TROUBLE BOUND - It Don't Matter Music Video

Please enjoy the brand new Trouble Bound music video for their track, It Don't Matter, which will be featured on the soundtrack for the film, Misery Loves Company. The video was filmed during principal photography on Misery Loves Company. The band will be featured playing It Don't Matter and Here to the End in the film. Both tracks are from their album Here to the End... (2005).

They've recently released a split with Ten Pints In and are working on a new full length album. For more information, such as merchandise and shows, become a fan on facebook.

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PRODUCTION DIARY: July 5th, 2011 - DAY 1

The saga continues...
Originally we were going to begin filming on Tuesday, June 21st, 2011. I had a trip to Arizona scheduled for the last week in July and wanted to be finished with principal photography by then. My intention was to film for four weeks and use the final week for spill over safety and preparation for the trip. However, in my quest for a crew I came across the opportunity to work with someone who would be devoted and serious, but unavailable until July 1st. I had also been given the suggestion to cut down the filming schedule to under a month, if at all possibile. I simply couldn't afford to buy out one month of the cast and crew's lives. It came down to what would work best for everybody and their respective schedules. By pushing the start date back two weeks I was able to arrange everything into a snug three week schedule that was incredibly feasible. Unfortunately that also reduced the margin of error greatly. Another reason I decided to delay the start date was because we still didn't have a major location secured for the proposed first week of filming. Thankfully my assistant, Elaine, came to the rescue with all of her tenacity, charm, and wisdom, landing us The Historic Paramount Theater in Middletown, NY at literally the last minute.

Carlo & Pete - July 4th, 2011
Cornwall-On-Hudson, NY
We (the cast and crew) were gearing up to begin just after the fourth of July weekend. Had we not gotten the theater production would have moved ahead with the third week of filming moving up to the first. We had another location secured for the second week and that was locked. Thursday, June 30th I went to pick up some gear from a colleague and received word that we had secured the theater, all we needed was insurance. It became a mad scramble to find a place that would grant it over the holiday weekend. This was vital, not only for the location, but also for the equipment rentals we had placed.

The morning of Tuesday, July 5th came and Elaine and I went to the theater. Again, I had delayed the production an additional day in order to make sure the location was going to work and to get some final things in order. Elaine and I arrived at the theater at 9AM on the dot and were greeted by the owner and manager, Nelson Page. From the get go he was incredibly friendly and approachable. He walked us through the building and brought us up to the projection booth, which is where we would be spending a majority of our time filming. I snapped some pictures while Nelson continued to explain the details and share some history of the building. It was a hike up to the booth, but once there it was worth it. There were also a few rooms that we could use for storage and dressing in between scenes. 

The room itself has a lot of character. The kinds of things production designers spend months attempting to replicate for authenticity. This is always a perk of shooting on location. The trade off is working around the environment, which includes busy streets, airplanes, and even trains off in the distance, ruining the audio. Still, the room had very high ceilings and some great corners, ideal for manipulating and staging light. The most important part was the projector. The centerpiece of the room. The whole reason we needed the location and couldn't fake it. A single, three tier, platter projector - that was all we really needed. Nestled in the corner were three film canisters that were labeled, "Titanic." I asked Nelson if that was an actual print of the 1997 film and he informed me that it was his personal print of the film and went on to tell me about his collection of 35mm prints. At that point we returned to his office to discuss the details.

After everything was set and arranged - we would be at the theater everyday for the rest of that week from 9AM until they closed, with one night (Thursday) going late so we could get outdoor shots & scenes at night - Nelson shared an anecdote from his childhood about meeting Gene Kelly. The whole meeting took less than an hour and the rest of the day was spent tying up loose ends. From the theater we grabbed some breakfast and checked on the status of the insurance. The request was being processed and so I wrote an email explaining the urgency of our situation and Elaine and I went to run some errands.

Our first stop was the whole sale store to pick up drinks and snacks for the cast and crew. A fed crew is a happy crew and while we couldn't afford to have a catered lunch everyday there was always water, breakfast bars, cookies, and apples on site. Elaine had the idea of encouraging everyone to bring their own lunch as our schedule wouldn't always allow to break for a 1-2 hour dinner. From the shop we went to Staples printing center to have some prop posters printed to display at the theater. In order to avoid dealing with licensing rights for copyrighted images I opted to use posters for films I and the associate producer, Ray Zablocki, had worked on in the past. One of them, Strange Aeons (2004), actually features Steven (Cliff) and myself and is where we met and got to know each other. It was going to take a few hours for the staff to get to our order and then about 90 minutes to print the posters, so Elaine and I left to tend to other affairs.

