Posts tagged keith decristo
The laypersons guide to becoming an insanely successful writer.

Original posting date: November 3, 2015

COLD OPEN
To my millions of loyal, imaginary readers and fans, there is something that I want you to know.  Contrary to what you see before you, I do not write.  All of my posts (including this one) have less to do about my affinity for blogging and more to do with my own merciless standards by which I manipulate the english language;  the artistic bar set and inspired by works of true beauty, crafted by ascended masters that turn painfully pathetic paragraphs into poetic and powerful prose. 

MY WORST CRITIC IS- (and other cliches),
so it’s perfectly insecure logic that my perpetual re-writes are as counter-productive as they are frustrating, but then again practice, practice, practice(and other motivational yadda-yadda).  I try to hide my rookie card by training in the darker, lesser known places on the internet(like right here), whereas by deliberate absence of any web-promotion, it’s still possible to pretend that I’m all alone and anti-social.   Even though it's true all my readers are imaginary,  this work is technically in the public domain where I am disciplined by the 21st Century fear of being laughed at by a consultant at the NSA, or flagged by a Google-bot with an algorithm set to recognize bad content when it sees it.  Close your eyes and imagine becoming sleepless and stagnant in a hot, windowless room filled with the choking flatulence of fast and furious failure.  That’s the road ahead if I ever wish to be considered a real writer.  Those are just the facts. 

HERE'S PROOF.
The real writers of the world are bound, printed, published, and publicized. Every single one of them(or you, depending on who is reading) are charter members of an exclusive club. Membership includes unrestricted license-free usage of the title “Writer” on business cards, at parties, in meetings of all sorts and debates of every flavor.  Once you earn it can never be revoked. It stays with you regardless of your state of being(drunk, sober, sedate, high), or your state of mind(agitated, insane, focused, relaxed). This “occupational tenure” will stay with you well after your death, especially if your death is a suicide.  Ignore the zealots that claim, self-termination with extreme prejudice is a sin.  Any good PR firm knows that death by strange circumstance is pure, sensational gold for your brand.  Too good to be true? Just ask Ernest Hemingway, who just finished a few rounds of tennis with David Foster Wallace. They’ll happily regale you with tales of Eden and the Infinite.

BUT THERE'S A BIGGER PROBLEM.
Simply put, the highly coveted title of “Writer” deserves much more respect and reverence than it has been given.  Its actual value has been woefully diminished by millions of selfish, cold blooded violators. A recent study (that will read more like an enduring and disparaging stereotype) has shown that over 75% of these alleged perpetrators are indigenous to a coastal region of Southern California, where a bizarre currency system borne on the internet known as Likes and Followers are considered tangible, physical assets.  

GROWTH HAS BEEN EXPONENTIAL.
Hard to believe, but L&F are traded as stocks on their own exchange. The traders, brokers and managers of this exchange are known for congregating in fashionably Haute, hopelessly crowded restaurants where name dropping, hyperbole and writer’s title violations can occur hundreds of times within two cubic feet, causing bullish market fluctuations and over-inflated investment ratings that make the recent subprime debacle feel like a game of Three Card Monty.

IT'S PEER* REVIEWED SCIENCE.
Thanks to a recently declassified NSA report, Statisticians at Cal Tech have predicted if things continue on this aggressive trend, the number of writers title abuses will surpass the use of the word "fuck" by all New Yorkers by the year 2022.  Professors of Social Anthropology at UC Davis say they are very concerned, and give the industry a 1 in 7 chance of stabilizing the numbers by 2020.  Despite the obvious media blackout on this issue,  a large number of alternative news sources including 2 whistleblowers from the CIA claim a slightly different story. They, along with certain fringe groups have proclaimed the 2022 event has already happened, and the truth is being suppressed by corporate owned media. 

*A room full of other drunk writers.

Incidents per hour

 

THERE’S HOPE.
By way of a strict program that focuses on education and enlightenment, we can find and foster writers with true potential to create relevant, important and artistic work that really matters.  We must also teach them about the other important skill they need to do business in the 21st century:  Sleeping with the right people.

