Friday, December 18, 2009

Embedment: Days 2 & 3

Holy moley...I'm tired.

Okay, what to say, what to say. JMM stopped by the Lodge last night and talked to me for a bit, so that was good. Ivy McLemore (of Cigarette Girl,) came by as well, so it was a very McCarthy type of day over at the Lodge. Lots of folks hangin' out, lots of candid footage. Which is all very good, but I'm really struggling with how this is all gonna come together.

Do I pierce the veil of objectively detached footage and start talking to these people? Or, do I do a lot of interviews and just use this footage as supporting, evidentiary material? Or, do I shoot what I shoot, make no apologies, and let the viewer sort it out for him/herself? I dunno. And folk are still acting out for the camera. It's tough.

And my treacherous body is still on semester schedule, so I wake up at 6:30am no matter how beat I am and can't get back to sleep. (Well, the kitten has something to do with this, as well.)

I think I'm running headlong into my timidness - I'm so nervous around people, I don't want to just come bounding forth with release forms and then start shooting anonymous folk. It feels so blunt. But, I need to. And, do I ask them what they think of Lodge? I mean, this isn't supposed to be a "man on the street" segment. Ugh.

I guess I'm struggling to find a voice, an M.O., a whatever. It's all good, and I can still pull it together, but I am, for real, tired and feel like I need a breakthrough. I'm starting to feel a little crazy. Gotta pull it together, though - it hasn't even been a week.

Sorry, not much fat to chew on today. I'll try to include some better stuff tomorrow.

Take care,


Films Watched:
White Christmas
Funny Farm
Christmas Vacation
Saturday Night Live: Christmas Past
Emmet Otter's Jugband Christmas
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia Christmas
A bunch of other stuff that I've written down but my notebook is down in the car...

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Embedment: Day #1

Clock in: 4:00 pm
Clock Out: 12:15 am

Good first day of shooting. Got a lot of conversations and met some new Lodgers. Collected two Owl tattoos I didn't have before (Chris Bratton, and Timothy Clark.) Shot some customers. Got a few of Black Lodge's unique decorations - I need to take a coupla solid days just shooting the store's burgeoning collection of magazine clippings, graffiti, movie memorabilia, etc. Mostly, though, it was people watching/filming yesterday.

And, lo and behold, a naked butt on the first day of shooting! You know, Dziga Vertov said that the documentary filmmaker could expect that on the first day (or two, or three,) the subjects would probably be inquisitive around the camera, and probably act a little differently than normal. The real documentary starts, I think, when they get bored with the novelty, get over having this new body around them, and just forget that I'm there.

Coolness! Really, really extreme coolness! Kat C. is letting me film her getting an Owl! And its scarification!! Hello opening montage!

Technical problems: There's always a movie going on in Lodge, so there's always a soundtrack to everything. Not only that, but the TV is on the opposite side of the store from the desk, so they freakin' crank it. I'm having a hard time getting clean audio. They do hang out in the back a lot, and that's cool, things sound a lot better, but I gotta experiment a bit with my mikes 'til I find a way to get a clearer audio signal.

Hopefully, I'll be able to make my way over to the editing suite on campus in the next day or two, and, if possible, I'll be throwing up some stills or some footage for your edification. Take care, and I'll be posting again soon.


Films Watched - Day #1:
Ray Charles: Live in Brazil
The Hangover (twice!)
Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol
Inglorious Bastards (for about ten minutes - then someone came and rented it.)
Bad Santa
Silent Night, Deadly Night
Christmas Evil

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Ground Rules

Hey everyone,

Okay, well, I have to administer a test today from 12-3pm, but then it's off to the Lodge and the beginning of a 3-4 week long intensive film shoot. I'm nervous, I'm excited, I'm dreading it, I'm eager to be involved. It's complicated.

