Volume 2-2012



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Learning from Jimmy Iovine

Interscope Records CEO Jimmy Iovine was featured in a recent piece in Rolling Stone, and it was one of those rare celebrity interviews that actually yield insight and useful information for people interested in music production and engineering. READ MORE...

On Selling Songs Through TAXI

Occasionally, as an amateur songwriter, I will open the account I have with TAXI, the Web-based Artists & Repertoire service, check out the listings, usually for those calling for Film & TV soundtrack music, and if I have something that seems like a possible match I will upload an MP3 mix and submit it for consideration. I never get anywhere with this past-time... READ MORE...



(Click here)

New Releases on RARadio: "Last Call" by Jay; "Darkness" by Leonard Cohen; "Sweetbread" by Simian Mobile Disco and "Keep You" from Actress off the Chronicle movie soundtrack; "Goodbye to Love" from October Dawn; Trouble in Mind 2011 label sampler; Black Box Revelation Live on Minnesota Public Radio; Apteka "Striking Violet"; Mikal Cronin's "Apathy" and "Get Along"; Dana deChaby's progressive rock




"The Musical Meccas of the World"









Original Musical Compositions and Select Covers

Fiction and Non-Fiction

Special Projects







This edition we spotlight  filmmaker, actor, screenwriter MATTHEW MAGENNIS, who in 2008 wrapped up filming of his screenplay Standard, in which he also starred.

Standard is a type of story film goers have come to associate with the Wilson brothers, Owen and  Luke (Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums), exploring the inner turmoil of baffled and disconnected adult children adrift in self discovery. Magennis' protagonist of that realm is a dropout named Nathan, whose odyssey is "a self-fulfilling, prophetic, induced drama," as Magennis describes his screenplay. The cast-your-fate nature of the impulse implied in that description could also describe Magennis' approach to making a film. -  RAR







by RAR


The difference between finding nobility or foolishness in people who push themselves into situations precarious beyond what they have been prepared to handle is all in how they respond to what they eventually find in their way.

As Matthew Magennis' screenplay Standard begins, his character Nathan is about to test the waters of the unknown, to leave the stability of a relationship he has with a pleasant girl named Olive. To do what? He doesn't know, beyond just be in the moment, which at least for a time won't include her.

Nathan's dissatisfaction with his reasonable, staid, normal life is the impetus for his rash act. Nathan needs to find himself and so he puts himself into his own drama, relying on his instincts to guide him through. His problem, we discover almost immediately, is that the development level of his instincts are nascent at best.

"Do What You Want to Do, Not What You Are Good At":  This is the sub-title to Magennis' screenplay and at first it seems revealingly facile, like the impetuous pout of a young adult protesting the unpleasant probabilities of a normal life. Whether it is the sentiment of the screenwriter Magennis or his character Nathan - and the distinction is not easily made - the banality of the statement expertly frames the "character study nature" of the work. Whatever profundity it contains becomes revealed as we gain empathy for the bumbling Nathan and meet another face plate for Magennis in the character of Nathan's new-found friend Harriet, who represents his focused self and Nathan's muse.

Magennis cites Harold and Maude as an influence on his film, though his reasons are, one learns, skewed from what most might assume. "The simple, long takes are appealing to me, minimal and poetic," he says of the 1969 Bud Cort-Ruth Gordon cult classic. As for quirky character development, the parallels between the two screenplays are with people who feel disconnected from those around them and the degrees to which they do or don't wish to fit in. Magennis has a characteristically unordinary take on that, presenting in Nathan a character who drops out of his normal life to seek a more satisfying way, while Magennis himself claims to have an abiding need to find joy in mundane things.

So why on earth is he a filmmaker?

This filmmaking aspect of his life - he also has a background in elementary school education - has its roots in his hometown of Hollis, New Hampshire, a small town on the outskirts of Nashua, a suburb of Boston, Massachusetts. As a high school kid in Hollis, Magennis worked at a video rental store and there, rather like famed filmmaker Quentin Tarantino before him, he began his education in movies. "I started avoiding my friends and taking home four movies to watch on my day off. Comedy, drama, foreign films." He recalls that the film A Trip to Bountiful, written by Horton Foote for television in 1953 and made into a feature film in 1985, had a particular influence on him. This quiet, sensitive story is a far cry from the grindhouse fare that piqued the imagination of Quentin Tarantino, but Magennis style isn't mayhem. In fact, it's comedy.