WAIT. IT'S NOT THAT EASY.
Simple math, you say? Better keep reading my young grasshopper, because it's not as easy as it used to be. These days, you can’t just get naked and expect to be handed a golden ticket. You have to be competitive;  a total champion in the sack. And don't think you have it under control because of that time you think you blew someone's mind at some rave, years back, on ecstasy. You have to be relatively sober for this one, and sex, like the iPhone, is constantly updating. Lack of modern carnal knowledge is no excuse for losing the deal of a lifetime. Do your research, study the human body, but when it comes to actual tradecraft, stay the hell off the internet, there are far too many terrible examples.  Instead, consider practicing on a friend who you can trust to give you honest, sober feedback. Train like The Karate Kid, and the “right people” will read your work in earnest; after which, you either leave with some valuable advice to improve your skills and an an open invitation to have another go, or your work ascends to one of the all-powerful gatekeepers of the four great gauntlets(provided you put them into a dreamy, post-coital bliss beforehand). Still, be prepared to have another go anyway, so take your vitamins and do all the usual.

LET’S GET STRAIGHT TO IT.
The four great gauntlets are: Published, Printed, PAID, and Penance. The second to the last category is in all caps for a reason- you must get paid for your work. A paycheck means there is interest in what you have to say by an audience large enough for a publisher to justify killing a few trees. Don't feel bad about that, for even the CEO of Greenpeace would agree that fewer eyeballs on the Kardashians are worth taking down that 100-year-old Redwood.  If your subject matter is considered more topical than most, your popularity increases and your modest book signings will become televised guest appearances on all those shows where writers make guest appearances.

YOUR FIRST BOOK WILL BE GREAT FUN!
Welcome to the world of paid travel, flowing champagne, sushi in the green room, and blowjobs by complete strangers who were deeply affected by your protagonist’s passionate monolog in chapter ten.  Success feels even better than you imagined!  Close your eyes and enjoy it, but stay focused. Be careful not to let an excited fan distract you from opening your eyes and realizing where you really are and what you have become-

BOOM!
Hello, writer! That's right, you're a writer forever, with an official title underwritten by the highly-credentialed arbiters of good taste.  You now own a fine plot of tax-free real estate in the literary world, whether you write a hundred more or never write again. You would be googling yourself right now, except you're way too busy hobnobbing with other hobnobs, and there's a long line of semi-attractive bridge-and-tunnel waiting with bated breath to briefly bask in your brawny and bristling brilliance. Go have fun and give everyone a few #selfies.  After the euphoria from your first signing party dissipates, take a look around, and check your social feed.  If you managed to not do or say anything stupid in public, the adventure is just beginning.  By this time tomorrow, you will be assigned an able assistant, a razor sharp publicist and a literary agent known in the publishing circles of New York as "The Bulldog".  Better be ready, for your next test of intestinal fortitude will be:

THE MEDIA CESSPOOL!
To survive this chaotic phase without flushing your career,  you must first earn merit badges for the following six challenges:

TV/RADIO/PODCAST INTERVIEWS:
Be yourself, be hilarious and be drunk if you must, but only if you can maintain decorum under the watchful eye of social-media scrutiny. Where even in the monstrous face of tremendous pressure you must be adorable to the many and offensive to the few.  

It's worth mentioning a second time.
Hold your liquor at every party like a camel holds water across the Sahara.
 

THE "RIGHT" AMOUNT
of cocaine can enable you to make multiple appearances at parties, press releases and book signings in a single night and still drink like a fish, just to prove that you’re having a great time.  Your agent will love you for all the press, but be careful of doing too much too quickly. Have your assistant hold your stash, monitor your public behavior and moderate your usage.  Take a moment to create some special hand signals. They will come in especially useful when she has to tell you discreetly and quickly to stop chewing your tongue, or that you're becoming “way too sweaty and intense”.

CAMERAS ARE EVERYWHERE.
Everywhere! So take nothing for granted. Whiten your teeth and the whites of your eyes. As for wardrobe, keep it edgy you rock star!  But- careful not to go too silly or too far. Find the most stylish, pretentious, East coast friend/stylist you know and have them sign off on all your clothes. Audition everything.  Do not take any chances with fashion or let your sex appeal lose momentum. If you're working coke habit has not helped you lose your little writer's belly by now, cut back on the booze,  and hit the gym.

TREAT YOUR ASSISTANT WITH RESPECT.
She is your biggest ally, confidant and often your first line of defense. If she has any questions about her job description, train her properly.  Start by binge-watching season 1 of "Ray Donovan". Then “Become Ray" by paying her in cash and sharing all the perks.  Make a friend. Surprise her with bonuses. If she respects and cares for you, you’ve got a partner in crime that would never rat you out, unless you act like a douchebag.  Then she'll quit, and gigabytes of your drunken, naked selfies and sexcapades will “mysteriously” end up in the hands of TMZ.

