The blog of author Dennis Cooper

Some things I’m thinking about as I prepare for the shooting of Zac Farley’s and my new film PERMANENT GREEN LIGHT, #1

A number of films have been shot and located in Cherbourg, mostly famously The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and Eric Rohmer’s The Green Ray. Virtually always, Cherbourg is used as a location because it is famously and proudly a city on the ocean, and because it looks like a city on the ocean, and its seaside locations are inevitably and heavily emphasized in the films that are set there. We’re shooting Cherbourg as though the ocean isn’t there at all. We think that effect will be something.


One of the initial inspirations for what became Permanent Green Light was the story of Jake Bilardi, an Australian teen who ran away from home in 2014, joined ISIS, and wound up on a suicide bombing mission where he failed and only managed to explode himself. What interested me was not the ideology or terrorism aspect of the story, but rather the fact that his wanting to do that and then doing that made no sense to anyone who’d known him. I started wondering if perhaps he had just wanted to explode and/or disappear, and if ISIS and terrorism could have been nothing more than a convenient and very glaring, depersonalizing context that he decided was a good way to do that. Ultimately, our film ended up having nothing to do with him and that story in particular, but he and it were a definite seed.

Even though our film has really nothing to do at all with Tim Hunter’s 1986 film River’s Edge, I keep thinking about it for some reason, which I guess means something.

Zac was sent this GIF a few years ago by a friend. It was one of the original things that wound up setting the idea for PGL in motion.

When I was a kid, I saw a photo in Life Magazine that really disturbed me and apparently stayed with me. It was a b&w photos showing the roof of a building that had a strange, human shaped shadow on it. When I read the caption, it said that a man had somehow fallen out of an airplane, dropped a great distance, and landed on the roof of that building. The impact was so intense that it completely disintegrated him and his clothing, leaving just the black shadow. That story wound up occupying an important moment in PGL.

When Zac and first wrote the script for PGL just under two years ago, we wanted a particular song to heard playing from a window in one scene. The film is full of feeling, but the feeling is mostly hidden, tenable but unexpressed. The song we wanted, and the scene in which it appears, were intended to be one of the rare moments in the film when feeling is expressed clearly. Very happily, the artist Destroyer (Dan Bejar) is letting us use the song.

James Benning is a director that Zac and I both revere, and I think we both are always in some way thinking about his work when we think about making our films.

Location: “Tim’s” house

At one point, our film’s main character Roman is walking down a street and comes across one of those spontaneous, collectively made shrines dedicated to someone who had died in a car accident on that spot. My friend the artist/writer/model John Tuite plays the enshrined victim via some slightly younger photos of him that will be components of the shrine.

The design and many of the ingredients of the aforementioned shrine as well as a number of drawings that our main character Roman makes in the film are being provided by the great artist and long time DC’s d.l. Kier Cooke Sandvik.

In one scene, one of the main characters goes to a dance club and has an emotional breakdown there while dancing. We haven’t chosen the final ‘dance music’ for the scene as of this writing, but we know we want the tracks we use to be very complicated music with a beat that is technically possible albeit difficult to dance to. These are some tracks we considered as examples of what we’re looking for, and it’s possible that one or two of them might end up in the scene.

37 piñatas, some custom designed, manufactured by and/or borrowed from this place.


In one scene in PGL a MetalHead girl tries to teach a dance music aficionado to head bang. This is the track we’re hoping to play in the scene, but we don’t have permission to use it yet. We’re hoping we will.

Camera test featuring Sylvain Decloitre who plays ‘Guillaume’, one of PGL’s four main characters, plus Michael Salerno (Director of Photography) and Zac.

Location: Fête foraine

Location: “Roman’s” apartment


In one scene, the main character Roman visits an explosives dealer. For that scene and one later in the film, we need realistic looking explosives props. These are some real explosives, mostly handmade, that we’re considering as models for the props.

At one point in PGL, two of the main characters play a board game called Niagara.

