Thursday, December 22, 2005

The State of Things

I've been lamenting about movies not being good anymore, and that everything is so corporate, but I would be remiss if I did not say that there are filmmakers and films out there that truly are works of art, and which are highly entertaining. Films such as the one pictured above. It is from a scene in "The Memory of a Killer" by director Erik Van Loovy. The above shot is of the actor Jan Decleir. The film is from Belgium, and it is an extrodinary piece of cinema. It should be put on every cinefile's list to go see. Other films such as "The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio" starring Julianne Moore, and Woody Harrelson is another film that is fabulous. Directed by Jane Anderson the film follows a women who is extra-ordinary.

Then there is the movie "Separate Lies", starring Tom Wilkinson, and Emily Watson. This film is truly a bright gem. It is the directorial debut of Julian Fellowes who creates a strong story driven by interesting characters. Just these three movies make my heart aglow, and inspire me to create better films. All three films have their uniqueness, and I'm sure these films will be given a good life on DVD, but it is unfortunate that most Americans will never see these films in theaters due to the blockbuster mentality. More and more the market is driven by niche areas, and when Hollywood says it's an independent film it usually is further from the truth.

The world is a big place, and cinema is being created all over this earth in every corner. It's great to see foreign films get their due, and it is inspiring to see how others are telling their stories. Seeing these picture I am envious at their level of production, and expertise. It sometimes makes me question on why I am doing what I am doing. Doubt sets in, and sometimes makes one paralyzed in ones own fear, BUT then it passes, and I come away invigorated, and refreshed. Like a fresh breeze that blows off the ocean on a hot and humid day, and then you realize WHY you want to tell stories.

Treat yourself and see these films. I'm sure you won't regret it. They aren't your usual Hollywood fare, but they stand on their own, and are damn fine entertainment.

Happy Holidays! See you at the cinema!

Monday, December 12, 2005

The Demise of Tape!

So I've just read up on Panasonic's new camcorder which is releasing this month sometime. The AG-HVX 200 records on tape, but also on P2 disks, which give you 18 minutes worth of HD footage. So in essence you can now download all your footage to a HD array, and then plug that in after your shoot, and start editing on your NL editor. Digitizing becomes a distant memory, and now companies will expect you to have their projects done instantly. With every great advance there will be headaches, and a lot of them won't be technical. The price tag is steep, and one P2 4 gig disk is about $1,200, so this isn't cheap. Slowly the future reveals itself. Check out HD for Indies for more info on the camera and the street date.

As the industry gets closer and closer to HD, and it becomes the norm it will be interesting how it does against actual film. Remember compression is DV's Achilles heal. With HD things get closer and closer to the film world. Such things as latitude & definition within the picture area become important especially when the final film will be projected onto a screen. It's an interesting development, and something I'm a bit excited about.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Chomping at the bit!

I got my first review in for "Deadly Obsessions", and it isn't great, but I agree with a certain part of it, but still I'm proud of the film. After all most people who've seen the film seem to like it, and are interested in it. I've gotten some nice comments, and for that I am eternally grateful, but having lived with the film for so long I see more of it's flaws then anyone else.

And you know what that makes me want to do? Do it AGIAN! You always learn something new and different on every film you do, and I want to jump on the next one, and apply those things that I learned. Everyone is a critic, and you have to have some pretty thick skin to go into any of the arts, but I still want to do more work. I have stories to flesh out, and characters to create. My problem is that I like doing films that I can realistically create. I'm no special effects techie who can have spaceships flying around galaxies, and I'm in no position to create a period piece. I'm stuck with MY REALITY. The here and now, and that's fine with me because there is no shortage of stories here. Read a newspaper, open a magazine, or even watch some TV news. There are stories abound, and each one is different and unique. So there's no limit to what you can do, but sometimes when your sitting alone at your computer the words don't flow as well as you'd like. Distractions are everywhere, and sometimes it's real frustrating working on something that may never see the light of day. I'm sure there are thousands of artists in the same boat who experience the same feelings as I do.