THIS IS GOING TO SOUND OBVIOUS.
Everything you do from this point onward must be done professionally. If you find yourself going at it too hard, mellow out, eat a real meal and detox. If you end up in rehab when your career is just beginning, people will say that you were afraid of your own success. In the time it takes you to say “Facebook feed”, your “followers” are calling you a self-sabotaging loser.  On the other hand, if you wait until your second or third book to check into Betty Ford, you are free to blame “the corporations”, and not your cocaine for "taking your soul" and fans old and new will lovingly forgive your past transgressions.

STILL ALIVE?
Get ready for the experience that legit writers refer to as "the icing on the cake", "I must be dreaming" and "I fucking love my agent". Welcome to:  Produced.  A franchise movie deal! You can expect everything as above, but bigger, better, sweeter but with even more intoxicating power. This phase is also known as; “The Stratosphere”, “The Lottery Ticket” and "Let's go shopping for speedboats". Not much to tell you here, because if you managed to survive the Media Machine Cesspool and emerged without a visible scratch, your instincts and your assistant are serving you perfectly. 

BE SAVVY. BE SMART.
Maintain your famous attention to detail, like making sure they let you write every last word in the screenplay.  And when the corporate studio heads offer you an additional 10 million to change the dog into a fish and the girl into a weird, talking, purple stuffed animal with a dubious sexual history, don’t be stupid. Your fans will respect you for not selling out.  On the other hand,  maybe you got shrewd and re-invested the 10M in exchange for an equity stake, EP credit, control of the writers' room, final cut, and North American digital distribution rights?  Who knew you could be such a business savvy, bad ass motherfucker?

ONE FINAL THING.
Before you head out the door to enjoy more spoils of literary stardom,  there's one more extremely important thing you must do. Perhaps the most important thing you will ever do as a successful writer. Welcome to the final test known as PENANCE.

CANCEL EVERYTHING.
You heard me. Rush to the airport immediately. Fly, fly, fly back to that dusty little cabin in Nantucket or that tiny guest house in Malibu or that decrepit hotel with the French crack-house motif.  Check into your old room, the one with the gaping hole in the bathroom wall that the alcoholic with vitriolic prize fighter known as Bukowski made during the days of the typewriter ribbon and his like minded train-wrecks of the female persuasion.

OFF THE CELLPHONE.
Give a big, warm hug to your assistant and then tell her to come back in two weeks. Lock the door behind you. Take it all in.  With arms extended in gratitude, give thanks to this tiny, nicotine stained space you stayed in when you had nothing. Remember it was right here, in this very room where you made your idea into words and words into magic.  Now meditate. Try to get at least half of your chakras spinning, then thank every friend who loaned you money.  Now give special reverence and respect to all of your enemies, for you have realized how much you needed that fire, fury, and ferociousness to focus on your art,  burn bridges and never look back.

LIGHT A CANDLE.
Now thank the creative spirits, a lot.  For it was they who watched you toil night after night as you bloodied yourself repeatedly to force the next sentence and pray that your words carry relevance and meaning. Show ample gratitude for the night they gave you more than you ever asked for-  the blissful bombardment of consciousness-expanding articulations, every word reading like music, every sentence flowing like a river, and you could barely write fast enough to keep up.

NEVER FORGET.
be especially grateful to those beautiful, amazing women who were inexplicably attracted to your darkness, your struggle, and your way with words. Remember the one that came to you on that cold rainy night, how you loved to see yourself reflected in her eyes, and how she kissed you deeply and without inhibition though you tasted like whiskey and cigarettes.  Never, ever forget how she loved you unconditionally in the moments you were together.  Never forget how she made you feel beautiful, alive, important and inspired.  Remember that you loved her too.

WELL DONE!
Now go over to the desk and make yourself a drink. Open the drawer and pick up the pen and paper.

-Keith Fucking DeCristo


A Story About a Sure Thing.

For years, the sole purpose of this website (formerly keithdecristo.com) was to serve as an online repository for my creative and commercial endeavors in photography and cinematography.  There I was, minding my own business when along comes the 21st Century and before I knew it, more and more folks started to hire me to produce and direct the very same content I was shooting.  It was at that very moment I knew in my heart, that someone saw something truly special in my artistic abilities, and somehow they believed what I already knew- that they could trust me behind the camera not just as a Cinematographer but also as their Director, a privilege only bestowed upon the fortunate and few - except you and I both know that the truthier version of this banal platitude is that I probably got the job that day because the original director either failed to show up, or f*cked-up and got fired. Add to the mix a first AD, far too busy vomiting from last night’s charity benefit (turned charity-bender) to do anything, resulting in the kind of chaos that induces screamning, followed by extremely rash decision making. Even the mild-mannered Key Grip manages to spell the phrase “shitshow” out of C-Stands (which the Gaffer was only too happy to light) when suddenly, the 2nd AD (whom I worked with on that show about piano movers) remembered taking my number and called me straight away because she knew that I was _________ and __________ enough to take the job.