"It wasn't until a handful of years later - you know, growing up in New Hampshire - that I even realized that you could actually go and study film and filmmaking. I ran into a friend of my girlfriend at the time who was going to Emerson, and she was talking about how much she loved studying film. It never even occurred to me until I was in my late teens. It never seemed real or applicable to me."

The son of a 4th grade teacher/mother and a computer tech father, Magennis grew up in relative affluence that could have led to a peaceful, middle class life. He claims never to have had stars in his eyes, but was moved to filmmaking because "Every time I try taking the easy route I become miserable..."

Though bitten by the film bug, only one college in New Hampshire offered any kind of a film program major, and Magennis couldn't afford the tuition, which he recalls was around $36,000 per year. He instead went to Hunter College in Manhattan, because "New York was the only viable place, in my mind, to go." There he studied screen writing, but with minimal impact. He recalls studying under a teacher with whom he was impressed because a story he had written about a mouse had been animated into a Christmas story. The regard was apparently not mutual. "Everyone else got called upon to read their scripts but me... I am assuming the teacher didn't think my writing was 'academic.' "

Perhaps as a result, Magennis doesn't "consider myself a screenwriter. Screenwriters take it very seriously and they want to write as much as possible, and hopefully sell their screenplay to someone else and make money off of it. I definitely don't see myself as that. I am a wannabe film maker who can barely afford to do that kind of stuff, and if I want to make a movie then I need to write a script. That's about as serious as I can be about being a screenwriter."

This isn't to say that Magennis isn't a capable writer. Besides the scripts he has generated, he has published short stories and poetry in Berkeley literary publications.

CONTROL: An admitted "control freak," Magennis marshals creative control of the filmmaking process as best he can through writing, acting, and casting his projects, which is quite a different approach from what most people would characterize as a director's medium.

"Substance, for me, comes from the writing. The other aspect of equal importance is the casting. How good are the actors and how applicable are they to the screenplay."

One cannot over emphasize the extent to which Magennis incorporates this holy triumvirate of crafts. He is an independent filmmaker who crafts roles for unknown actors on the periphery of the movie industry. His commitment to his actors as integral to his vision for the film is exemplified by a scene in the Standard screenplay that was cut because the actor chosen for the one word scene became unavailable. Rather than recast what most people would consider a part of minor significance, Magennis axed the whole scene.

Casting comes first with Magennis. "My philosophy is that story and actors are the most important part."

Locations also play an important part in Magennis' creative process, with scenes written to describe the settings within which they are shot. It is another aspect of Magennis' wholistic approach to project development. The footage for Standard features prime Bay Area backroads locations, including Bodie State Park, Inglenook, Post Costa, Rodeo, Oakland, and Livermore locations. Says Magennis - "If Hollywood were based up in the Bay Area then all of the locations I used would have been shot seven or eight times already. A lot of this area remains uncharted, in many ways. I am fascinated with location. It is a character in and of itself. There are places in the state I can feel miserable and depressed because of the architecture, and others that charm me no end. That's where a story starts for me. Some people write from concept or character. I start with location."

Magennis learned from filming his previous screenplay, modest (sic), that pulling together a crew for an independent film is all about first landing the Director of Photography - the "DP." Magennis located DP and film editor John Tulin (Mind's Eye, Sunday Girl), for whom he held the start of production for months while Tulin finished film work on another picture in England. Tulin is a guy one can build a crew around and he comes with his own high definition digital camera equipment, which for Magennis meant a savings of at least $250 per day in equipment rental costs. With Tulin on board, the crew quickly added Director ___________, sound man Blair Collins, and associated gaffers and technical crew.

Standard was filmed over two weeks last fall. "I have all the footage in the can," Magennis says. He wrote his script using "Final Draft," which has become a script formatting software standard to the film industry. He intends to edit the raw footage himself, using "Final Cut Pro" on a Mac G5, but he is taking time to view the footage repeatedly, making notes on alternate edit possibilities before he gets started.

"I just want to stabilize myself financially so I haven't even jumped into editing yet... Sometimes we can benefit from taking a break and coming back with a fresh perspective... It's going to be a long process because I'm obsessive compulsive. I want everything to be perfect, and I just felt like I wanted to take a break before I get into it because it is going to obsess me, and I don't know how to approach a project different other than to be obsessed about it."

Magennis will submit the finished product to festival committees for consideration.