Back at her house I received an email with our insurance paperwork all in order. I forwarded the documents to Ray and Mark, the cinematographer. Mark needed the proof of insurance in order to rent the lenses and equipment he required for the shoot. At this point it was still early in the afternoon and Ray and I both informed Mark that it would be a good idea to go to the city and pick up the gear that evening instead of in the morning. With everything in order, addressed, and taken care of, I returned to the printer for my posters. Unfortunately they had a problem with one of the files and I had to bring a replacement with me and wait to make sure it printed correctly. Ninety minutes later I was out the door with two stunning, and cheap, props. They had made a mistake on the paper stock and upgraded my preference while honoring the original quote.

That night I went over the schedule for the following day, emailed everybody who would be involved in the shoot, double checked my check list, and closed my eyes. The nightmare was about to begin.

If you're just joining us, catch the story from the beginning...
- Episode I: The Script
- Episode II: The Cast
- Episode III: The Locations

Please, “Like” the film on Facebook for more direct updates involving the cast, crew, and screenings.


Poster Art - 2nd Draft in COLOR

Poster Art in COLOR

Illustrated and colored by Carlo Sitaro

For more artwork check out the storyboard page.
Also, be sure to check out Carlo's illustration blog for more of his work.


PRODUCTION DIARY: Pre-Production (3 of 3)

The third one was almost right.

When it came to the locations/setting for the story there was a strong conscious effort made to keep it simple and manageable, yet ambitious and engaging. I didn't want to regulate myself, or the story, to the confines of my bedroom or house. At the same time I also didn't want to build an elaborate custom village. Simplicity was the key to the script, like a play - small scale, limited locations. Even with this criteria I didn't want it to look cheap. Production value is a vital component in lending authenticity to a script when transferred to film and unlike many other independent filmmakers, I wasn't going to remain ignorant to that fact. The few locations that we actually needed were not going to be compromised in favor of producing the story, because without them there was no story. That was yet another thing that held up the production of this film for a long time; the existence, access and availability of the locations/setting for the story.

All in there were about 12 different locations. I say about because some of the locations had multiple settings and functions within the story. For example, we did a whole day of filming at a park, but within that park we filmed four different settings and six different scenes. The efficiency of the script loaned itself remarkably well to the shooting schedule. Of the sixty-six scenes they split up pretty evenly on the schedule, which revolved around a weekly commitment to a particular location. Sticking with common, convenient settings helped us (the production) obtain the locations. Engineering them into the story allowed it all to remain interesting.

Slowly the locations began falling into place. Of course there were still some holdouts. There was nothing extravagant or unrealistic about my needs outside of not possessing some of them, but that wasn’t going to stop me. Still, a little legwork and a lot of persistence landed us the final settings. As always, each location has its own evolution in the story. The following is a profile on each of the main locations and the story of their place in the story of MLC.

LOCATION: Coffee Shop (2 Alices Coffee Lounge, 311 Hudson Street, Cornwall-on-Hudson, NY 12520)

Serving as narrative bookends, the coffee shop is a public display case for the events of the story. Originally set in a busy dinner, the scenes in the coffee shop are a little more intimate and anchor not only the story, but also the character of Brian. From the story’s inception I had wanted to open with a public setting making it a more natural segue into the private events of the story. This forum introduces the main character, Brian, in a way that doesn’t come off as contrived or forced. We’re meeting him halfway as he enters this part of the story of his life. The coffee shop location was ideal for this opening/introduction because of the construction, layout and design of wall of the place. The entire front of the shop is plate glass, which not only allows a lot of natural light into the place, but also provides a dynamic visual looking out into the neighborhood.  Originally all of the scenes at this location were to take place during the day, but because of setback during filming we had to change one of the scenes to a night shot. We couldn’t hide it because of the massive windows, so we embraced it and it actually wound up working out much better both visually and for the story. Sometimes things are just meant to be.

