Friday, July 25, 2014

On the Cheap: My life in low budget filmmaking by Greydon Clark

 I have a fascination of low budget films, and when I heard that Greydon Clark wrote a book about his career my interest peaked, and so I was happily given the book by my family for a father's day gift.  Who is Greydon Clark you ask?  He is the producer and director of such films as: Black Shampoo, Without Warning, Joysticks, Satan's Cheerleaders just to name a few.  Why should you care?  Well if you're a film enthusiast, a filmmaker, or even if you happen just to like low budget films this book may shed some light on how hard and difficult it is to produce these types of films.

Mr. Clark goes about telling us how he financed, and how he produced and directed his films.  Many of these films were ultra low-budget, but you would be surprised to know where all the money goes, and that is talent.  Clark never skimped on his talent, and knew that he needed to draw audience's in by getting bankable stars.  Mr. Clarks budgets ranged from 50K if you can believe that to a couple of hundred thousands, but in each of his films he puts it up all in the screen.  There is one film called the "The Forbidden Dance" that was produced for about two million, and shot within 18 days.  I won't go into details, but the story behind "Forbidden Dance" is a movie in itself.  From conception to actual movie all within 90 days.

The book is littered with stories on how Mr. Clark went about financing and shooting his films.  It's even really amazing to hear how he himself was stiffed by unscrupulous producers and distributors.   Mr. Clark does not mince words here and is a gentlemen through and through.  He does not exploit some of the problems he had with his talent, and he keeps it civil which shows what type of guy Clark is.  No low blows.  The book is all about the films and his career and how he had to fight his way through the production madness we call filmmaking.

The book is laid out in script form, and to any filmmaker it seems familiar but may be a bit distracting for other readers though I didn't find it a bit.  I liked the way it was laid out.  The book does contain photos also of his productions, but here I believe it cold have been laid out better.   But I'm sure publishing costs to do a different layout would be a bit more expensive, and Clark wants to tell us the stories, and that is what's important here.

I have a whole new respect for the man though.  Clark consistently gambled on his future by investing in his films.  I always thought that for someone to consistently put his own money and risk his own fortune on his abilities as a filmmaker shows that this man has stones,  Simple put he saw a market, exploited it, and sold his film off so he could make the next one.  I find it hard to believe that no one in Hollywood would even put up his or her money and have Mr. Clark direct.  It was Mr. Clarks speed, and his cost consciousness that got him the gig for "The Forbidden Dance".   I guess it is as Mr Goldman says in his book "Adventures in the screen trade".  "Nobody knows nothing in Hollywood".

The book is really interesting when Mr. Clark get's personal, and he does share his credit with his late wife who was always behind her husband and very supportive.  It is tragic on how she passed, and it's heartbreaking to read.

If you're interested in filmmaking and want to hear what it's like from the trenches back in the day this book is a great read.  Some of his ideas and his chutzpah would still work, and should be of some value to fledgling filmmakers like myself, but otherwise it's a fun read.  It's available from the filmmaker's at his web site

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Earth to Echo (2014)

My oldest who is twelve wanted to see this and so over the July 4th opening we went with the family to see "Earth to Echo".  A film about four kids on a search for extraterrestrials.  This is not ET, or a re-hash of it.  This is a bit different.  The movie focuses on the kids, and the film is seen through video that the kids record as they go about their adventure.  I thought the way the film was presented was kind of cool, and was a different take on movies with the same plot line.  The movie reminds me a bit of a Spielberg produced movie entitled "Batteries Not Included", but their are differences such as the main characters are kids and the movie is marketed to younger teens and kids that are a bit younger.  The movie is not great for children younger then 8, or that's how I felt.  My youngest who is ten liked it, and thought the alien was cute, and there is the movies problem.

For all the promotion of the movie there aren't enough scenes in the film with our little alien friend.  There should have been more scenes involving the teens and the alien.  ET is the movie standard that the filmmakers needed to overcome.  Spielberg knew what made his film and that was ET's interaction with the children in the movie.  Here in Earth to Echo there isn't enough of that.  The scenes with the alien and the kids are classic, but again not enough, and therefore I think the younger audience wouldn't care about the film.  I believe the filmmakers made a mistake here, but one that isn't fatal.  Maybe for their box office, but not for the film.