This next paragraph is for those readers who were expecting me to wrap up the above paragraph with a metaphor about struggle, followed by an affirmation about success and are still reading this, but only because I didn’t go there. The simple reason is that I have far too much respect for you, the liker, reader, and watcher of all media. I too, hate to be bored.  And so what started off as simple blah-blah copy about branded content, turned into a memorable, strange but true* anecdote about life on a film set, and if you are still here reading this, but originally arrived because you were seeking a company that can create engaging branded content, then look no further. If fact, get out of that chair and take a well deserved early lunch because-- 

--I’m definitely the one you should be hiring.  Welcome to mantaray.media

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-KFD


 
A few words on the importance of being practical.

IN THE BEGINNING
To my millions of imaginary readers and adoring fans,  I have an anecdote with spirit for you.  If you knew what my life was like growing up, if you knew me from back in the day, you'd probably have said something like this:  "Face facts, young KDC. the only way you're going to be let in through the front door of the Clubhouse, that is, the American Society of Cinematographer's Hollywood Clubhouse, is if you're cleaning the toilets or delivering bags of weed.  Other than that, it’s impossible for a guy like you.  And as a matter of fact, you would be smart to purge those silly delusions of grandeur from your vivid imagination immediately. Right?"  "Um, right. Sorry man." I would have told you.  And you would not have had the minority opinion. And I would have had no reason to believe that you wished ill of me.

Yet there I was, in summer of 2013, through the front door, inside the temple to American Cinematography, not as a drug dealer or janitor, but by invitation as a cinematographer by a female director who believed my work to be on par with her high production values. A documentary of sorts featuring none other than Dean Cundey, ASC!

 

YOU’VE SEEN HIS WORK.
Dean Cundey, ASC is the cinematographer who shot Halloween, Escape From New York, Back To The Future, Jurassic Park, Romancing The Stone, Big Trouble In Little China..., the very films that I watched growing up that made me resonate with emotion, and in awe of the magic that was bestowed upon me. So smitten was I,  that at the age of fourteen, I forged a work permit so I could get a job as an usher at the Mann's Village movie theater in Westwood Village- just so I could be around movies all the time.

DAZED AND CONFUSED.
Reflecting as we all must do from time to time, my first "paying" job was an unrealistic initiation to the adult workforce, simply because it never felt like work.  Who cares that the money is crap when you're too busy laughing with your fellow cinephiles to complain about it? 

Add to the equation, the bonus of coming home well after the 3am late show screenings to the shocking approval of my hardliner, working-class father who walked uphill and barefoot to school, a man who cultivated a solid reputation for reading me the riot act, too mystified that I was not "fucking off in front of the television” to give me what for. 

And It seems strange to say it now, but putting on that royal blue polyester jacket, ill-fitting gray pants and  “punching” the time-clock was never embarrassing.  And feeling the ground shake and shudder to the THX trailer put me in a state of euphoria every single time.

END FLASHBACK SEQUENCE
Many years later, I can still experience the same sense of euphoria, but no longer as just an audience member. These days, I'm only happy/breathing/alive when there’s a camera in my hands.  Whenever I’m shooting, I become impervious to long hours, bad weather, fatigue, and all the many, many perils of my adult life.  I’m forever addicted to this feeling- which is better than any drug or drink I’ve ever had, and I have no intention of kicking this habit, even as the days in-between gigs become tougher to endure, and I find myself jonesing for the inspiration or reason to pick up my cameras again. And again. And again. 

And yes I do realize, that even with all that I’ve managed to accomplish, being a guest shooter at the ASC clubhouse is still a long, long way from being an actual member.  The thought of writing my name, followed by a comma, followed by the letters ASC is so far away, it feels impossible.  And I would be smart to purge those silly delusions of grandeur from my vivid imagination immediately.  Right?

-Keith Fucking DeCristo

The mirror behind the bar at the ASC.

The mirror behind the bar at the ASC.