If you have an interest in stopping by, come on down. Here are some things you might want to be aware of:

1.) If I don't drop what I'm doing and talk to you, it's probably because I'm either filming something and trying to be inconspicuous, or busy working with my equipment or doing something film-y. Please be patient, I want to talk to as many people as possible, and I really have zero intention of being a jerk - it just happens sometimes.

2.) If you're interested in participating, the best idea is just to pretend like I don't exist. Hang out at Lodge like you normally would if nothing was going on. Pick a movie. Chat with folks. If you see me creeping up behind you, just ignore it. I'm bringing a ton of release forms, so make sure you sign one on your way out.

3.) If you absolutely do not want to be on camera, and I'm following you around like a twerp, just tell me. That's cool, and I will cut the camera off - no questions asked.

4.) As always, send me your photos of Black Lodge Owls around Memphis. Tell me where you found them. If you have a Black Lodge Owl tattoo, tell me, come talk to me, let me see it, and (if you're willing,) let me shoot it.

This is going to be an experience. I'll keep you all posted.


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Where's the beef?

Hey everyone.

Turning in my treatment, budget, and formal proposal this week. It's mostly a formality, but it's the last scholastic hurdle before filming actually begins. And embedment is really close at hand. One week and change left. I really hope folk will come by, but there's something else I wanted to talk about today.

I was talking Lodge with my friend Chad the other day, and he mentioned that he has a friend that has a beef with Lodge, but isn't really interested in talking about it. From what I gathered from the conversation, this guy is under the impression that the doc is gonna be a fluff piece whose sole function is to glorify Lodge.

Look, I'm a Lodge fan, true, but I'm also not livin' in a dream world. Lodge isn't for everyone - I know that. And I think I'd be dishonest if I didn't include the segment of the population that dislikes Lodge, for whatever reason. It makes the story a little more complicated, and Lodge is kind of a complicated place.

Point being, I guess, is that nobody's talking Lodge at all right now, but if you're holding your tongue because you think this is all gonna be pro-Lodge, do me a favor and don't hold back. Bring me your anti-Lodge complaints, beefs, and general antipathy. I can't get honest about this story if you can't.

Be good!


Friday, December 4, 2009

Anomaly #2, or why JMM calls it "Black Loan"

Check it out!

Kerry snags an owl in the women's bathroom of Otherlands coffee! Great oogly-boogly! That's the way to do it! I'da never found it, at peril of criminal violation. There's lotsa reasons why folk could stand to be more like Kerry, but this is one of 'em. If you see an owl, send me a pic, or let me know about it! I'm on the hunt to track as many down as I can.

And check out Kerry's blog (,) while you're at it. Come for the breakfast brackets, stay for the trenchant and dynamic Memphis commentary. It'll do ya good.

Today I want to approach another conspicuous element in the Black Lodge dossier that seperates them from not only chains like Blockbuster (well, duh..) but also from many ("many" being pretty relative, here,) independents.

When was the last time you paid your late fee at Black Lodge? If you're like me, it's probably been awhile. And not just because they're doin' me a solid because I'm making a documentary about them. It's always been like that, from the first time I rented there.

Which is kinda crazy, isn't it? When I think about the amount of money for late returns that they haven't collected - accrued over almost ten years of operation - good grief! That's a decent coupla two three simoleons, right?

Matt and Bryan both say, though, that they're kind of sympathetic to the pathologically-late customer. They can identify with it, and as Matt says, "Why would I penalize someone for doing something that I'd do myself?" Which is pretty cool.

Also, (and, who's with me on this) how many of you folk have a couple of video stores around town that you have to avoid because you have a late fee? I mean, the late fee drives business away from the store, see? So, in a way, it's also smart business to get the customer out from under that black cloud, and back into the store.

Is it worth the sacrifice of the potential revenue stream from late fees? Does it even out? That's a good question, and one I hope to talk to Lodge staff about. I think, though, it makes the place feel a little more comfortable, and a little more personal.

