The end of the weekend.

The film challenge came right on time, and was pretty simple: The end of the world. Free-choice genre, no prop or dialogue, only a story about the end of the world. You can see why this would make a Detroit crew feel they were halfway there:


Yes, it’s our old friend the Packard plant. But how can you not use it? If you needed a vast, already-dressed set suitable for the end of the world, duh. So we went there for a few shots.

Our main character is a teenage girl reduced to scavenging the ruined, depopulated city. She lives in a hovel. Our art department constructed one in the basement of another building, a former printing plant converted to lofts and performance spaces. Fortunately, the basement retains that “Silence of the Lambs” feel. I went down there as they were building her pallet:


God, these people are good. (The art department.) It was simultaneously post-apocalyptic and human. That light over the pallet felt precisely like weak winter sun coming through a skylight. It’s such a pleasure to work with people who are good at what they do. Like our makeup guy, Dan Phillips:


Dan used to be an autoworker. Took the buyout, went to makeup school, and is now working pretty often on the many productions going on here. He has some good stories. That’s Robert Young III, in his cameo role as Vacant Lot Corpse, showing off Dan’s handiwork. Photo by Connie Mangilin, another producer.

The film? Haven’t seen the final cut yet. I’ll keep you posted. This is the point in the process where I get crabby and it’s best that I keep my distance. Otherwise I might be striding around the office like a tyrant, channeling my inner newspaper cuss. One of our news editors in Fort Wayne would, when the desk fell behind, call out in his rich southern accent, “People! We ain’t puttin’ up a shuttle here!” I don’t think that would be helpful.

I’m not helping out much here, either. I commend to you today some words by our own J.C. Burns, who has beheld one too many grovels by broken-down, dispirited news executives, and has something to say to both the executives and the bored-bored-bored news consumers they allegedly serve.

I’m off to encounter Busy Monday.

Posted at 9:35 am in Detroit life, Media, Movies |

15 responses to “The end of the weekend.”

  1. Dorothy said on December 7, 2009 at 9:40 am

    I’m sure that is tons of hard work, but part of me also thinks it would be tremendously fun! Wish I had a chance to work on a project like that sometime.

    The house we owned in Eighty Four PA had a semi-creepy basement. When my brother Joe arrived for a visit one time, and came in through the garage and walked through the basement to get upstairs, he dubbed it a “Silence of the Lambs” basement. After that I was never really comfortable going downstairs to get something out of the freezer or to do the laundry!

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  2. Julie Robinson said on December 7, 2009 at 10:10 am

    Our first house had a genuinely creepy basement complete with packed earth floor. Well, what do you expect for $15K?

    OT: Here’s a good way to get people’s blood pumping on a frosty, snowy morning. Send all your mortgage customers an email confirming their payment of some $31,000 and change. It was so absurd I knew it had to be a mistake, and logging in to credit union and mortgage bank’s account confirmed that. But it took another hour to get through to customer “service”, the barely audible and heavily accented Helene. Tee-hee, just checking to see if anyone reads those things, please disregard. This is a very large bank who recently bought the obligations of Washington Mutual, who had bought our mortgage from someone else, etc. They need to be “chasing” down their rogue emailers.

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  3. coozledad said on December 7, 2009 at 10:25 am

    I hear NPR is beginning to make some effort to reclaim part of its real audience by pressuring Mara Liason to leave Fox News. How about ditching the board who remade them in the image of Talon News, and history’s most obsequious groveling ombudsman, to boot.

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  4. Dexter said on December 7, 2009 at 10:32 am

    Good for Dan Phillips, and if they ever do a movie on the life of legendary Michigan football broadcaster Frank Beckmann, he’ll lock up the role as he looks like Frank one-generation- removed.

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  5. Jeff Borden said on December 7, 2009 at 10:48 am

    I am pretty much in complete despair about the quality of the news business these days particularly our political coverage. I know more about those obnoxious party crashers than I do about what Obama did or did not accomplish on his Asian tour aside from his infamous bow to the Japanese leader, which merited more coverage than any discussions the two had during their meeting.

    We’re choking to death on trivia.

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  6. beb said on December 7, 2009 at 12:42 pm

    Jeff B. that was a “compelling” essay. And says a lot that is so true. When the local newspaper decided to experiment with limited home delivery we cancelled our subscription. And it was easy to do because already the news content in the paper didn’t seem to justify the cost. (Also I never quite understood why they didn’t just split off home delivery as a new charge to customers and raise it to whatever level was needed to make ends meet.)

    I look at the on-line version of the local paper and its cluttered, slow loading, and hard to find items that aren’t linked on the front page. But worse than that is that it seems like they only have 5-6 stories. Period. What kind of major metropolitan newspaper has so few items on news?