 

When it looks so good, you're willing to put up with some crazy (a.k.a. The BMPCC: an in-depth review)

Remember Miss Hotness, from back in the day  
Superficially perfect in every which way
Head-turning hot-stuff, in black strapless and heels
looked at you with love, and much lust as she kneeled
unmatched in all nasty, and sexual ways
and you cared not one bit that you’ve ruined the chaise
In less than a month she moved into your space
her tight little body, that beautiful face

Model Faith Picozzi

Model Faith Picozzi

 

SUDDENLY,  out of the clear blue sky, she goes off her meds, off the rails and spirals into an unprovoked,  ballistic insanity that you have never seen or heard of. Without warning, she ___________ your favorite ___________ all to hell, inducing the closest thing to a heart attack that you have ever felt.  And you remember that it was on that day she popped your cherry and showed you parts of crazy town that you never knew existed.

All your friends remember her too , because you shocked every single one of them by staying with her for another year and two months, even after she ___________ with all of your family watching, and now your own__________ can not bear to look at you or return your emails, even though it's been years.  Back then, all of your female friends called you "Mr. stupid", but your male buddies never said a word.

Boys know very well, how easily their strict codes of tolerance are bent  beyond the laws of nature when extreme hotness is factored into the equation.  The basic math you were familiar with now exists as a complex conundrum in the quantum world, where many theories exist but none have yet been proven,  and even the smartest people in the room can only be certain of one thing: One never knows just how much crazy one is willing to put up with, when that crazy thing is oh, so damn hot!

This universal anecdote is the obvious and perfect metaphor for anyone that has experience with the Black Magic Cinema Camera lineup. While they truly do produce amazing images, they are reviled for a litany of irritations that cause many budget conscious shooters to think twice about using them. Just 'cuz it's cheap, don't mean it's easy.  

 HBO's "True Detective" (Season 1 only), and J.J. Abram's "Star Wars" are just two out of many examples I need to remind everyone that film still alive, and is considered the best recording medium in the motion picture industry.  And the cameras that do the best job at digitally emulating film stock are the Arri Alexa, and recently, the Sony F65. And yeah, that smells like a strong opinion to me too. But hey man, that's where my standards are set. Everything else is a compromise. 

The Arri Alexa, dressed to the nines, and looking beautiful as ever.

The Arri Alexa, dressed to the nines, and looking beautiful as ever.

 

"Great fucking speech, Keith. Now that that's over, would you please join us in the real world?"  Of course I can. Because my prime directive is to be supportive and collaborative. Often times the best way to provide that support is to save the epic speech about my high standards for the millions of my imaginary blog readers, and shoot on something "real people" can afford.  I'll never stop wanting the Alexa or F65,  but as long as the principals and the script are up to par, I'll happily sign on to a low-budget project where the extreme freedom allows for the creation of those precious, reel-making shots.
 

bmpcc-advert_20.png
 

Thankfully, there are many, many solutions to overcoming adversity, and when shooting with a budget that is less than ideal, the Black Magic Pocket Cinema is high on my list, and completely justified when during a recent commercial shoot,  the experienced director, transfixed by the image on my monitor, sang praises about the shots we were getting, and compared the footage to that of the Alexa.  And although there are many things about the camera I wish were different,  filming in 10-bit RAW and then seeing how absolutely beautiful it looks in DaVinci Resolve, its bundled color-grading software, is enough to make me smile and forget what the hell we were fighting about in the first place.    

Furthermore,  I don't need a couples therapist to point out to me all of the glaring hallmarks of an dysfunctional relationship, because I knew about all that baggage going in.  And that's my whole point:   I'll commit to dealing with all the idiosyncrasies,  stress and risk associated with shooting with a budget camera that drives me crazy,  but only if that camera is capable of interpreting the wavelengths of light that I give it, into a picture of incredible beauty.   Hotness trumps headache.  Boys will be boys.

-KFD

Above: Untouched RAW/Cinema DNG frame of actress Jenny Parry, on the set of Tragical, a web series directed by Tom Lombardi. Shot with the BMPCC mated to a vintage S16 Schneider Xenon, 25mm f1.4

Above: Untouched RAW/Cinema DNG frame of actress Jenny Parry, on the set of Tragical, a web series directed by Tom Lombardi. Shot with the BMPCC mated to a vintage S16 Schneider Xenon, 25mm f1.4

 
Same as the first, with a custom LUT applied in DaVinci Resolve.

Same as the first, with a custom LUT applied in DaVinci Resolve.