No themes to convey. "I think this particular project was almost a conversation with who I am now, and who I used to be...Harriet being who I am now, and Nathan being the old me. I sort of look back at my old self - my Nathan - with curiosity. I beat him up and berate him, because he is sort of a loafer, but there is something I admire about him in his carefree, lackadaisical way. I tried to give him qualities Harriet doesn't have. He is more patient and tries to be more loving."

The story revolves around the relationship between Nathan and his girlfriend Olive ... "he was stagnant, petering along in some sort of routine, comfortable life and it was driving him nuts...and he just had to change his life, and she just happened to be part of the life he wanted to change..."

Olive shows up late in the screenplay and rescues Nathan after Harriet abandons Nathan after he isn't accomplishing anything - Harriet wants to go pursue her own dreams. Matthew toys with the audience, suggesting that Nathan may retreat to his previous dull life, but riding in the car he realizes that it is right that he is right to have embarked on his journey. Magennis gives Nathan a single word, "No," to utter as he looks out the car window.

DO WHAT YOU WANT: The subtitle of the screenplay is "Do What You Want, Not What You Are Good At." "It is my interpretation that so much of the world's dissatisfaction comes from people doing what they are good at... I just believe there is a lot more joy out there if we pursue the things we really love to do at the exclusion of the consideration of whether we are good or bad at it. I think that's a side issue and not particularly relevant..."

"Nathan is a completely lost character, and Harriet does have a goal or dream that matters to her..."

"Standard comes from a toilet. I saw that name on a toilet, American Standard." Matthew likes under statement as a naming convention, his favorite rock band name of all time being "The Smiths." "The first movie I shot was called modest, lower came 'm.' I'm not into flashy titles. I think there is more joy in the mundane than in a lot of things that try to be spectacular."

Favorite line from Harold and Maude relates to Harold's assertion that he would like to be like one of a field of daisys, to just fit in, which Maude rejects, asserting that each daisy is distinct and different. "Maybe because we are living in a world where everyone just wants to be unique and different and outrageous...the fact that a person could find joy in the mundane is interesting to me, I guess."

"Nathan is lost and he wants something that is different, but he doesn't know what that is because he doesn't know himself. Committing to something for him is totally foreign, but I don't think he would know what to commit to anyway... The only thing he thinks that might bring him pleasure is a life of recreation...just being a slacker..."

Nathan just hasn't developed himself "stepped up to the plate to want to be an adult" - arrested development










ABOVE AND BELOW: Stills from the shooting of standard. Matthew Magennis with actors Kellen Kaiser ("Harriet").


ABOVE AND BELOW: Judy Blair portrays the forlorn "Olive", the "stable" girl who Matthew Magennis' character "Nathan" leaves behind when he goes off on his uncertain personal odyssey. Sound man Blair Collins wires the doorway for the departure scene, while director Jeff Palmer and D.P. John Tulin set up the shot.


ABOVE: Shooting schedule for the opening days of standard filming.



ON THE FRINGE: Magennis, in his young career as a filmmaker, has shown a preference for characters and outsiders, whether he is portraying or writing for them. He portrayed "Seamus" in the critically well-received indie film on the fringe, a still from which is shown above. Magennis' character's transportation of choice was a bicycle. The press packet for on the fringe defines the film in a way that puts Magennis' career to date in sharp focus:

"Set against the scenic backdrop of a vibrant New England fall... a story of homecoming and healing unfolds when Kurt (Dan Clay) hits the streets of Garrison Falls, New Hampshire. Traveling for nearly three years after his mother's death, Kurt is back to reconcile with his father Kenneth (Bill Humphreys) and brother Elijah (Jeff Fritz). But his plans are quickly derailed when he befriends Dwayne (Jerry Howe), a benevolent comrade of the town misfits. Over a game of cards, Kurt meets Eddie (Michael Walsh), a deadbeat dad hiding from gambling debts, and Seamus (Matt Magennis), an antisocial pack rat withdrawn from the world around him. Together, the four characters form an uncompromising fellowship that pushes them into the fringes of society. This is a stirring and complex vision wrapped in breathtaking scenery."

  Enter the Sleeping Deep...

The same group responsible for standard is currently readying filming of another script, The Sleeping Deep. Written by Director Jeffrey Blake Palmer, The Sleeping Deep has already been awarded the "2008 H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival Deep One Screenwriter Award" and was a finalist at the "2009 StoryPros International Screenplay Contest". Palmer and his talented group of actors, musicians and artists have been shooting scenes from the screenplay, creating music and artwork and posting them to the film's production blog in hopes of securing funds for a feature. You can learn more about that project at .

