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Thinking about Hal

Posted by: Sally

So, I’m sitting here trying to figure out how to make this movie. You see, I’m at a bit of a cross-roads. They call this kind of movie a “hybrid essay film”, which means it’s half an essay film (evolution of a theme/idea rather than a plot) with something else, in this case Hal’s ‘journey’. I’m less worried about the essay part as I was always pretty good at writing those things, but Hal’s ‘journey’ is what’s stumping me.

When we first dreamt up ‘Peep Me’ and pitched it to broadcasters we said it was one man’s personal journey into the world of peep as he researched and wrote his book ‘The Peep Diaries’. Unfortunately Hal’s fingers work a lot faster than the world of film financing and Hal’s book is already written and published and we haven’t started filming yet. Hal has ‘figured it all out’, drawn his conclusions and is now sitting back and reaping the rewards. In fact, he seems downright bored whenever I ask him anything about it. So what’s his ‘journey’ going to be now? I suppose I could just take Hal out of the altogether and stick to the essay part, but for some reason I’m resisting that solution. I just don’t think ‘peep culture’ is best explored through a straight interview style film. We need to experience it, feel it, connect with it, and we need to do that through a person.

Okay, on the plus side: Hal didn’t really experience ‘peep’ in any deep, meaningful way when he wrote the book. Sure, he came up with a few gimmicks: tracking his wife on GPS (which he told her about so was kind of lame anyway) and throwing his Facebook party which only one person showed up for (a great idea and one that I still wince over when I think how amazing it would have been to capture for the doc). But he never made any real relationships with anybody online, never really revealed anything about himself personally, never really tried to get on a reality tv show, never truly peeped himself at all, except for a few half-hearted blogging attempts. Is that one of the reasons he has come down so negatively on ‘peep’?  It’s easy to judge from the outside looking in, and indeed I don’t agree with everything he says about peep. I don’t think it’s all shaped by a desperate yearning for celebrity - I think there is a genuine need to connect and in a lot of cases that connection is made and blossoms. Not every online relationship is shallow or perverse.

So perhaps it’s a matter of moving the goal posts. Hal’s written the book but now he’s got to live it. What will he discover about himself and the world of peep that might surprise him? Or by revealing all, and doing it in-front of our documentary cameras so we can turn it into, let’s face it, peep entertainment - will that just re-inforce everything he’s said? And is that journey enough?

Thoughts anyone?

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Secrets Video

Posted by: Sally

So, finally had some time to put together bits of video I shot with Hal on his book tour. First up, Hal bribes delegates to the Book Expo of America (huge book trade show in NYC). He gave them a signed copy of his book in exchange for a personal secret, which he in turn twittered to the entire twitterverse. What kind of secrets could Hal solicit with a book worth $12.21? You’d be surprised!

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Fake vs Real - my thoughts

Posted by: Sally

Just read Hal’s post on our discussion about real and fake in L.A. It was a good post although I don’t think he totally understood what I was getting at in those Hollywood Hills. And perhaps neither did I. Reading his post allowed me to sort through some of my own thoughts. Here was my reply:

You know, it’s difficult to get everything completely happening at the moment, in the real. There will always inevitably be an element of staged fakery because you have a camera crew and scheduling issues and all sorts of crap that you have to deal with in film life that doesn’t happen in real life. Still, you’d be surprised how real some of that is! For example, in the cell phone scene, although we had pre-bought the phone (completely unavoidable since we got a free one from Nokia and had to arrange for it in advance) we made sure to film Hal getting that phone for real for the first time and to just see how he reacted. It was totally real and very funny..because he was completely befuddled!

Similarly, even when we filmed him in the shower and doing the gardening, that stuff was pretty good because once he started actually doing it for real he just settled into his normal routine and we started getting some good stuff.

My biggest disappointment in the footage so far was in fact the interview which was the most ‘real’ component of the shoot. Hal and I talked about that and he confessed that his mind was elsewhere. He was getting ready for the big book tour and really hadn’t switched over to thinking clearly about the doc. In a way Hal was ‘faking it’ and that showed.

