.

The online portion of our inspiration is that we are continuing to collect and improve his object recognition skills. This technology is something that is being worked on by Microsoft Research. With all the Milos that will be released we will be centralising their recognition of everything in the world.

I don't own a gaming system - but for this, I'll sign on! This is, I think, an entirely new genre of entertainment, separate and distinct from gaming as it now exists, and passive motion picture and television entertainment. It won't replace any of these forms, but it will allow us to be entertained in a way that really seemed firmly in the world of science fiction until very recently.

As a writer, I'm also fascinated by the challenge such a technology would offer. A novel, short story, or television writer create specific characters that interact in limited and pre-determined environments. Even a character in a game interacts only a superficial level. For those creating a character like "Milo," his reactions and interactions must not only seem realistic, but believable to an extent never possible. Since you will be conversing directly with the character in a natural, human manner, the character must respond likewise. In "Milo's" case, a shy child might not make easy eye contact at first, but will change attitude with familiarity.

I encourage everyone to read the entire article in The Guardian. I've said it before. As far as entertainment goes, this will change everything

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

"Bollywood Steps" Behind the Scenes

My production aide, Dave Guerrero, took this behind-the-scenes photo during production of "Bollywood Steps." This is why I like to use small, light cameras!

Monday, October 26, 2009

"Bollywood Steps" Quote

"You respect your family. You respect your parents.
You respect your dance."

Bollywood choreographer/dancer Yogen Bhagat, on lessons taught to his students, in my documentary, "Bollywood Steps"

Saturday, October 24, 2009

"Bollywood Steps" Focus: Yogen Bhagat

My documentary, "Bollywood Steps," is about the relationship between Yogen Bhagat, a Bollywood-trained choreographer and dance, now living in Los Angeles, with some of his students, a group of American -born Indian boys who are learning to connect with their heritage through Bollywood dance.

I wanted to offer a link to Yogen's site,, which details his career and his professional dance troupe. Yogen, a trained engineer, came to live in America several years ago after marrying producer/reporter Rasha Goel, a friend of mine. Starting his career all over again here in the USA, Yogen and Rasha have build both a dance studio and a professional dance troupe. His skills have been on display in a number of live venues including the Hollywood Bowl, and on a variety of television programs including Jay Leno, Ellen, and Melrose Place, to name just a few. Take a look at his site, and enjoy!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

"Bollywood Steps" On!

It looks like I'm finally going to get some quality time over the next few days as I move toward completion of my documentary, "Bollywood Steps." Balancing a project like this, which is self-produced, with my day-to-day responsibilities and other commitments is a challenge. As I've written before, I am at a stage which requires that I repeatedly review this hour-long program. I need to reach a point where the picture is "locked" (the visual portion of the documentary won't change), so that I can focus on audio, including music. To be honest, this is a part of the process that's particularly excruciating - I really don't like sitting in one place for hours on end! But I'll do it!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Things That Remind Me of People and Places

  1. Yoo-Hoo Chocolate Drink --> Jones Beach, New York (tasted great under the hot sun!)
  2. Black and White by Three Dog Night --> My childhood friend, Larry Gold (I have no idea why!)
  3. Cigars --> My dad
  4. Pipes --> My Uncle Lenny
  5. Jazz --> My Uncle Bernie
  6. Donkeys --> Rolling Hills Day Camp in New York, where I rode one.

Monday, October 12, 2009

An Extraordinary Man

I've had a very interesting correspondence over the last few days with people who worked in my father's department at 20th Century Fox in the years before he retired in 1987. My sisters and I have always thought of him as a very decent, caring man, but to hear the remembrances of these individuals was very special. For those interested, I just wanted to share a bit of their memories.

Maureen Pater wrote:

Your Dad had a true appreciation for all his employees. No matter the position or job duties we had, we always felt comforted by Sid Samuels. He would always say "hello" and "how is your day going"? There was never just a quick wave from your Dad. This man was a truly caring individual. We all were family in that department as well as a team. Rich, just a great experience for me that I will always treasure and sorely missed.
Gemma Ribeiro wrote:

Sid Samuels, a wonderful person to have worked for. I was blessed to have had him as a boss...Your father had the love for life...

Thursday, October 08, 2009

A "Bollywood Steps" Moment

Still moving ever closer to completion - this is the phase of post-production that is the most intricate and time-consuming- making final structural decisions and continuing to polish the entire program...which means reviewing the same hour over and over again...

Starbucks and the New York Times, 10/8/09, Valencia, Ca

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Telecommuting, Part Two

As if to underscore the advantages of working from my home office, I spend an hour and a half in my car on a commute that should have taken less than half an hour. With all of the growth in Los Angeles over the past decades and especially the last few years, leadership (both local and state) have proceeded with barely a nod to infrastructure improvement. Some of the most congested parts of the city are totally ignored, as far as transportation solutions.

  • The San Diego freeway, which runs from West Los Angeles to the San Fernando Valley, is considered one of the most congested routes in any American city. One would think that a train running along that route would be heavily used. It's never discussed.
  • Of course, the train needs to connect with the rest of the Metrorail system - but that system has also virtually ignored the west San Fernando Valley. A route comes out from downtown to the mid-valley, but to get to the West Valley, the city has constructed a busway along the old train route - a much less efficient (and slower) solution. On the other end of the route, in west Los Angeles, there isn't any existing route with which to connect (though there is talk about building a "railway to the sea" someday...
  • To be fair, the Los Angeles area has many more rail solutions that just fifteen years ago - but entire sections of the city are being ignored. With many members of the Los Angeles City Council having sold out huge sections of the area to over-development, the area is becoming virtually unlivable.
That's why I'm no longer a Los Angeles City resident. Unfortunately, I still need to work there.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Remember the Telecommuting Hype?