What the filmmakers have in their favor is that the movie is one if not the only movie that is out this summer that is for kids.  I implore the studio to push hard on the kid friendly movie aspect, and maybe then they'll have better success at the box office.  After all it seems as though this summer Hollywood is experiencing tough competition from other entertainment outlets, and it just being summer and kids have better things to do then going to movies.

The movie is like a puzzle and feels almost like a video game.  Echo needs parts, and he is rebuilding himself.  He has a mission to take back a long buried star ship under the earth.  Now how the ship got there, and why we humans haven't found it until recently is a bit of a mystery to me.  Also it seems that our government knows of the aliens existence and had shot it down, but how they knew it was heading to the ship, and why they shot it down in the first place is a mystery.  The plot holes in the movie are big and confusing.  Maybe something was lost in the editing of the film, but both my wife and I looked at each other and just shrugged our shoulders and went with it.  The government agents don't show themselves in black, and carrying guns, which I believe is because of the demographics the movie is trying to appeal to.  After all you don't want to scare your audience that you're trying to appeal to, so again I didn't make it an issue.

There's a lot to like though in this movie.  I really was rooting for the alien, and really thought the children in the film were really good.  I loved how they presented the movie.  Like it was a video you would find on the Internet.  A sort of found footage movie, but it did have scenes where we the audience were taken out of the footage the actors supposedly shot and into a conventional movie scene.  But the filmmakers (Dave Green, Henry Gayden and Andrew Panay) do this skillfully, and it helps the movie.  I think what sells this movie are the actors performance.  They are good, and the four actors have chemistry together.  It helps with the story line.  Teo Halm, Brian 'Astro' Bradley, Reese Hartwig, and Ella Wahlestedt all do a great job in the film, and it is because of their performances that the film works.

I think this may even have some fans among the young ones it s marketed to.  After all the message is that "your important" and "you can do anything".  It addresses emotions that young teens and teens for that matter feel that no one takes them seriously, and the film doesn't preach the message.

All in all I enjoyed seeing it with the family.  We all had fun, and we laughed even my mom had fun.  So if you're looking for some family entertainment don't hesitate to go and see "Earth to Echo".  Great family fun.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014)

Okay it's been a while and another summer is upon us.  That means it's summer blockbuster time, or that's what the movie studios want you to know.  The Transformer series has been a sort of tradition in our household.  Having two boys who love the series they got their parents to also enjoy them.  I even have a love for the animated series and see how complex the series was.  But I digress.  Is this a movie you could enjoy?  The answer to that is yes, but only if you like BIG blockbuster action, where things blow-up often, and you love robots battling each other.  If not then this may not be the movie for you.

The magic of these movies are that you go with the family and enjoy it together.  The movie has a universal plot of good versus evil sure, but there are some things that Michael Bay puts in that actually mimic our times.  "Keeping Earth human", and "If you see alien activity report it" are slogans taken from today's headline on the war on terror.  So you see Bay is using today's climate to enhance the plot line.

It is said that Bay wants to re-boot the Transformer series, and this is the first of two more.  From what I know and what I've seen from the series itself there is ample characters and plot lines to further the series into a sustainable franchise.  The object is not to over saturate the market with too much product.  I'm sure the studios have it all planned out, and Michael Bay has already starting pre-production on the next two in the series.  After all it was George Lucas along with Peter Jackson who filmed their franchise (Star Wars & Lord of the Ring) all at the same time because it was cheaper to do so.  After all sets are built, CGI material is rendered, and actors are locked down for the production.

But the magic of the series is that it is family entertainment.  Sure there are curse words in the film, but not the dreaded F word.  A lot of "damns" and "shit", but if you have older boys they've seen and heard worse in games, so don't stress it.  After seeing the effects you'll say a few expletives yourself.  The effects are pretty mind blowing, and fun to watch, and can I say here that I really like Mark Whalberg, who plays Cade Yeager.  I really think he's a good actor and though this is no Shakespeare it's entertainment to the max, and on a hot summer evening it's a great get away movie to watch while you munch on your popcorn.

Both boys said in their own words the movie was "AWESOME".  And that's what this movies is suppose to do.  I even heard my wife yell out as the baddie dies.  The movie makes me a fan of the franchise, and it tries to draw in new converts among the young.  It does this very successfully, and I wouldn't look down at this type of entertainment.  The animated series had heart, and I really believe Michael Bay is trying to do this for the series now.

