Chasing Beauty

Quick update here. I’m in the home stretch of prep for my two episodes of Mistresses – only two more days to go before I start shooting. It’s quite a beast doing two episodes at once. We’re shooting 104 pages over a 13 day shoot. The scripts have a lot of interesting and challenging set pieces so it’ll be fun (and a lot of work of course).

The biggest challenge in prep was finding locations in Santa Clarita that looked like neighborhoods in Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, and other parts of Los Angeles. Though, truthfully, it was probably more difficult last season when they were shooting in Vancouver.

One interesting wrinkle for me – this is the first time I’ve directed an episode this early in a season. Add to that the fact that this is a new production team (producers, cinematographer, production staff) and a new studio (used to be in Culver City before moving to Canada and now back to greater LA) – and it feels like being on a brand new show. Standing sets are still being built and everyone’s trying to get into a rhythm and flow. Fortunately it’s an incredibly professional team and a good, patient group of actors – we’re all in this together!

Ending this post on a personal note.

When I enrolled at the American Film Institute, I was overwhelmed by how talented everyone else seemed to be – more so than I felt I was. How confident and how knowledgeable about filmmaking and movies. A part of me felt insecure and intimidated; most of me admired them and strove to be like them. They were the cool kids – the kids who were from other countries or knew the names of the best art directors of the 1970s or had seen every horror movie since Nosferatu.

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AFI classmates Vasco Lucas Nunes on the right, Jistu Toyoda on the left. Not pictured, Sharat who was nearby on this night several years ago at Jitsu’s going away party. (Photo by Matthew R Blute.)

One of those cool kids was Vasco Lucas Nunes. Vasco was originally from Portugal and was a cinematographer – tall, a crazy mass of curly hair, and a terrific filmmaker. He was charming, challenging, and creative beyond measure. His Sundance Award-winning documentary Dig! – he shot and co-produced it – is one of the best films ever made about the music industry. (Valarie and I edited Divided We Fall on that same editing system provided by my long-time collaborator and also Vasco’s classmate Matt Blute.) Vasco recently shot Sunshine Superman which aired to great acclaim on CNN several months ago. He became a sought-after cinematographer and remained a big part of our circle of friends, forged in the fires of an unforgiving film school and industry.

Vasco died suddenly in LA last week in an automobile accident. He was only 41. He’s the first one to die in the AFI class of 2003.

We stayed in touch but I hadn’t seen him in several years. Mostly, I saw his incredible work and admired his fearless spirit of adventure. He was an artist, a true artist, who sought out interesting stories and people and images and wanted to capture them around the world and weave them into tales for us to see and hear. And he was genuinely one of the most charming people I knew.

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Memorial at AFI where we sent off white balloons after saying goodbye to Vasco in the same place we once said hello to him. (Photo by Matthew Testa.)

Today we had a memorial for him at AFI and one person said Vasco was always “chasing beauty.” He would sometimes have it, hold on to it for a while, but it would vanish and he would continue to chase elsewhere. That sounds right.

The consulate general of Portugal came and read a statement from the Portuguese president, praising Vasco for representing the country so well. At the end of the statement, he said – life is short; but art is eternal.

Here’s to eternity.

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