For me the strongest thing is the image, but I've learned that words are important too. I've watched many a one act plays which are very engrossing and interesting. The actors make it come alive, and for the briefest of instances you are transported to that place by the sheer performance of the cast & crew, but alone at your typewriter, or computer the words don't inspire, and certainly the images can't. There are no actors to give it life, and sometimes when writing the writer becomes uninterested in the story and bored by his or her words. I find myself there now. Production is a maelstrom of activity where I thrive. Alone it is much more difficult. I am in awe of authors who have written masterpieces for both the literary world and the stage. How did they deal with their demons and their insecurities? How did they know what they wrote was of some worth, or mere tripe? The answer I can only summize is that they knew because they failed more then they succeeded, and they KNEW what was crap and what was literary gold. I also think they knew because of their wealth of knowledge in reading other authors works.

It's the same old story. Experience can only help, but how do you do this in today's market where not only are there books to read, but movies to see, TV to be programmed, and journals to read. It's all quite maddening on how much we are bombarded with all kinds of media.

So why am I chomping at the bit? Find time, write, and then re-write. That's usually the way it goes, but collaboration with others can make a project even more powerful then it is on paper. Hence the frustration. To be the writer, and the director is simply maddening. If I had to choose I so much like the directing part over the writing. The interaction between actors, & the crew can be stimulating and invigorating.

One can argue that too many chefs in the kitchen does tend to spoil the pot. If your a good director you'll know this, and you'll know when to say no to some ideas and yes to others. That's why I'm "chomping". I want to get back to that, and tell a good story. Sitting alone at a computer is not my idea of fun. It's interaction, and using the creative collective to create great pieces of cinema that I enjoy. I haven't done it yet, but I feel I'm in reach, and that's the frustrating part. I'm always learning, and I'm always going to try and strive to do my best. So I need to push onward!

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Alternative Markets

Technology is moving faster and faster these days and new ways of distributing films are coming into existence each and everyday. So with more households having broadband capability the way a filmmaker distributes his or her film is beginning to change. The digital arena changed when films could be digitized, and placed on the web. I see more and more companies that want content, and like the VCR market of long ago there is a hunger for all types of films. What one market can so selectively target your movie to the it's target audience then the internet. Enjoy horror movies, go google it, or maybe you like romance, try You'll find a number of films that may interest you, and most all come with previews. That way you can see if the film is to your liking or maybe isn't. So why hasn't this revolutionized the industry? It's all about technology, and on what different platform will manufacturers decide on. Right now HD (high definition) is the catch phrase, but in time technology out paces itself faster and faster. At some time it's all about getting it small enough and affordable for the average consumer. When this happens and it will. All I can say is watch out. Wired America is on the horizon. Comcast is already doing this with their movies on-demand. Your TV won't just be a TV. It will be a hybrid of the computer and the television. People will show their family pictures on their big flat screens in the living room, and they will all be plugged into the internet. Networks will see their audiences dwindle to more entertainment choices to the consumer. Some say it is already happening with the explosion of "gaming", "blogging", and even "podcasting". I won't shed a tear for the networks because they are already actively seeking alternative markets, so they will catch up, and they will be your competition. The one thing that filmmakers have an advantage is that they are less incumbent with no bureaucracies as networks or studios have. Filmmakers can respond quickly to market trends quicker then the big behemoths, and there will always be an audience for alternative programming. If one can contain the costs of doing these programs one might just have an audience and a paying audience at that.

So the world is wide open, and it's all on the horizon. It'll change as technology changes, but the filmmaker must remember it's the content that is king. No interest, no audience, no audience, no revenue, and with no revenue there is NO further product. It just got a bit simpler, but yet it's quite complex. Happy filmmaking!