LOCATION: Brian’s Apartment (Private residence, Chester, NY 10918)

Since most of the movie is a character study of Brian it was 100% necessary to have a unique domicile for him to inhabit. Despite having written and playing the character I did not want to share a bed with him as well. For starters, Brian and I are very different when it comes to out personal lives and those are the kinds of things that would be reflected in one’s home. Granted, many of the items in his apartment came from me, but there was also a lot of stuff donated from others such as furniture, decorations, and filler belonging to the apartment’s original owner. Since the beginning, back in 2003, I had been on the hunt for a place for Brian to live. At different times I had considered renting, or subletting, an apartment during production just for him. I would always be sizing up friends’ places and at one time I even went so far as to measure and map out the entire place. The apartment couldn’t be too fancy and decorative, nor could it be lavishly furnished. It had to reflect Brian’s life both personally and financially. In the end, Brian wound up moving into the spare bedroom of a very good friend and hi-jacking his life for about two weeks in July. Actually, I did most of the moving and all of the hi-jacking, but it was for Brian.


LOCATION: Movie Theater (The Paramount Theater, 17 South Street, Middletown, NY 10940)

The centerpiece of the film, an old-fashioned, independent, single-screened movie theater served as the stage for most of Brian’s dramatic exploration and existential discovery. This was one thing that could not be compromised for the sake of filming. Evolving out of reality, the movie theater and Brian’s job as a projectionist came to symbolize many different things about the character. Out of all of the locations this was the one that would make or break the production, which it almost did. After ruling out corporate multiplex chains, as written into the original script, I reached out to every independent movie theater within a fifty-mile radius. Knowing full well that this was going to take some time I began my quest at the very beginning of pre-production. That extra time only allowed me to receive more rejections from unwilling theaters. In the end one of the first theaters I contacted had mercy on me and allowed us to film there for half a week with two additional days for pickups thrown in at a very reasonable price. I cannot say enough nice things about Nelson Page and his staff at Majestic Star Entertainment, so I’ll just direct you to this article about his Big Screen Classics film series. Enjoy!

Photo by L. Lynch

Where some people may
know your name.
LOCATION: Pub (Doyler & Dunney’s, 191-195 South Main Street, New City, NY 10956)

In the spring I had the realization that one of the more elaborate and vital settings had become very available to me. I couldn’t have all the action take place on Brian’s terms, or turf. The bar acted as Veronica’s place of employment as well as a social meeting ground for the characters outside of Brian’s apartment. In the script from day one, this location, along with the theater, were the biggest variables. Occasionally places of interest came and went, but always with the uncertainty of accommodation. Although there were only three scenes in this setting they were quite large and ambitious, considering one of them included an entire band playing a show in the background. That’s not the kind of thing you can just ask a strange for, even with insurance. Fortunately my sister and brother-in-law had become co-owners of a well-established pub in the neighboring town and were very supportive of the project, allowing me, and my crew, to film outside of normal business hours.

LOCATION: Wilderness (Undisclosed natural settings – Congers, NY 10920)

Whenever possible I love to film in Congers.
This is the last of the key locations and arguably the easiest to attain since we didn’t have to get permission from anyone. Actually, we didn’t ask for permission, which is why the location remains undisclosed. In the evolution of the story and script I knew that I wanted to get the characters out of their normal settings (i.e. WORK), so I wrote in this sequence that takes them out for the day. Originally it was a very sappy date sequence that took place at the beach and on a boardwalk. Through maturity and re-writes I kept the essence of the sequence, but completely changed the setting to a much simpler, yet interesting location. While we were in the area we were able to incorporate two additional scenes that didn’t have a specific location selected. 

With the above locations lined up and secured my cast, crew, and I set out on a seventeen day adventure, spread over roughly eleven weeks, with the bulk occurring in the first three. The following posts will be a day-to-day account of principle photography on Misery Love Company, with occasional throwbacks to pre-production as well as glimpses into the present and future of the film though the post-production process. Stay tuned, it’s about to get very informative and interesting.