I've been working at home more lately - one of my primary production clients has scaled back operations (the City of Los Angeles!). As always, my work with Freshi Films is a mixture of field, office and what used to be called telecommuting. The remainder of my work is strictly in my home office. At the moment, that means completing my "Bollywood Steps" documentary, and expanding my networking base.

I have a love-hate relationship with working at home. I find it incredibly productive - I can get much more accomplished without the distraction of an office environment, particularly in the case of editing, but I also can become stir crazy! Social interaction is part of the fun of what I do for a living, and when home-based, I have to make specific efforts to balance my home office time with activities that maintain business relationships (and friendships) on a personal level.

After the 1994 earthquake, I visited the home office of a JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) executive who ran a department that was involved in the development of remote desktop technology - the webcam, audio and sharing technologies that today are commonplace. In those days, such technology was very rare, and this executive was one of the pioneers.

(JPL, for those of you that are unfamiliar, is the quasi-governmental arm of Cal Tech responsible for some of the most innovative developments in space exploration. They are responsible for virtually all of America's unmanned space probes, including the Mars landers and rovers, and the deep space vehicles that have been throughout our solar system and beyond.)

The JPL executive had been home in Lancaster, a distant suburb about 40 miles from his Pasadena office. When the earthquake struck, freeways collapsed and travel between the two cities was impossible for several weeks. However, because he had a video-audio connection with his office, he could continue some of his supervisory functions remotely. His employees could remain in touch with him by simply sitting at his desk and communicating with him, face to face. He found the arrangement effective - but only to a point. In light of the dramatic events, he missed the personal touch during a time when his team was going through so much trauma. He couldn't lend 100% of his support.

We don't hear the word "telecommuting" as much anymore - perhaps because we now understand that it's not an end to itself, and doesn't hold a specific definition. Many of us that are self-employed, myself included, work in ways that combine so many different methods that our base shifts constantly. We conduct work in an office, at home, in a coffee shop, and with a smartphone. Keeping the balance between all of these options, I think, is the key not only to being productive, but happy with the challenge inherent in earning a living.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

The Source of All Bad Things

We have become a nation of hand-wringers. Everyone's worried and fretting about economy, and threatened by whatever each individual perceives as the cause of All Bad Things. Of course, the determination of just what/who is the cause of All Bad Things varies wildly and ranges from individual to race to political party - and so many other possible sources.

The potential list of That Which Is The Source of All Bad Things is as long as imagination is limitless: Obama, Bush, FDR, Nixon, Jews, Christians, Muslims, Blacks, Latinos, Asians, Chinese, Japanese, Democrats, Republicans, Neo-Nazis, the Illuminati, the Tri-Lateral Commission, The Rockefellers, Bill Gates, the Military-Industrial Complex, Big Business, the NRA, the anti-gun lobby, obesity, bad American schools that cannot compete in the real world, ignorance, curious children, evolution (and Charles Darwin), the Bible, the Koran, the New York Times, Fox News, Huckleberry Finn, The Diary of Anne Frank, Hollywood, the Bible Belt, suggestive clothing, bad language, lack of discipline, too much control, too little control, the Internet, Global Warming, God and the Devil.

Or None of the Above, which would leave the fretful masses with only one choice: "Go Live Your Life!"

Thursday, October 01, 2009

YouTube and the Conspiracy Sub-Culture

Today, I engaged in one my favorite YouTube-related hobbies: entering the word "Conspiracy" in the search feature.

It's never let me down providing some great entertainment! Here are top five results:

  1. Top 5 Science Conspiracies, Theories and Hoaxes - This actually comes from a legitimate source - Discovery Networks. This Discovery News segment from Halloween, 2008 lists come outrageous theories - my favorite of which is "The Growing Earth Theory," which speculates that the theory of continental drift is all wrong. Earth's continents seperated as a result of the expansion of the Earth (as a balloon expands). Just where that extra mass comes from, nobody seems to explain! For extra fun, read the comments below the video. The very top comment at the moment (bad grammar included): "there are no aliens at roswell, thats what the Gov wants us think, thats where they test there aircraft and film fake moon landings."
  2. Re: JFK Conspiracy? PROOF finally revealed! (with SOUND) - Ahhhh, the New World Order theories - something we can always depend upon for wild conspiracies and nefarious plots. No proof - no evidence: just wild speculation and the reinterpretation of footage we've seen ten thousand times before. Notice the analysis of quotes of Jackie Kennedy and Governor Connally (and others), finding dark "truth" in their words.
  3. Penn & Teller - 9/11 Conspiracy Theories - This magic/comedy duo looks at the epidemic of conspiracy theories in the USA - One has to wonder why we don't hear more people pointing out what Penn & Teller discuss here. This is the one sane entry in these links. Of course, if you read the comments, this doesn't convince the hardcore conspiracy...well....nuts.
  4. Free Energy - Pentagon Conspiracy to Cover up - Got a great new idea for cheap and safe energy? There's a deep, dark conspiracy to keep it from the world! I know, because of the creep re-enactments, and layering of inconsequential video. It's GOTTA be true. Don't BOTHER me with evidence!
  5. Trailer for "The New World Order" This is a trailer for a new "documentary" about the coming of the "New World Order," the dark suspicion that we are about to live under an evil dictatorship. This bit of propoganda, uses standard imagery, scary music, and ominous narration to suggest a wild theory. Central here is a compilation of speeches and newscasts using the phrase "New World Order." Apparently, according to this video, we have reached a time when such political phrases don't change in meaning and import from individual to individual, depending upon their world view and philosophy. I hardly think that Glenn Beck, George Bush I and Bill Clinton meant the same thing when they used the phrase, "New World Order."
Enjoy! And don't be TOO scared!