I Spit on the Hipster Barista’s Grave, or How Light Roasts are the Vampire Weekend of Coffee

I drink one cup of coffee a day.  In the morning.  Never make it at home, instead I always take a drive or a walk to the best coffee shop within a ten mile radius.  I like a good dark roast, or at least a medium dark.  I want that first sip to be a slap in the face.  I want that first sip to make me it’s bitch.  But not in any nasty gritty way.  In the way a beautiful woman grabs the back of your head, pulls you to her and kisses you with such a force that it melts you into nothingness.  The ties she binds you with are made of brown silk that glide down your throat, setting off marvelous alarms of joy in every nerve ending of your being.

That cup of coffee should be blessedly hot, almost like the feelings it evokes. Rich with delight, smooth, with no hint of bitterness.  It should be like morning sex, sleepy but still a little rough, leaving you with a smile on your face for the rest of the day.

And I know coffee aficionados hate this word, but it should also be “strong.”

The pour-over method of making coffee.  An insult to the bean.
The pour-over method of making coffee. An insult to the bean.

Which leads me to the point of this blog post: my complete and utter disdain for light roasts and coffee made via the pour-over.

We’re told that with light roasts you can better taste the flavor of the coffee.  BULLSHIT.  Drinking a light roast coffee is like drinking Bud Light.  And if you somehow feel that Bud Light is a great tasting beer, then I truly feel sorry for you.  (Not as sorry as I feel for the people in Chicago who believe they have good pizza, but that’s a whole other story.)  I’ve tried light roast coffees in Portland (supposedly the mecca of coffee…it’s SO not), in LA, in Chicago, in NYC, in way too many places to remember (usually because the only other choice was no coffee at all), and in every case my reaction was the same.  After a few sips the cup was dumped into the nearest trash bin.  No coffee was the preferable alternative.

Light roast coffee (especially those made from pour overs) taste as if someone took a barely hot cup of hot water and spit a mouthful of day old coffee brewed from Folgers Crystals into it, along with the juice of some berry that should never be put anywhere near a cup of coffee, unless it’s baked into a muffin or scone.

And let me side track here.  Coffee should not have a linger taste of berries.  Not blue, black, or straw.  No fucking berries in my Joe.  I don’t want to taste the dirt it was grown in.  I don’t want hints of some flower.  I don’t want spices.  And I certainly never want an artificial flavor of any sort.

The only lingering notes I want from my cup of coffee is COFFEE.  And perhaps a little more coffee after that.

I truly feel this light roast trend is another hipster concoction.  Let’s face it, if you ever listen to what at hipsters call rock and roll, you realize its music that’s been castrated with a butter knife.  Instead of three guys playing guitar, bass and drums, making glorious noise, they add in ridiculous instruments that have no place in rock and roll, or they play the ukulele instead of a guitar.  And they’ve done the same fucking thing to coffee, watering it down, and cultivating beans with extra flavors that are so unnecessary, and so downright foolish it’s truly an embarrassment to the word.  Just as hipster rock (you know the bands: Vampire Weekend, Foster the People, Fun Period, to name a few) is vapid and gutless (and also an embarrassment to the word), so is their light roast coffee.  Instead of that wonderful buzz of great morning sex, it’s like brushing your teeth with someone else’s toothbrush using blueberry flavored toothpaste and warm brown rusty water.

Perhaps hipsters like that.  (They do drink PBR to be ironic, and anyone who drinks a beer to be ironic instead of how that beer actually tastes is truly pathetic, or an idiot, or both.  Note: PBR is a fine beer choice for anyone over 70.  At that age you can drink whatever you want.  You’ve earned it.)  And it’s fine if they do.  It certainly wouldn’t surprise me, listen to the music they play, the beards they wear.  But don’t ever call it coffee.

And one final note to the smirking bearded hipsters wearing too-tight plaid shirts: the next time I walk into your shop at 7 AM asking for a dark roast don’t try to lecture me about how a light roast is the only way to experience the full flavor of the bean.  Because seriously, I haven’t had my coffee yet, and I might just punch you in the face.