The saga will continue with Day 1.
In case you missed it, read it from the beginning in EPISODE I: The Script

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PRODUCTION DIARY: Pre-Production (2 of 3)

Read it from the beginning in EPISODE I: The Script

Once I had made the decision to follow through with the project, or at least attempt to follow through with it, I had to make sure I had the talent to support it. By talent of course I mean actors. Since the first draft I had always intended on playing the lead character, Brian. This decision came about out of necessity more than anything. There was simply no way to guarantee that another person would be 100% available for every minute of every day of filming. Since the character is in just about every scene I figured it would be easier to pull double duty than work around someone else’s schedule. I was there, I knew the part, I knew the character and I was reliable. I refuse to use the word star because I feel that in terms of the cast, despite the story being centered around Brian, that it is very much an ensemble piece, as the title suggests.

The first person I officially contacted for the cast was Steven Bendler in the role of Cliff, Brian’s best friend and co-worker. I had first approached Steven about playing the role in 2004 after working with him on a couple of short films. Although I hadn’t spoken to Steven in a few years I re-offered him the part and thankfully he was available and willing. From our first meeting at a diner, which lasted 4 hours, his enthusiasm helped bring this project to fruition. Over the years since our first meeting Steven had kept busy, as you can read in his bio on the cast page.

Steven & Peter
discussing Cliff on the set.

Photo by L. Lynch
When I first met him in 2004, he and I hit it off and became fast friends, sharing many common interests and outlooks. He seemed like the best friend I never had growing up. This made him the natural choice for Cliff. Even if I wound up not playing Brian, Steven was always my first and only choice for Cliff. He has many natural qualities that I always saw being a part of the character. I needed someone who could be light and funny, but also sincere and serious. Sometimes its difficult for people to find that kind of balance, especially when they’re playing an original character. As the script was being revised throughout the years I began to see Steven in the character more and more. When we finally began preparing for the film he asked me questions about the character and it was difficult to not give him answers about himself. For example, he asked what Cliff’s favorite movie was and without hesitation I said Back To The Future (1985), which is Steven’s favorite movie. After doing a full read through of the script, with just the two of us, he and I talked at length about the character and I gave him some models of inspiration that included Two-Bit from The Outsiders (1983), Chris Chambers from Stand By Me (1986) and Steven Hyde from That 70’s Show (1998).

With the part of Cliff cast I set out to find the female lead – Veronica. This particular role has always been one of the things that held up the production. Finding the right girl to embody all of the qualities of the character was a major challenge, especially considering the scale of our production. At one point the part was even personally offered to an Academy award-winning actress. The role of Veronica required more than just a pretty face and the ability to recite lines. There had to be some kind of connection with the material. Some level of understanding not only of the role, but also the effects on the other characters.

We held auditions to which a handful of the most promising applicants were invited. Steven was good enough to come down and read with the girls. If they had prepared a monologue they were allowed to perform it. If not we moved on with the audition. I gave each girl a scene from the script and had her read through the material once to get familiar with it and then read through it again with Steven. This showed me how they interpreted the character and if they could make any connections based simply on the dialogue. After that I had them perform an improv scene with Steven so I could gauge how well they took and understood direction. In the end, of the girls who showed up there was only one who hit every ball out of the park and possessed all of the character’s attributes mentally, physically and emotionally – Ms. Carly Ballister.

Cliff, Brian & Veronica
Photo by L. Lynch
With Brian’s main confidant (Cliff) and love interest (Veronica) secure I set out to find his motivation, the catalyst for the story…Alison. For the longest time I felt that I could slip any girl in the role and have it be just as effective. As the revision process went on I came to understand the characters and the dynamics of their relationship better. Alison had to be strong, yet mysterious. I have known Priscilla Wilson for a long time, but only recently found out that she had an interest and experience in acting. Out of the blue I sent her and email and she agreed to meet and discuss the part. I knew that she would be able to handle the part with no problem. After talking for about an hour she was on board. Keeping in mind that I had actually worked with Steven and made Carly audition, Priscilla was given this part blindly. We had rehearsed our few scenes together only a couple of times, during which she investigated the character thoroughly. When the camera rolled on her first day of filming (the fourth of filming) we were all stunned by her performance.