I dunno...why do you think they do it like that? Is it mad? Or, maybe your experience is different from mine. Have you gotten jilted by Black Lodge for some reason or other, along these lines? As always, please, please let me know what you think, or what you'd like to talk about in re: Lodge.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Anomaly #1

Hey, folks. Sorry I've been a little lazy on the updates, but these term papers and presentations aren't gonna finish themselves, y'know. What, do you think I've got nothing else to do but hang around and talk about Black Lodge?

New stuff to report, though - just sent away for 100 mini-DV tapes for $215.00. That's $2.15 a tape, people! Cheap! Give it up for! And, I gotta give credit where credit is due - mucho gracias to Jason Scott for tipping me off to the special. Jason Scott, by the way, is almost painfully cool. Go see how cool by visiting him at

He is, among other things, a fellow documentary filmmaker, and (especially if you're into all things computer) has an excellent documentary on the old BBS systems that proliferated in the eighties before the internet, as we know it, came to be. He's also embarking on a project about independently run video stores, so, natch, we clicked pretty well. I owe him an enormous debt of gratitude, not only for the cheap tapes heads-up, but also because this guy, who barely knows me from Adam, is letting me borrow his camera so I can have a second camera for the Black Lodge shoot! Awesome!!

I need to get one more shout out before I talk Lodge, and that is to Memphis Connect, which you can find by going here: They've been good enough to retweet my blog on twitter, which will hopefully drive some business over to this here collection of ramblings. Not only that, but they've offered to possibly do a short Q&A which might go up on their site. Holy moley! So, go check out their site for all things Memphis: they're the bomb!

So, back to the issue at hand. I am continuing to prepare for embedment at Black Lodge. Looks like I'll be coming in somewhere between December 8th and December 14th, and starting the shoot. Come down and say "hello!" Or, say "hello" here! Just say it - it's gettin' lonely on this page.

There's a common theme when I talk to folk about Lodge - I'd say 20-30% of them, the first thing they notice or comment on is the fact that you run smack dab into the (diverse and spacious) porn section upon entering Lodge's front door. I mean, you can't avoid it. Some folk are turned off by it, some think it's funny. I've talked with Matt and Bryan about it and - while it's definitely part of the grand Black Lodge scheme - they are (typically) a little evasive about the reasoning behind it.

Matt says that one reason for it is to bring the largely threatening (for most folk) topic of human sexuality out into the open. Everyone's having sex (or wishing they were having sex,) most everyone is watching some kind of porn (yes, even your humble narrator,) but the going strategy is to place it in a creepy back room with lots of sinister security cams recording your every move. If Matt's theory is right, by moving it into the open (indeed, to the very front of the store,) there's a certain onus (yes onus, not onanism,) that is removed in the process.

Do you buy this?

I think what Matt has given me is a theory that came kind of after the fact. I mean, I kinda dig where he's coming from, but I also think there's a more confrontational psychology to having the porn so open and in-your-face, that probably was the first reason it is where it is. Look, I love Lodge, but they're kind of a misanthropic bunch (an aura that they gleefully cultivate.) I think there is a lot to be said for the porn being there because its a way of seperating the wheat from the chaff, so to speak, customer-wise. The folk that are badly offended probably aren't the kind of folk that are interested in renting many Lynch/Jarmusch/Herzog/et. al films, anyway, right? Not that Lodge is all about arty films or arty directors, necessarily - just that their stock veers off the beaten path quite a bit.

The unknowing customer searching for Titanic (presuming, of course, that they can get past the spray-painted building with the creepy sign,) is presented straightaway with an environment that is about as candid as they come. And I think there's a certain relinquishment of control that goes along with that - another aspect of Lodge I hope to try to capture in the film. You (or I, or the customer,) are in their house. They have their own rules. You abide, or you leave. It's actually pretty freakin' honest, in my book.

Anyway - what do you think about why they do it? Am I completely off target? Let me know what you think!