Monday, November 28, 2005

Welcome to the Machine

So I usually am a skeptic, but I do have to say that the digital realm excites me. Not only as a filmaker, but also a movie lover. It's no secret that I'm not your typical movie goer. I like films with a more personal slant. Sure I love the blockbuster films that Hollywood makes, but there are also a number of films out there who were made by people who really care, and who really love cinema also. But the unfortunate thing is that most avenues in mainstream distribution are closed to a lot of us. Maybe it's a film with no stars, or it doesn't have the proverbial chase scene that is seems to be a requirement for most mainstream films now-a-days. So your film doesn't get into festivals or doesn't get that distribution deal because of one thing or the other, so what's a person to do?

Well with alternative distribution markets opening up each day, and broadband becoming more and more entrenched into homes a new avenue of choices opens up for the filmmaker. One only need to create a website and open a merchant account to sell your movie, but again that's only HALF the battle. The other part is marketing, and that is the key. The old saying that: "alone we cannot win a fight, but in numbers we are invincible" holds some truth in the digital age.

What if there was a place where you could go and get different types of movies according to subject matter. That not hype, but content was king. Would you go there? Would you buy product that you could download and view later? Podcasting is already happening, and a number of podcasts have become very successful. But content isn't free, and artists do need to be paid, so what is a person to do?

The proliferation of websites that will soon be providing downloads of films, shorts, and even select documentaries will become more and more a reality. The market is out there, but it is still developing. Your film that hasn't played anywhere outside your own small hometown or city can now be sen by millions AROUND THE WORLD. Your audience grows, and as more and more people download your product a certain percentage goes right to you. Not the studio, but you.

It is every filmmakers dream to make a film. By going this route you may ensure that you keep on creating films, and possible make a career out of it without ever selling out your content or your vision, and if successful how long will you think it'll take old Hollywood to come knocking at your door for help in making successful films for them?

The world is wide open, and you can believe what you want, but I believe that it is a very interesting time we live in, and something that will soon transform an industry that hasn't changed in some time now. Remember what happened to the dinosaurs. They didn't evolve and so they died. Filmmaking and film marketing needs to constantly evolve, and it is doing so with the help of a proliferation of technology.

So welcome to the machine my friend, and sit back. We're all in for a wild ride.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Join a Revolution & go broke?

I just came across an article in the NY Times entitled "Join the revolution. Make movies. Go Broke". It's written by Charles Lyons, and it uses two examples on how some young filmmakers are making their film, yet not breaking through. I've always said that for every success story there are a hundred unsuccessful stories about making films. It is interesting what these filmmakers are doing to attract an audience. Several have gone through the festival route, but both have yet to pick up distribution. This only confirms my belief in the narrowing of the markets for select films. Horror movies, romance films, sci-fi films, and even fantasy films all have a special niche audience, and though their are markets to sell your product to those who are interested the competition for that audience is fierce. Make no mistake you have a BETTER chance of selling your movie to an audience that will appreciate your film, but it is getting harder and harder to attract that interest with all the other films out there competing for the same dollar. So if you get a chance check out

Personally I am still in the process of acquiring an audience that cares. In today's world a filmmaker must be part artist, but also part marketers. I even feel that there is a market for short films here. With a promise of extras, and commentaries a short film can find it's audience if it knows where to look, and that after production the filmmaker has some capital to spend on marketing the product. The digital market is wide open, and I kind of look at it as the "wild west". Anything goes as long as you draw a audience & you can profit from that audience. I see niche filmmaking getting more and more selective as more and more product enters the market arena, but I guess only the strong will survive or should I say the shrudest will. One thing is for sure. They didn't cover this in filmmaking school when I was there!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

It's the story stupid

So after going back and looking what I've written I can see where confusion can set in. Is he a traditionalists or is he another DV filmmaker, and all I can say is that what ever works. I have shot a lot of film through the years, and I do love the quality, and the texture film has, but with that said I have to say that if you can only get your hands on DV equipment then you might as well use it.