    Individual stories do not have to be compelling but a newspaper has to be compelling in aggregate and as long as its not providing news content no amount of tarting it up wll make it compelling.

    Mancy, an End of the World movie contest set in Detroit, with Detroit players. That’s like shooting fish in a barrel*.

    *Mythbusters, by the way, demonstrated that shooting fish in a barrel is harder than it looks.

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  7. jeff borden said on December 7, 2009 at 4:01 pm


    I wish there were a solution, but it looks like slow-motion extinction to me. I have been around newspapers my entire life and am a second-generation newspaper guy, but damn, they make it hard for you to like them.

    And the political coverage is simply awful. These are some tough times we are living through, quite possibly game-changing times as relates to our place in the world, but the lead editorial in today’s Chicago Tribune chastises White House social secretary Desiree Rogers for not testifying before Congress about “crasher gate.” It’s so much easier to talk about those pinheads at the state dinner than to look at what the meetings in Copenhagen portend.

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  8. baldheadeddork said on December 7, 2009 at 4:21 pm

    Things to make you feel happy about the future of the news media: Columbia University appointed Politico executive editor Jim VandeHei to the Pulitzer Prize Board.

    “In many ways, the Pulitzer Board is on the same mission as POLITICO: to embrace new media while fighting to protect the highest standards for writing, reporting and accuracy. I am honored to be a part of this effort,” VandeHei said.

    That would be the same VandeHei who told staffers he wanted stories that would get links from Matt Drudge, and the same VandeHei who has his reporters doing stories like this:

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  9. moe99 said on December 7, 2009 at 6:35 pm

    Well there is always James Woolcott, who I put in the same class with our own coozledad, in his ability to turn a phrase. Here it is: “recidivist subway grinder”

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  10. Hattie said on December 7, 2009 at 6:50 pm

    I get my news from the Guardian Weekly and (on my Kindle)The Independent and The Frankfurter Allegemeine (in German).* I wasted seventy five cents on the Sunday Times download yesterday. What dreck. Trivia, log-rolling, sycophancy,and all around lies.
    *They have actual reviews of movies,art and literature where they discuss the pros and cons of the work, imagine that. It’s because the Germans are so backward compared to us. They still believe in cultural standards, how quaint. Is any American critic going to stand up and say, ” Broadway musicals stink and Andrew Lord Webber writes middlebrow crap?”I think not.
    There was also a fine and informative article about the Copenhagen conference. Try finding something like that in an American newspaper.

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  11. beb said on December 7, 2009 at 8:12 pm

    So… if someone offered you a free ticket for a ride on Virgin Galactic’s sub-orbital spaceship, would you take it?

    If I were younger, lighter, generally speaking healthier, I would consider it. I mean, I’ve been a big space flight fan all my life but riding on planes can make me queasy and I don’t know about five minutes of zero gee. But — to be able to say that, “hell yes, I was on the edge of outer space!” that would be a strong incentive to go.

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  12. brian stouder said on December 7, 2009 at 10:02 pm

    Beb –

    I’d go. Rides at amusement parks make no sense to me, but I’d ride them all if it served the purpose of earning a trip high enough into space to see the stars without the atmosphere in the way.

    By the way, I read an interesting article in Proceedings about pilots of high-performance fighter planes, and picked up a “fun thing to know and tell”. It said that a person can take about 5 or 6 positive G’s – or spikes as high as 9 positive G’s, through the use of g-suits and specific breathing techniques.

    Therefore, and somewhat counter-intuitively, an average-sized man in absolutely peak physical condition would have a lower tolerance for positive G-loads than an average sized woman who smokes and is generally out of shape. This is because she will have higher blood pressure, and she’s shorter (less distance from her heart to her brain) – giving her more tolerance to high positive G-loads!

    It was also somewhat counter-intuitive to read that one can withstand higher positive G-loads (making you heavier, and pushing blood out of your brain) than negative G-loads (which forces blood into your head, and bursts blood vessels in your eyes and face); whereas approximately 9 positive G’s can be withstood, only about 3 negative G’s can be withstood for any length of time.

    On the other hand, much higher lateral G’s can be taken (30-40G’s) – which is one of the reasons fighter planes spiral around in the sky – inverting and twisting and trying to manuever in a way that the pilot can withstand (while killing the unfriendly one)

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  13. Jolene said on December 7, 2009 at 10:27 pm

    You would-be space travelers might be interested in this article about what’s been learned from the latest pictures taken by the Hubble telescope by Joel Achenbach. Was in yesterday’s WaPo magazine.

    Haven’t read it yet myself, but there were lots of positive comments about it online.

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  14. del said on December 8, 2009 at 10:25 am

    You’re on to something Hattie.

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  15. LAMary said on December 8, 2009 at 10:54 am

    I know this will not impress any of you, but we had frost last night. It’s 37 right now.

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