Steven Bendler, Shawn Stephens, Konrad Mann
Carly Ballister, Peter O'Brien, Priscilla Wilson

(Left to right - top & bottom)
Photo by L. Lynch
The rest of the cast was comprised of friends who were willing to make the commitment and sacrifice to be a part of the project. No one sacrificed more than Konrad Mann, who not only volunteered his apartment as a key location for the film, but also played the role of Brian’s friend – Wayne. His character is more or less paired with Brian’s other friend, Les, played by Mr. Shawn Stephens. They are both friends whom I felt fit the description of the characters and could bring something new to them as well. Together they rounded out the principle cast of Misery Loves Company. Although neither of them have any formal training they still managed to hold their own among the rest of the cast and give genuine performances, even while being slapped around repeatedly, but more on that later.

The remaining characters, sprinkled throughout the film like a fine seasoning, were more or less gathered at the last minute, sometimes quite literally. Carlo Sitaro, who plays Ennio, the theater employee, was the storyboard artist on the film and agreed to help me out. Jim O’Brien, my older brother, came through at the last minute to play Mark, the theater manager and boss to Cliff and Brian. Joe Miggins answered the call and came down to the set to play the irritated cafĂ© employee. Richard Jackson agreed the night of filming to play Tommy, the bartender and Colin Hanahoe made two trips to the set for his one line role as Brad (Veronica’s boyfriend).  Finally, appearing as themselves in the film are Long Island based punk rockers – Trouble Bound!

I really had a lot of good fortune when it came to the cast. The people I wanted were willing and able, the people I needed I found with ease, and the people that I couldn’t find turned up and did a smashing job. The interesting is that not one person I had originally associated with the character was involved in the cast. The actors present in the film are all unique to these characters and their performances – genuine.

The saga will continue in EPISODE III:  The Locations
Read it from the beginning in EPISODE I: The Script

Please, “Like” the film on facebook for more direct updates involving the cast, crew, and screenings.


PRODUCTION DIARY: Pre-Pre-Production (1 of 3)

A long time ago in a basement apartment far, far away…

EPISODE I:  The Script

When I first set out to write the script for Misery Loves Company in January of 2003 I had no grand scheme in mind for the story. I knew point A – the opening scene in the coffee shop, which was originally a diner, and point Z – how I wanted to end the film (Don’t worry, I’m not going to spoil it). That was it. I immediately grabbed my designated script notebook and began developing the characters; what they looked like, what their relationships were, physical descriptions, hobbies, interests and occupations. Once I had that information down it was much easier to distinguish them in the story and give them unique personalities. Of course in the beginning they weren’t as defined as in the end.

In the beginning most of the characters reflected myself and people I knew, or had known. There was no specific individual model for any of the main characters, although some had stronger influences than others. As I was writing I began to see certain people in the different roles and sort of tailored them to fit the person. They weren’t movie stars, just people I knew. The script was written with every intention of filming it on a small scale and even at 19 I knew Bill Murray wasn’t going to return my calls. There was definitely a strong parallel between Brian and myself, because as the main character he wound up embodying a lot of what I wanted to say with and in the film. This was offset and diluted by the existence of the other characters. Because I had outlined them ahead of time I was able to develop them down their own paths, guided by my own experiences. At the time of the first draft, which was completed in April of 2003, I simply didn’t have enough experience to go around.

The first draft was written on Microsoft word and came to about sixty pages. As stated above I had no grand scheme when I set out to write, just my beginning and end points. The first act came together relatively quickly and still remains fairly close to the first draft in the final script. Introducing and establishing all the characters was easy. It was getting them across the finish line that took some finesse. I had taken some time away from the story and returned after a few weeks with an outline of what I had done already, so I could see it all at a glance and continued from there, making little notes about where I wanted the story to go.  In the first draft most of the second act was written almost directly from personal experiences. This was to act as a bridge for the story to continue from A to Z. In the end that sequence wound up very different from the first draft. It wasn’t until the third draft revision in 2006 that the script and characters began to take on their current forms. Of course, at the time (2003) I was ready, willing and raring to go. I just wasn’t able.

The first draft, despite being completed, was far too ambitious and had it been filmed at that time it would probably wind up being something that I would only show to really close friends and never release otherwise. In hindsight the story wasn’t ready, the characters weren’t ready, and most importantly – I wasn’t ready. Still, the people who read the first draft were enthusiastic about it and that was encouraging. It kept me coming back to it through the years and in between projects. In fact the first person to read the finished first draft was current Associate Producer, Ray Zablocki. Shortly after that he and I embarked on a series of film projects and collaborations that continues to this day.