How not to be a filmmaking douche bag – part 4

Don’t drop names.  Ever.  Don’t act like you’re only interested in making films that get into Sundance or Cannes when none of your films have, and mostly likely never will.  Even if you have had a film play Sundance or Cannes, be humble about it.  Because I pretty much guarantee the average person, hell, the average filmmaker, has never seen your film.

Don’t talk about who you know, who you’ve worked with, what festivals your film has played, what actors or actresses you’ve bedded down, what overpriced gear you’ve man-handled, unless someone specifically asks.  Because if you just bring it up out of nowhere, you come across like a major douche.  Especially if you’re criticizing some other filmmaker for the festival they just got accepted into, or the budget camera they proudly own, or their cute girlfriend/boyfriend who isn’t a household name.

Are there exceptions, sure.  Your name is Woody Allen, or Steven Soderbergh, or…well, you get the picture.  But if you’re just making your first film, or perhaps have a short or two under your belt…even if you have an indie feature or two under your belt, shut the fuck up, go work on your next script, and add something worthwhile to your imdb credits, all the while thanking the filmmaking gods there isn’t a douchebag category on that site.

It Ain’t the Gear, It’s the Storytelling…

A recent argument with some pretentious idiot on Amazon inspired this post.

The person in question went on about how a certain piece of gear was not suitable for any serious film at the Cannes Film Festival.

Yes, I know.  A completely moronic statement.

But the response to it is one I want to make sure I drive home here.

Filmmakers reading this, it is NOT about the gear.

A million dollars of the finest cameras, lens, mics, lights, etc. and so on will not make you a better filmmaker, will not be an open door into any film fest or distribution deal, in fact it will not even guarantee you’ll make a better film than someone armed with an iphone.   In fact it doesn’t even guarantee your film will see the light of day.

Really.  Not an opinion.  FACT.

And if you disagree, please, go get a job at Starbucks now (you’ll be working there soon enough) and spare us your monumental bores.

Filmmaking is about storytelling.

Sure, it doesn’t hurt to have a great looking film, or a great sounding film.  But the best looking film, the best sounding film in the world means NOTHING if the storytelling is mediocre.

And any filmmaker who knows what they’re doing can make a technically perfect film with minimal gear.  The DSLR/$200 mic and Zoom recorder package can make a better film that the million dollar package IF YOU KNOW WHAT YOU’RE DOING.

Are you following me here: IF YOU KNOW WHAT YOU’RE DOING.

If you somehow believe using a microphone that cost $10,000 is going to make a difference in getting your film shown, you’re sadly mistaken.  In fact, there are probably a dozen people who’ll see your film that might even notice the mostly unnoticeable difference.  And if you’re making your film to impress those twelve people, again, Starbucks awaits.

If you have a budget of any sort, put it into more shooting days, spend more time developing the script, or perhaps hire a name actor who might help you with distribution.  Certainly if the choice is between spending $25k on a camera rental package and no names, versus shooting on a DSLR and being able to afford a recognizable face for a few days of shooting, GO WITH THE NAME.  That might actually help you sell your film and get it into festivals.  That you shot on a RED, or recorded the sound with a Neumann mic will not.

Now, if you’ve got the money, and the RED or Alexa or 35mm film is the look you want for your film.  If it’s an aesthetic choice, then by all means, go for it.  But never for a second think that it’s going to get your film more attention.  A compelling and captivating story however will.

(Think about it this way, would you prefer to read a brilliant novel that was originally written with a #2 pencil on scraps of paper, or a boring, long-winded book originally written on the finest Macbook Pro Apple makes using the most expensive writing software ever developed?)

And I’m not saying go and shoot on your iPhone.  (I wrote this blog piece on what gear to go after.)  I’m saying better gear does not make you a better filmmaker.  Better storytelling, that’s really is the key.