I've come across people that cannot overcome the technology. Should I shoot with this camera, or should I shoot with that camera. The excuses are numerous, and the time you consume is your own. If you can't go one way, go the other way. I'm not a fan of DV because of it's small size, and it abysmal compression problem. But with anything this will be overcome someday and then they'll be another set of obstacles that you need to address. Remember it's the story that is important, and how you convey that story. A lot of problems I see in DV features are that they cast their friends in roles that should be inhabited by professionals. I read all the advertisements for films that say NO PAY, and I cringe. If you want a superior product you need to have extraordinary performances, and the only way to do that is to hire professionals. You would be surprised to see how much a professional will want in payment. After all work is work, and if you provide maybe a percentage of the films gross as an incentive you'll have a lot of good actors banging your door down to star in your feature.

So it isn't the equipment as much as the quality of the work. Don't sweat the technical. Sweat the important stuff like story, character and plot. They're a lot more important in the long run.

So I hope this clears up where I stand. I'll shoot film anytime I can because I've worked with it, and I'm familiar with it, and it projects great, but when I have to I'll go the DV route. Both have their challenges, but both offer me unlimited possibilities in telling the story.

So stop making excuses and get out there and make YOUR film. It's what filmmakers do ultimately.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

HD or Not?

So as I do more and more research into the digital realm I'm thinking HD is posed to explode. Already companies such as Sony and JVC are getting into the act and putting out HD camcorders for consumers. Not long ago one would never think about making movies on a prosumer type camera, but it's being done, and with some good results. Most all non-linear editors now are beginning to support HD, and with more and more HD cameras out there more films are going to be shot in HD. The image is superb, and you can't beat the quality for the price. So I'm sure there will be a flood of product in the near future touting HD quality. A lot of films will be awful, while some will break new ground.

I'm currently writing a project to be done digitally. Something quick, & fast, which I can finish digitally. HD is holding my interest, but I need to do some more tests, and coming from a film background helps. I know how to light a scene, yet doing it in HD is somewhat different, but similar if that makes any sense. Blacks aren't as rich as I'd like, and the image has a tendency to be blown out easily. So the experiment continues. All I can say is that the possibilities of manipulating the image becomes endless when shooting digitally. As Robert Rodriguez say's in his interviews of late. The filmmaker can now have the power of a whole studio behind him just by going digital, and all he or she needs are the tools, which are available to all. How long till Rodriguez and others begin to bypass the studio sysytem and get the BIG bucks for themselves. Like I said the digital realm is unique and it's a great leveler in the game of filmmaking. So here's to more experimenting, and more production.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Seconds can be a son-of-a-B#*@*!

So here I am struggling to get my film noticed, and at the same time trying to write some new material. If you think making your first feature is hard try making your second. There is no shortages of ideas just shortages of capital. I want to be realistic about getting another film done, but after finishing your first feature you're a little more jaded and a lot more realistic. The scars from doing battle are all too real and you have the bumps & bruises to prove it. The honeymoon is over, and you now see filmmaking in a new light. No glory, no movie stars, and no wild parties. It's all an illusion, and making a film is one of the hardest things you can do. Even after making your film your battle is not over because then it comes time to sell it.

And when it comes to selling you're film you'll find yourself swimming with a lot of sharks. It's a buyers market out there, and there is a lot of product out there. A lot of it is bad, but make no mistake there is also a lot of good out there, and sometimes it's being at the right place at the right time that really makes or breaks a filmmaker. I swore I would write here what I felt and what I've experienced throughout the making of this film and my continuation of trying to become a successful filmmaker.

Maybe this all sounds like sour grapes, but it is what it is. One cannot give up, and one cannot just lay down and die. I love storytelling, and I love the cinema. It's my feeling that everyone has a story or two to tell, and with digital video now the field is wide open. The internet also provides you with a market that has yet to be fully exploitated.