Location: Parking garage





p.s. Hey. ** Steevee, Nice to see you first, but at what cost! I’m always sorry when I try taking sleeping pills. No, I have not gotten the new Wire album due only to having no time right now, but it’s teetering on the edge of my supply. I think people who think recent Malick films are either crap or masterpieces are both completely missing the point. Apart from ‘Tree of Life’, which I think could be argued is a masterpiece, the goals of his recent films have zero to do with largesse and definitive-ness. I can’t speak to ‘Song to Song’ ‘cos I haven’t seen it yet, but I do really think the haters of recent Malick just absolutely don’t get it. To say ‘I’m not into them’ or ‘they’re not thing/interest’ is obviously legit, but the vehemence seems like an unearthed conservatism regarding form or it’s a take that seems overly wrapped up in the ‘I don’t care about privileged straight white guys’ concerns’ thing, which only reminds me of the practically lifelong occasional beef with my work, i.e. ‘who cares about fucked up teenagers’. I think the severe divide about recent Malick is telling about the here and now but not about the films themselves. The main way I keep up with new music these days is via The Wire. Its focus/tastes and mine are pretty close, i.e. forward thinking and very multi-genre. I read it religiously every month, check out the artists they cover that I don’t know, and listen to many of the records they review. I either found Dominowe there or maybe at the Tiny Mix Tapes site, which is also very helpful. Those are the main sources in addition to sharing tips with friends who are on the same basic musical trajectory as me. ** David Ehrenstein, Hi. I love Mary too. I used to hang out with her in LA, and I really miss doing that. Thank you so much for the guest post! I’ll set it up and get back to you asap! Awesome and very kind of you, David! ** Mark Gluth, Hello, Mr. Gluth! A pleasure of stratospheric superbness to see you! I am way fried, but good within or underneath that or whatever. Yes, you can imagine my mind blow and heart scrunch at finding out Dan Bejar likes my work. I would love to get Meghan Lamb’s book. I’ve been eyeing it wantingly. Uh, I’ll send you my new address via Facebook, I guess. Yeah, later today. Thanks, pal! ** New Juche, Hi, Joe! So I finally set up the ‘welcoming’ post, and it’ll appear here on this coming Saturday. Yeah, my blog assumes a lot about the abilities of its viewers’ signals. I do sometimes try to reel in my desire to make big, complex posts, but it never sticks. ‘God Punish the Perfidious Albion’ is the name of the book? Is that right? What a hell of a great name, if so. ** Dóra Grőber, Hi! Well, they basically have to get the contract thing done because there is no choice, and we start rehearsing with him on Wednesday, so I assume that’s something we don’t need to worry about. The band seems to be blowing me off for some reason. I’m going to wait until tonight, and if they still don’t respond, we’ll have to rush into an immediate Plan B, ugh. Sure, waiting until I’m post-film is a good idea if that works for you. I will be kind of a wreck until that’s over anyway. I can’t wait, though! My weekend involved lining up a performer for the last uncast role — a very tiny one — and laboriously organizing and planning out the schedule for the rehearsals this week and weekend. We’re going to need to polish the performances as much as we can during them since we’ll have very, very little time to work with the actors during the shoot, which is going to be so hectic that I really wonder how we’re going to manage it. That was my weekend. Relative to other days recently, it did have a bit of a relaxing vibe at times. How was yours? How was Monday? ** Jamie, Hi, Jamie! I’m burnt like toast above the neck, but hanging in there and basically good. My weekend was work-filled as usual but not bad, not bad. The Cherbourg trip was very useful. We go a lot of things decided. We had to abandon the quarry location. It was too restrictive and not amazing looking enough to warrant that. We switched that scene to a kind of amazing looking (at night) parking lot on the top of a giant mall, and I think that’ll work better ultimately. A bass guitar! Sweet! What kind? What have you done with it so far? How was Monday in your hood? Discombobulated love, Dennis. ** Misanthrope, For the next while, Restorer will be my middle name, for better or worse. Thank you. I see that The Undertaker retired. That’s so sad. Luckily islands disappear very slowly, so you would have time to call in the helicopter brigade, albeit maybe via smoke signals. Ha ha, the guys you recommend that I check out on tumblr, etc. always look kind of like that guy does. Which is not a problem, obviously, I’ll see what he has to post when I get a break. Thank you for that. Morning of mornings to you, George. ** _Black_Acrylic, Hm, I think I’ll not go out of my way to see ‘Aquarius’, so thank you for that. There was talk back in the day of Cheap Trick doing a movie or TV series or something, which was a golden idea. I wondered what happened. ** Bill, Hi, Bill. My weekend was maybe 1/8 restful, but it did not involve any umbrellas, and that was a boon. Ooh, I so, so like your characterization of the new thing you’re working at. I like doing battle with precise processes so much. Yikes, it’s already Monday here. Time flew. ** Okay. I made kind of a post that’s kind of a scrapbook type thing related to the film I’m working on, for whatever that’s worth. I might try to do another one before we start shooting. We’ll see. See you tomorrow.