So it’s a combination of elements that are fusing together and developing into a rhythm. I think once Hal says good-bye to the book and really embraces the concept of the film it’ll start to jive. What I noticed with Hal on his tour is that he always has to be ‘on’ for his audience, and sometimes that was really tough! I was very impressed by the way he gave every little book store gathering the same presentation no matter what the size of the audience. He’s a real pro. I think up until now, however, the documentary has felt like just another book store presentation…and we are his audience. So that’s really where the fake feeling comes into it.

It’s up to me as a director to make that transition work and to make Hal feel comfortable. A challenge I will be pondering over the next week or so!

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New York City Book Tour

Posted by: Sally

Just got back from NYC where Hal was touring with ‘The Peep Diaries’. The trip doubled as a research scout for me and I met some fabulous people, including the lovely Lisa Sargese who welcomed me into her home and was wonderful and open about her blog, a 3 year post-gastric bypass odyssey. For Lisa there’s no point in doing anything without an audience and I love her frankness about this. Very peep!

Lisa S, small.jpg

Other folks I met with were:

Robert Galinsky, founder of the New York Reality TV School and a co-founder of Pseudo, a pioneering internet broadcasting company in the 90s that he started with Josh Harris, subject of the brilliant documentary “We Live in Public”. Robert is going to put Hal through his school to try and help Hal become a reality tv star. Good luck Robert!

Cynthia Hetherington, a smart, tough private investigator from New Jersey with great hair and nails and an impressive knowledge of internet security. We had a beer at the Newark Airport and started plotting how we were going to dig up everything there is to know about Hal online to show just what happens to all this information we’re peeping about ourselves. Where does it go and how can it come back to bite us on the ass?

I also went to meet with the developers of W’s newest hotel/residency right near ground zero. The project, designed by architects Jeremy Fletcher and Alejandra Lillo, is an ode to peep architecture and a step above open concept. I personally love the peek-a-boo toilet. We were hoping to film in the showroom but unfortunately it won’t work because it’s buried in this black lightless building that really doesn’t do the project any justice. Hopefully there’ll be enough of the building built by September to film an actual apartment…or else we’ll have to try and find other architectural examples of peep openness…

We also shot a couple of book events with Hal that were absolutely hilarious, including Hal giving away free books in exchange for people’s secrets and a guest spot on the Joey Reynold’s show which was so beyond surreal I don’t know where to start. I think I’ll let Hal tell you about that one…but stay tuned for some video.

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Day 2 - Hal before the peep storm

Posted by: Sally

Monday was our second day of shooting and our first official day with the “Melcam”, our 2nd unit behind-the-scenes digital camcorder (very nifty Canon Vixia HF20) operated by production assistant extraordinaire, Melanie Saumure. The Melcam will be your eyes and ears into our filmmaking process so please check out our first video blog and tell us what you think! The idea behind the Melcam is to peep ourselves, peeping Hal as he peeps himself. Get it? And we don’t want this to be just a one way street. Although it’s not particularly interactive at the moment, as production heats up we’ll start posting these video clips more frequently and will be inviting your steady feedback. By early July we hope to start live streaming on location, allowing you to chat with us while filming interviews and so on. By the time we get to the editing process it should all be very transparent and, hopefully, a truly interactive doc! Tentative first attempts have already been made by Jet (read about that here).

But we can’t be interactive if nobody talks to us…so please send us a comment!

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the chocolate box bloggistas

Chocolate Box Entertainment is the yummy fusion of two award winning producers – Jeannette and Sally.   more...

Sally Blake

Sally has 12 years of experience in the radio and television industry as a writer, director, editor and producer.
She cut her filmmaking teeth in the bizarre world of professional wrestling,   more...

Jeannette Loakman


Jeannette is an award-winning producer with over 12 years of experience in the television industry. Jeannette was recently nominated for a Gemini for Spam: The Documentary, a critical and ratings hit.


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