The words that an old projectionist once told me that still rings true to me is "KISS": as in "Keep it simple stupid". No truer words have ever been spoken, and so I find myself stripping away the complexities of filmmaking, and getting to the heart of what filmmaking is to me. Hopefully I'll come up with something I like. Till then the struggle continues.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Improv & good acting

Style. What is it? All artists struggle with their style. What is it?, and how is it unique from all other artists work. I guess that's where I'm at now. Working on different projects and trying to find MY style. It isn't easy figuring what to say least how to say it, so there are a lot of starts and stops. It's simple though. I adore film or as some call it "the cinema". There is a lot of crap out there, and trying not to contribute to that crap can be a angst type of proposition. So you write, and photograph, and write some more, and photograph some more, and see where that takes you.

Like I said before filmmaking is a collaborative art, so there are many cooks who stir the stew. Sometimes this isn't such a good idea, and at other times it is a brilliant idea. I'm somewhere in the middle. Good writing sells itself, but so does good acting, and with acting one needs to have certain freedoms, and not be too constrained by the script.Of course creating such a work can be a frustrating endeavor. How much of you do you put into it, and how much do you let someone else play with your material. It's all a matter of degrees, and something I'm finding a bit nerve wrecking.

But when one is faced with strict realities in the production, and producing of a film one has a tendency to create good art, and hopefully that's where this leads. Of course good art has to be about something, and has to have an audience. One needs some sort of hook, or some exploitative element that makes the piece interesting for a wider audience.

SO the endeavor continues. I'll get back to you on how successful I become.

Till then stay creative.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Digital or Film

The above picture is one of the cameras I have in my arsenal. The other is a Arri BL, and I love both of these cameras. The above camera, which is called an Eclair NPR has been used in many productions in the past. Many an independent film has shot with the NPR because of it's portability, and it's relative quiet running. Of course both these cameras are older models, and now there are Arri SR's and Anton's which are quieter, but a lot more expensive. It's a no brainer to shoot film if you have the budget, but more and more the world is going digital, and if your final output is to DVD then you might as well shoot digital, and put the extra money you save into paying your actors or better food on the set. Trust me it will be money well spent.

I have a affinity for film. I like the latitude film gives, and even if I go the DVD route I know the film will look great. Maybe it's the cinematographer in me. I've gotten GREAT images in the past with film, and Kodak keeps coming out with some great filmstocks to capture images with. I spent a little over four grand on film stock for my film "Deadly Obsessions", and another six grand to develop it all. SO you can see why the temptation to go to digital is so tempting.

In fact I would say that if I was shooting a film NOW I would most certainly shoot on digital. Film festivals are more and more accepting digital submissions, and I've seen digital projected movies which look absolutely fantastic. But then again I still love film. Film seems to capture a lot of detail, and since I'm familiar with exposure, and latitudes of film I know what I'll get as the final image. Digital is immediate, and you can manipulate digital later, but I've always thought it was a cheat if you did that. I was schooled by teachers who told me to get a clean image, and I've always done that. Nestor Alemendros was one of my favorite cinematographers, and his photography still stands out to me.

I work with a lot of young adults and it's a shame to see that digital is more and more taking over the academic world. I still don't think film is dead. Not just yet. In fact there may be a resurgence of film some time in the future. Maybe then they'll bring us old folk out and they'll dust us off and have another go round in the world of FILM production.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Remembering Sarah!

Sarah Jacobson was one cool lady. She wrote & directed as well as edited, and produced along with her mother the film "Mary Jane isn't a Virgin Anymore". I had a chance to see the film here in Philly, but was disappointed when she didn't show up to the screening. You see Sarah was a one women tour`de force. She took her film to colleges, and small art theaters around the US and even in parts of Europe. She was exhausted, and could not come, but it mattered not, because I was thoroughly impressed at what Ms Jacobson had done for a mere 12K. Sarah was the original punk Do it your-selfer. She and her mom did their own advertising through the web, and by putting up posters for her screening. She sold a short film on video called "I was a teenager serial killer" at her screenings as well as T-shirts. Ms Jacobson eventually got a job at the Oxygen Network, and was a producer there before her illness took her.