  1. Hi D

    Hope alls good in the Parisian hood? been busy dealing with work stuff and the usual never ending applications. the summer is looking busy with more exhibitions which is nice, so ive got to make the most of the last month here in norway to get a bunch of things started or done 🙂 so of course im doing everything else 😉 like this mix https://www.mixcloud.com/jonathan-mayhew/slow-jamz/
    I love you images for film thinking, its already exploding in my mind, and those drawings by Kier are beautiful!
    Nothing major to report its just the rinse, wash & repeat of life right now. Reading some Maggie Nelson and Celan whilst drinking too much coffee.
    YAY about the film being started! hope your weekend was all kinds of awesome

  2. Hey Dennis that`s nice …. I am heavy fan of ur writing …. so waiting for an extreme moment .

  3. Hi!

    This scrapbook-like post was amazing! Thank you!

    That’s awesome news about the actor! I’m so glad you finally found someone perfect for the role! And I do hope the band replies soon and you won’t need to use your Plan B!
    Absolutely, about the post. I’m so very grateful!
    The upcoming rehearsals sound very busy but I’m sure it’ll be so exciting to finally see everything take shape!

    The highlight of my weekend was that I went to see a friend’s ‘mail art’ exhibition and it was fantastic. The best art show I’ve been in a very, very long time.
    Today, I’m mostly writing and working on further spreading the word about SCAB so it’s kind of convenient.
    How was your day?

  4. Hey Dennis!

    Thank you so much in advance for next Saturday, which I can’t wait for.

    The WW1 book is called The First World War in Colour, boringly. God Punish the Perfidious Albion would have been a superior title. The latter was a German graffiti slogan from the book that I was entertained by. The book is by Peter Walther, and some good examples of the photos are viewable on its Amazon page.

    This post is great Dennis. Generous, fascinating, personal, unsettling, replete with correspondences to previous themes and and components, definitely whets my appetite for the film. Happily, lousy Scots interweb connect has for today allowed me to view it in full!

    Very best


  5. Always fun to rummage through your imaginative process, Dennis. Never can quite figure where you’re coming from or where you’ll go sometimes.

  6. Dennis,

    I LOVE the homemade bomb pics!

    You have a brilliant way of tantalizing us with your creative process … this film looks like it’s going to be 100% awesome! I may even be able to get my bf to watch it with me, once it is released! He is currently terrorized by your work.. I’ve tried to slip him a mickey and place a copy of God Jr on his side of the bed, with the caveat that’s it’s ‘Dennis Cooper lite’ but he still won’t play (and no insult to G.JR intended, I love that book).

    I so wish you had included the Life Magazine photo that had destroyed you as a kid, were you ever able to find it again? I remember seeing what I believe was a Life Magazine photo of a suicide/jumper who had thrown herself from a great height (Is it possible to self-defenestrate?) and had somehow landed on a vehicle, perfectly intact. I think her shoes were even still on.. she looked quite peaceful despite having just caused her own death. Anyway, Life mag really did have some amazing photography work, it’s still unbelievable that it no longer exists. But your film, Dennis, wow… looks utterly amazing.

    Was the gif of the exploding boy taken from the M.I.A. ‘Born Free’ video? I assume you have seen the video? If not, it’s wonderfully disturbing. From Wikipedia:

    The music video for English recording artist M.I.A.’s “Born Free” was directed by Romain Gavras. The video, which depicts a genocide against red haired people, was filmed in California and directed by Romain Gavras as a nine-minute short film without the prior knowledge of M.I.A.’s record labels. Several incidents relating to the extra-judicial killing of Tamil males by the Sri Lankan Army filmed on mobile phones in Sri Lanka, some of which had been broadcast by news outlets worldwide, inspired M.I.A.’s treatment for the film-video.