The only differences between the first and second drafts were pretty much proofreading mistakes and corrections. By early 2006 the kid who had written that first draft three years earlier hardly existed anymore. A lot had changed in my life both personally and professionally. It was with this new perspective that I sat down to tear apart my work and see what remained. Just like a house, if the foundation is good everything else can be rebuilt. The characters, setting and scenario were all strong enough, but there wasn’t a whole lot of depth to the story. In the reconstruction of the second act many things in terms of the story began to come into focus. The characters were getting to live their own lives, apart from mine, which was really exciting. This version was re-written in Final Draft and came to about eighty pages. The beginning and end were still there, but now the story had a unique flow to it that was original to these characters. Once again there was another push to get this version filmed, and once again it was met with resistance.

The following year I began production on the RIPHOUSE documentary. At the conclusion of that production I had intended once again to get MLC off the ground. The fourth draft, completed in the fall of 2008 – now written on Celtx and coming in at 93 pages was the most fully realized version to date. Constructive criticism to the previous draft pointed out the lack of motivation and growth in the main character. On paper Brian was still that 19 year old kid with no concept of the world outside of his small circle of friends and acquaintances. In the previous revision in 2006 I overlooked the characters, focusing more on fixing the story. This version saw the ending as it was scripted and shot during principle photography while still adhering to the original intention of the piece. In the process of revising the story and updating Brian’s outlook I took the opportunity to experiment with the narrative. It was something I felt uncertain about the audiences acceptance of, but certain about my intention of – in other words: a risk.

Of course, in 2008 the film didn’t happen then either. I was simply too burned out from RIPHOUSE and was lacking the overall support and commitment required to take on another large scale production (relatively speaking). Timing and availability is everything when dealing with an independent film. It determines the cast, the locations, the equipment, and the crew you will have to make your film. If the timing isn’t right, you will have nothing available. It just so happened that in the spring of 2011 I had a lot of things available to me, a sure sign that the timing was right.

Taking all of the comments from all the previous drafts into account and stacking them up against my intentions and resources for the production I sat down to do the fifth and final revision of the script (not including re-writes during principle photography). The result was a slightly leaner draft than the previous one, but with a clearer sense of the intended story. Of course, throughout rehearsals and filming you constantly face challenges and must adapt; dropping lines, re-writing or adding scenes, condensing dialogue, but that is why the script is just a blueprint and you’re free to paint the walls any color you like, or modify things as your needs see fit, because until you open the doors and let people in nobody will know anything except for what they are shown.

The saga will continue in EPISODE II:  The Cast

Please, “Like” the film on facebook for more direct updates involving the cast, crew, and screenings.


That’s a wrap (sort of)

By Peter O'Brien

It was a week ago today that we wrapped principle photography on Misery Love Company after seven weeks of filming. Actually, it was three weeks with three pick up days spread over two weeks with a two-week hiatus. The result is roughly 93-95% of the film being photographed with a few shots left for additional pick ups and re-shoots scheduled for some time in October. All in all we filmed for fifteen days in about ten different locations with a skeleton crew of about five at any given time.

The 90-page script was revised and refined over the course of several years, which constituted this projects pre-production period. The only way we were able to accomplish what we did in the amount of time we did was because of the extensive planning that went into every scene before hand. From the words on the page, to the storyboards, to rehearsals with the actors and location scouting – everything was conceived and understood before we even hit record… and that was when the problems started.

We faced a lot of challenges on Misery Love Company, everything from delayed starts and lack of time to twisted ankles and faulty equipment. Near the end we would take guesses on what would be the problem that day. Unfortunately it was always something new, so no one ever guessed it.

Despite everything the cast and crew stuck together and made it to the end, usually doing more than was required or initially agreed upon. In the coming weeks as the footage is cataloged and prepped for editing I’ll be sharing my production diary on this page for any aspiring filmmakers to learn from, any established filmmakers to identify with, and anyone interested to enjoy.

Remember, if you think filmmaking is easy, you’re probably doing it wrong.

Be sure to "Like" the film on facebook for all updates involving the cast, crew, and screenings.


Poster Art - 1st Draft

Poster Art

Illustrated by Carlo Sitaro

For more artwork check out the storyboard page.
Also, be sure to check out Carlo's illustration blog for more of his work.