I've read almost every article I could get my hands on that she wrote. I read all the interviews she gave, and she was someone I admired, and cheered on. It's hard work making a film, but it's even harder promoting it, and Sarah was a pro at that. She died last year, and it was a loss to the independent movement here in this country. She was a pioneer of sorts, and some one who influenced me on doing my own thing.

So when I get down, or get angry at my failures and think I can no longer do another film I think one thing, and it cheers me up. That one thing is: "What would Sarah do?"

The answer is always the same: Kick some fucking ass.

Here's to you Sarah. You are missed and yet you still inspire. I'd think she'd like that.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

It's in your head

The above is a saying my screenwriting teacher used to tell us, and she was SO right. Any idea starts in your head, and then gets written down. That journey from your head to the paper and finally onto the screen can be a long and cumbersome journey. Richard Rush took 10 years to get the movie "The Stuntman" made, and he suffered a heart attack in the interim. So though there is a lot of product out there in the market place. There is also a lot of junk too. Good writing is where it starts, and don't let anyone say any different. So I'm in the process of writing several things, and seeing which one pans out. I even have several ideas for shorts, but I'm a little put off in doing a short because there isn't really a big market out there for shorts, and if you're going to put in a lot of effort into a project it might as well be something you can market like a feature. The writing process can be one of frustration, and sheer isolation. It's you and the word processor, and that's it, and when there is no feed back you begin to question yourself and the work. Meanwhile time ticks away, and you're not getting any younger. Everyday you're not shooting your epic is another day you feel useless, but again it's all in the writing, so it is here where you need to get fired up, and maybe fire up some other people. Filmmaking never stops, and even when you think you're not doing something you actually are. It's a long road to the screen, and it's a road with a lot of traps, and pitfall. You need the story to drive you, and then you'll get through it all. Remember it's in your head.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Next Project?

So what to do now. I've completed a feature, and I've done several shorts. Now what? For a long time I've been looking for people who are in the same situation as me. People who had an overwhelming love for the cinema, but who also hold a firm grasp in reality. What do I mean by that you ask. The media is full of stories of people bucking the odds and getting their film made, but over the years I've met others who have danced the dance, and have been less successful. Mostly money, time, or both conspire against one and after all the film industry is a strange mistress. It will love you one minute and forget about you the next. For MYSELF I've been interested in film since I was a young teen, and it has given me much happiness as well as heartbreak. You do what you have to do, and with the tools you have. It's that simple. Glory, fame, money are all nice, but it's not what drives the engine. What drives the engine is the desire to create something better then yourself. Something that you can be proud of, and that says something. So the line for me has been between the academic world, and the entertainment industry. One feeds the other, and there is merit in both worlds. Since resources have been dry of late I have begun to dig deeper into the experimental. Maybe there I can feed the monster, and eventually apply what I've learned into another film. Everyday is a new day of opportunities and I need to look within myself for those inspirations. The catch phrase "Persistence of vision" keeps coming into my head. I was always told that persistence was the key to your goals. All I know is that I have stories to tell, and films to create, and I need to get on the stick, and do it. After all I'm not getting any younger.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Roger Corman

Okay it's no secret that I'm a huge admirer of Roger Corman. I believe he has kind of sort of retired now, but at 80 he is still the man to beat when it comes to his track record of movie production. Corman directed early on his career, and his films include "The House of Usher" "Little Shop of Horrors", and "The Raven". These are just three films that he directed & produced. In the late 60's and early 70's Corman created his own studio that feed the drive-in circuits, and eventually the video market, which was to come later. Corman brags that he never lost a dime on any of his pictures and the reason he didn't is that he is a good businessman. Yes folks after all it is called show "business". He's done many interviews and has been honored at a number of festivals, and it is only now that I truly understand what Corman did. He has said in recent interviews that the number of films available to distributors has increased, due to the decrease cost of production equipment. The smartest thing you can do is NOT making a picture. What? You say. NOT make a picture? Isn't this about filmmaking, and making films?