Also I'd like to say that I really like Bay's sense of direction, and his attitude.  He's a true entertainer, and he certainly gives us our monies worth.  The film is 2 hours and 45minutes and my boys sat through it all with no bathroom breaks.  We all did, and that's because the images were riveting, and the story was compelling.  Many critics rip Bay but I have to defend him here.  I think he is the quintessential showman.  Thanks Mr. Bay for re-booting the series and providing my family a fun filled day at the movies.

I highly recommend the movie.  For you ladies Mark Whalberg is in the movie and he's so good.  Stanley Tucci is also in the movie and he provides some funny banter and funny sequences in the film.  Kelsey Grammer is the villain and he does a good job here.

Go see the movie if your a fan, and if you have young boys who love robots give it a whirl.  You and your boys won't regret it.  Nicola Peltz plays Whaleberg's daughter and she plays the strong willed young lady, who has some funny scenes with Whalberg, so the movie has a lot for everyone.  It's a fun movie simply put.

For some more interesting info on the making of this movie.  Check this out:

Monday, April 21, 2014

Micro Filmmaking

Here's another example of micro-film making, and this from Director/Producer Joss Whedon. 

In Your Eyes - Trailer from Bellwether Pictures on Vimeo.

One more example of a micro-film getting  world wide exposure.  All through the Internet.  I can only hope and surmise that bold new films will enter our consciousness, and take film making into a new realm.  If companies can make this viable for EVERYONE, maybe content will increase, and new forms of entertainment will evolve. 

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Blackmagic URSA

 Since NAB 2014 is this week there is a lot of info coming out from them, so here's one of them.  The price seems very nice, and it's 4K.   Check out the link for specs.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Film Trooper

Here's a link that may inspire you or if anything it may make you think.  I try and find inspiration where ever I can, so check it out and see what you think.

I've always been a dyi guy, and if it doesn't start with you who else is it going to start with?

Check it out.  Though he filmed his film "The Cube" with a Canon Rebel T3i I myself think there may be other cameras that are better and are far less expensive.  In the end use what you have and make it work.  Better then doing nothing.  Stay creative people.

Saturday, February 08, 2014

The Lego Movie (2014)

It was once again time for a family outing, and since our boys have been keen on seeing "The Lego Movie" since it was announced last year, so it was off to the movies.  After breaking several piggy banks for the admission fare, and the goodies that go with movie watching we caught an early show.  I had heard things about this film being pretty smart, and funny, and I can say I wasn't disappointed.  The filmmakers do a great job pandering to their audience, which face it is anyone under 12.  But that's the charm of the movie.  There are so many in-jokes, and jokes that kids won't get that makes the film pretty funny at whatever age you are.

Sitting here writing this review I still can't remember all the jokes in the film, and maybe that's what the filmmakers wanted.  After all maybe after seeing it with the kids maybe the grown-ups will see it again, and you know they'll have to take the kids again, so double score for the studio in the money department.

The animation is top notch, and the puns, innuendos, and plain silliness of the flick is a win.  The movie works on so many levels, and I honestly am not the biggest Lego fan at all.  After all Lego has come a long way since I was a kid.  The movie pokes fun at our pop culture without it being too highbrow.  The children that were watching it with us really liked it, and that is it's primary audience.  There is even a nice moral in the film that says something about the creative mind, and that being different is okay.

There's not much I can say negative about this film.  Even the stars who voice the characters are having fun here.  I was very surprised to see actually Will Ferrell make an appearance.  Ferrell does the voice of President Business, and all I'll say is that he makes an appearance and it totally works.

The makers of this film should pat themselves on the back.  It's a funny, sweet, and thought provoking film without talking down to its core audience.  It also winks at us adults and makes us think as well, so kudos for that.

I have to say if you have a little Lego builder in your family they'll love it, and surprisingly you will too.  I know you'll be laughing just as hard as the children do, and that's what makes this movie a special event.  I know award time is in March, but someone should not forget this film for next years awards.  Seeing it in
3-D I've heard is nice, but children do hate those glasses, so if you want to save a few bucks & spare the kids some headaches take them to the regular 2-D viewing.  I promise you they won't miss anything, and you'll be happier or at least you're wallet will be.  The film is a classic, and it will be one film that today's generation will go back to and share with their families.

Highly recommended for family.  Sit back and enjoy.

And with that I have to leave you with the "Everything is Awesome lyric video".  Because it's AWESOME!!!