ABOVE: Actors Sheilah Morrison and Matthew Magennis in a scene from Enter the Sleeping Deep...




































































































©Rick Alan Rice (RAR), May, 2012













































































From the "Kids In Tune" (Music and Art Through Play)" website:
Matthew Magennis Matthew began work with children as an arts and craft instructor at the Children’s Museum of Portsmouth in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. He then went on to be an assistant teacher to a pre-kindergarten class in pre-school. He currently works as a fifth grade assistant at Saint Raymond’s School in Dublin, CA. He is looking forward to continued studies in music at Laney College and is considering a music teaching credential.

Matthew Magennis - front with sunglasses; writer, actor & producer Matt Johnson - (behind) Production Madman
Mary - Actress, playing Billie aka Smudge
Blair Collins - audio guru
John Tulin - D.P.Dude
Mitch - Movie Master (played a confederate in Dances with Wolves) no shit!
Jeff Palmer - along for the food

...Harriet, a couple of complementary nature whose relationship becomes challenged when Harriet loses her job. Harriet's reaction is to relax and regroup, which has the unexpected consequence of sending the previously driven Nathan to take a deep examination of his own life. Probably just when Harriet needs him most, Nathan determines to go "on furlough" from this own life. He walks out on their relationship and sets himself adrift on a comic odyssey in which he reverts to a clueless Candide.
"I think that's probably irony in life...when there is a relationship between two people, when one starts to falter the other person takes up the slack. And then it can switch back again..."


GROWING UP: 4th grade teacher mother, father a computer tech. Affluence suburb. Never had stars in his eyes, but was moved to filmmaking because... "Every time I try taking the easy route I become miserable..."

The wise or the happy slave - I think I would have been the happy slave and not mind. "When you start to live life and start to learn more, you can never be a happy slave anymore..."

"I wouldn't know how to do that. My eyes are a little too wide open..."

I think I would have had a happy, mundane existence - it just didn't work out that way.

Came to creativity from the back side - nothing else is making me happy, need to do something creative.

FIELD OF GLASS: There is a scene late in the screenplay in which Nathan is given a challenge by Harriet, to walk through a field of glass. "My feeling about life is that life is one long opportunity for self improvement. Harriet is trying to do a skill builder, so tries to develop courage or pluck inside Nathan, so she breaks all these bottles so he can become stronger by walking across and somehow become stronger by making it through the glass to the other side. Nathan, being who Nathan is, gets halfway across and just stops right in the middle of the glass, afraid to take another step because he may rip his foot open. And he just continues to stay there and stay there. On the one hand he was willing to try it, but he doesn't have to courage to make it through the entire glass. On the other hand, he doesn't just...walk away. He continues to stay on the broken glass."

Nathan is trying to show Harriet that he is not going to give up on her "games" the way she gave up on his, because his were boring - Harriet is about goals (making something of their life), and Nathan is about love.

Not really a romantic relationship between Nathan and Harriet, just friends.

SELLING THE PRODUCT: Matthew confesses to being a novice at the process of gaining marketing and distribution for his film. His enthusiasm level as he goes through the editing process will drive his next steps. He isn't into working on a project he finally doesn't believe in. He'll make another film using the knowledge gained from this one.

Not writing anything at the moment. "It feels like starting a new project would be abandoning this film, and I don't want to do that."

"It is always walking around with me..." talking about this film and his sense of living with it.


"be as beautiful and funny and satisfying as it can possibly be..."

CLASSICAL MUSIC: Wrote the screenplay to classical music that made "perfect sense in my mind", which he referenced in the script, but he has a composer for original music. He will also explore recorded music in the public domain.

CREW: Thank you letter. "It is everybody's film who worked on it. The screenplay is 132 pages and I had the worst time writing these little thank you notes. It is a dream of mine and I don't know how to put it into words. These little, simple thank you notes, I was stumped. Thank you so much for making my dream come true just sounds so nothing to me. It is everyone's film, it is a cooperative medium. That's part of the joy of it."


"I hope to make more movies. I don't know what they will be about, I don't want to keep making the same type of movie. That would become stagnant and boring to me."

GENRE: "No matter what the subject matter, I honestly can't imagine writing something outside of the comedic genre. I wouldn't know how to write a drama. Whatever it's going to be, it's going to have to be funny."









































Learn more about Matthew Magennis by visiting www.________________



©Rick Alan Rice (RAR), May, 2012