Well yes Virginia, this blog is about making films, but it is about making profitable films, and films people actually want to see. Corman risked nothing during production. He had his cash already from advances given to him by distributors who knew how to target the movie they were making. When you make a film you have to say, "what is your target audience?" Who is going to see this film and better yet who will most certainly buy this film. As I've said before the market is fragmented, and there are many niche markets out there. Horror, action/adventure/ thriller, erotic thriller, comedy and so on. Before doing your film examine trends, and see what's selling and what's not. That's not to say that you can’t and shouldn't make your film about "surfing dogs", but you better know the audience who will pluck down their hard earned cash for your DVD. That's where the specialty markets exist, and if you keep your cost down during production and make it cheap enough then maybe you'll be able to re-coup your money back.

Okay so you've heard all this and still you’re fired up about making a film. Great just remember that the film doesn't end when the shooting stops or even when the cutting stops. I'll try and go into a little more detail on what I'm doing and whether I'm successful in marketing my film. If you already made your film like I did then it's time to take stock in who might be your audience and if there is any cross over interest in the film. There are several avenues to go, and you have to decide which is best for you. What do you want to get out of the deal? That's the basic question here, and one everyone should ask themselves.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Cronenberg Returns

Okay so he may have never left, but tomorrow his film opens "History of Violence", and the word is that it's really good. Hype or truth you'll just have to see it to find out, but Cronenberg has been a big influence in my development as a filmmaker. His films are visceral, and yet they have a point to them. In my teenage years I saw his films such as "Rabid", "The Brood", and "Scanners" and ate it all up. To put it mildly Cronenberg was not for the timid. I remember when a magazine called "Cinefantastic" came out and he was on the cover. I ate up the article and read and re-read the article inside promoting his film Scanners. It was there that I saw a picture of a young Cronenberg filming something with an actor in a bath tub. "From the Drain" was one of Cronenberg's earliest films when he was a student, but I became fascinated with the idea of going to school for filmmaking. I eventually did, and Cronenberg was one of the filmmakers who for better or worse got me hooked on the world of filmmaking. I also became fascinated with the world of 16mm film production. I had always used Super-8 or even 8mm, but never 16mm. It was only in film school that I began to pick up my first 16mm camera and actually shoot some shorts. I loved the width of the film. No more squinting at little super-8 frames. No more mickey mouse editors. Now I was working on flat-beds, and movieola's. This was the big time, and when I heard that George Romero edited in 16mm, and that the "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" was filmed in 16mm I knew that this was the professional leagues. It was then that I wanted to make a feature after doing several shorts, but it took a long time to get from here to there, and a lot has changed over the years. New technology, and different distribution arena's have popped up. To say it was better then then now would be wrong. A lot has changed, but the way you tell a good story hasn't, and that's all that counts. I was trained in the technical way of making a film, and I am pretty good at that, but now you need to know a lot more such as marketing, sales and sell through. All things that you pick up through time. Seeing Cronenberg reminds me of the simple days of saying "hey! gang let's get together and shoot a film". In a way it hasn't changed, but it's gotten a lot more serious, but still that can do spirit still exsists in me, and sometimes it is as simple or as complex as I make it out to be.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Shut up or put up!

So I've been scrambling to get my film distributed and seen.  I've decided to distribute it myself through FilmBaby.  I recently had the film put onto DVD by Discmakers.  I have no other recourse and I'm so done with the film festival route.  Now this may sound like a sour grapes, but the festival route is loaded with favoritism, and is just plain corrupt.  I could go on about this but even if your a local filmmaker it's hard to getyour film into a film festival that just happens to be happening in your own backyard.  It's all about the glitter, and glamour of moviemaking.  (Yeah right!)  It's about what stars can I impress or conjoul to appear at my festival.  Such things as giving awards out does the trick, or maybe just plain bribery.  I mean when a star has a film coming out, and their willing to come to a festival to sneak peak it to the public why the fuck not.  Even if the film is a piece of crap I still have the star coming.   Kiss, kiss!