    Your next few weeks sound very exciting and very intense! I can totally understand why you will be placing a ‘Closed’ sign on the DC’s blog window for a while..

    Do you know of the artist Carrie Mae Weems? I may try to use one of her photographs for the cover of my next novel, but of course that involves securing permission. I hope she is amenable to my plight.

    I’m headed for Vancouver, BC on vacation today, Dennis, where I may be possibly without internet … hopefully I will see you (digitally) again somewhere around Saturday, unless I completely disappear into the Great White North, having stopped at Tim Horton’s for a donut only to have a Canadien homeless bounce a tire iron off my skull and stuff my swollen-headed body into a trunk where I shall remain rotting for the next month…

    Lovingly yours,

  7. Sleeping pills actually worked for me last night! I took one before bed and a second one when I woke up 3 and 1/2 hours later! The only problem is that while I’ve only been up half an hour, I don’t feel like the effects of the second pill have completely worn off yet. Still, they enabled me to sleep for 7 hours, which is more than I’ve slept in a week. Of course, I will consult with my doctor about all this in a few days.

    The two best articles I’ve read about SONG TO SONG – Eric Hynes in Film Comment, Melissa Anderson in the Village Voice – don’t even read like they’re reviews of the same film. Hynes wrote a close formal analysis that barely acknowledges that even if Malick is hardly making conventional narrative films, SONG TO SONG still has subject matter which can be judged. Anderson wrote an attack on Malick’s homophobia and sexism – which I completely agree with, at least in relation to SONG TO SONG – which barely addresses form at all. Anyway, I’m really interested in writing about this kind of critical gulf, and hope some outlet is interested too.

    I used to read the Wire religiously too, but with the decline of both book and record stores in NYC, I honestly don’t know where to get it. Also, I just got into an argument with my parents about how much money I spend on music, so I should probably try to cut down (or at least not mention my visits to Rough Trade to them.)

    Your scrapbook is really interesting – I’ve seen very few filmmakers lay out their inspirations like this. I particulary liked the explosives pics. Is it hard to make prop explosives? I’ve always wondered what exactly filmmakers use for prop marijuana.

  8. Hey Dennis, It’s been a while but wow, I’m excited about this project! The music you posted is really what I’m into at the moment (along with Kendrick Lamar, always)! But yeah, I really hope you get to use some of those tracks because they’re just immense and so interesting.

  9. Hey Dennis, thanks for the very intriguing glimpses of the new film project. I love those old drawings of Kier’s. Tried to animate them years ago, but could never get things to come out right. Now that I’ve learned a few more tricks, I should take another look at them.

    Forgot to mention sometime dl Omar was here last week. We did the usual hanging out, caught Guillermo Galindo’s fine performance at a gallery opening, and went to an artist talk by Gwenael Ratkke, an old pal who now lives in Berlin. So not bad for a long weekend.

    Lots of work shit this weekend, capped by Diamanda Galas Saturday night. I hope I can still get out of bed on Sunday.


    • Bill, omg yes you should!! i really loved those animations you did, i thought they had a magic, but it would be amazing to see what you can do now too. love xx!

  10. I love today’s blog. I’m always interested in what an artist (in all mediums) are thinking about when they do their creative work. The Guardian newspaper (website) has a series focusing on what a writer do on an average day of writing. Their habits, workspace, etc. I love reading stuff like that. You have done this before with respect to your novel writing. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts and world with us readers.

    My magazine intake is limited due to finances, but I look through the Wire each month – it’s a great publication. For whatever reason, I tend to discover ‘new’ music through the past. The Vinyl resurgence has a lot to do with it. For the last year or so, I have been really getting into Musique Concrete recordings from the 1950s, 1960s – which got me interested in John Cage again. As I age, I find myself going to the past, to discover NEW instead of finding what’s NEW now. It’s weird. I’m not sure why I do that – but also I have been working on my music blog that focuses on my vinyl/CD collection. For me, it’s a re-discovery or a new way of listening to music. A work – in – Progress for me. For anyone interested here’s the blog’s address: http://toshberman.blogspot.com

    Good luck on your film shooting – and when in the mood, do more scrapbooks! I love them.

  11. Hey Dennis. Like everyone above, I LOVE LOVE LOVE this post! It’s lovely and personal and fascinating and exciting and appetite whetting and about a million other great things. Lovely idea about Cherbourg and the non-ocean. Those drawings by Kier Sandvik are really really beautiful. And yes to the homemade bombs and that bewitching gif with the disappearing boy. I had a really shitty day ‘at the office’ today, but kept a tab open with this post on and it really made everything a lot better. Thanks!
    A parking lot sounds good to me for a scene. There’s a grim industrial car-park across the road from where I work in Glasgow and I love it, especially by night.
    You know, I don’t even know what kind of bass I got given. A brown one? I’ve merely played it so far, but the bass was the first thing I’ve learned to play so there’s a real joy to sitting and playing when I’ve not had one for a while.
    Oh, and I forgot to tell you about the poetry reading I went to on Friday night – put on by Colin Herd, who I think comments here from time to time, and featuring Sophie Robinson and CA Conrad. So good. I’m always struggling to connect with poetry or be excited by it, but both those imaginary boxes were well ticked and so much more. Really inspiring and eye-opening. Do you know them and their work?
    Apologies for not supplying a guest post yet, but I’ve been a little busy and had no wifi on my long train rides of late, which would be peak time to put something together. I will try and get something done as soon as I can.
    So, how was your Monday? Mine was shitty, but could’ve been worse.
    I hope you have an excellent day today.
    Reconfiguring love,

  12. I love seeing this peek behind the PGL curtain, so thank you so much! Consider me preemptively psyched before filming’s even started. That 2nd Kier drawing was featured in the summer 2009 Yuck ‘n Yum issue and it brings back happy memories.

    I’m still working through that Alan Clarke DVD box set and on Friday saw
    Christine, a film that must be up there with the most sublime and powerful I’ve ever seen. It’s also a very heavy Robert Bresson/Dennis Cooper feeling that’s evoked in me, you ever seen this?

  13. I feel so much better today compared to the past 3 or 4 days that it’s like night and day. Being able to get a decent night’s sleep made such a world of difference to my mood and ability to function. I hope my use of the pills tonight continues to work just as effectively – I don’t want to take them like this in the long run, obviously, but for the moment they seem like my big option.

  14. Dennis, Two words: FUCKING AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Thank you for that. Please let my two-word description of today’s post stand, as I feel that saying anything else will absolutely dilute -in my description of it- how I felt upon getting to the end of it. Each letter in those two words is as full of passion and appreciation and wow-ness as can be imagined.

    Yes, The Undertaker rode off to Death Valley last night. Took off his hat, gloves, and coat, and hugged and kissed his wife, former WWE Diva Michelle McCool. He’s done. Actually, he’s been done for a while, showing up here and there. But the dude’s 52 and just can’t do it anymore. He’s a legend.

    My man Randy Orton won, though, so I’m happy about that. He beat Bray Wyatt, Eater of Worlds. There were three instances throughout that match where Randy was on the mat and the mat turned into pics of squirming maggots, worms, and crickets. Kind of an interesting, if cheesy, thing they did last night.

    Hahaha, I mean, I don’t think you have a TYPE or anything like that…Well, as far as Andrew from godhatesandrew, he is quite cute and I thought you might think he was all right looking, but I wouldn’t recommend him on that alone. VERY smart, interesting guy. Funny as hell. He’s gotten real political since before the election, even moved to Canada about a year and a half ago, but he’s got really interesting things to say. You ever get a chance, look back over his older stuff, and I think you’ll see what I mean.

    And hell, there are tons of cute guys out there, I could recommend 10 a day to everybody just to look at, but I don’t bother unless there’s a lot more to them. And yes, I know you know that.

    Have fun filming. I’m very excited for you guys and gals. It’ll be blast.

  15. Dennis, thanks for this “behind the scenes” look at your new film in the works… as you know I very much enjoy such things. Just be careful with those explosives!

  16. this is so promising. some of the best ghost stories involve travel to norfolk the sea many involve the coast or sea i like the idea of seaside but no ocean. spend a lot of nights at dance parties these days i feel like everyone is wearing a bomb. best wishes

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