Okay I'm bitter, but it's a reality s I deal with it.  I can't let the rejection get to me.  The few people who ahve seen the film think it a solid film, and somthing I should be proud of.  Well I am, and I'm so proud of it that I'm going to risk some more money to distribute it myself.  Hey! in for a penny, in for a pound.  I even added an extra to the DVD because a DVD needs extras.  So once more into the breach, and remember folks if you do a film plan on living with it for a very long time.  I'll be adding the address to the web site to my web site, and I'll even list it here when the folks at FilmBaby put up a link to a clip of the film, and how and to order the film from them.  Lot's more to do, so till next time.  Stay well, and stay independent!

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Where's the film in filmmaking?

I've just read an article in this months photography that explains about video disks, and the filming on small portable hard disks. A lot of productions do this already as a time saver since most production house edit on non-linear editing decks. The tape is used usually as a back-up in case there is a problem with the hard disk. With the coming of blu-tooth technology more and more video can now be transposed onto a hard disk, or several disks. In the article the author re-examines the various different disk technologies around the world. For instance I had no idea that China is a big market for video CD technology. It seems that 75 million players were sold in China alone, and so there is a significant market out there that plays it's movies on this technology. Most of the world has converted to the DVD standard, but there still remains a lot of different technologies out there that consumers posses. Several weeks ago I heard Kodak was laying off over 900 workers from in Rochester plant. This was due to the effect digital storage has done to the photographic department of Kodak. So is film dead? I say not, but it's close to extinction. Why spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on filmstock when digital media is cheaper. Soon this will impact the movie market, and then once it becomes more cost efficient to go digital film will go the way of the dodo.

I'm an avid fan of film, and it's beauty, but even I have to wake up and smell the coffee. Film has a great latitude, and it is true that right now film does have an advantage, but the gap is closing. Digital will exceed film in clarity and depth soon. More and more manufactures of DV cameras are now making them with bigger color chips inside. This will give an image it's clarity, and depth that video lacks. Already a lot of film production houses are shooting episodic TV digitally. The compression rate will be the last wall that falls for digital, and when this happens and we no longer have compression rates such as 4:1:1:1, and instead have them at 4:4:4:4 more artists will begin to use digital.

I would ordinary say this is bad, but I can nolonger say that. More and more artists work with digital, and the final product looks better if not the same as if it were shot on film. As the filmmaking process becomes more and more democratic, and more and more people start using DV the more product the consumer will see. Some very bad, and some really extraordinary products will surface. It's like the early 80's with the advent of the VCR. There was a hunger for product out there because the consumer wanted movies to see, so all sorts of movies were quickly transferred to video, and marketed as new. Now with the advent of DV and HDTV they'll be more films to choose from, and a lot of product will become available to the consumer. It is a dawn of another era. The era of personal filmmaking & marketing. Hollywood will be playing catch up with the new technology that is arising, and movie making will become less about Hollywood and more about filmmaking as an art.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Cinema of the Masses

So no sooner do I write something about DV and it's usefulness when suddenly the magazine Moviemaker has several articles about "Budget-lite" movies & "the teen film revolution. As I've said previously in this meandering blog about filmmaking I started to make films when I was in my early teens, and that was back in the good old days of Super-8. Now with DV more & more young filmmakers are sprouting up. All you need is a digital camera, a firewire board, and a computer. Now instead of splicing tape, and looking through actual film one can create a movie just like the pros & some would even say better then the pros. The youth of today is bombarded by every type of media there is. Computer, cable, TV, radio, & print all covert the 16 to 24 year old demographic. It was only inevitable that this generation as well as it's younger brethren would begin to make their own media. That's where I find the idea of DV liberating, and fulfilling. With so much disconnection between the generations I believe that DV can provide a voice to some who feel disconnected, but yet have something they like to say. This concept is nothing new. Rodger Larson did just that in the late seventies early eighties in New York city. Larson called it Young Filmmakers, and his organization provided teens with the tools to create films. These films were shot and edited on 16mm, and every so often their would be screenings of the teens work together with their peers. Now in schools across this nation media programs are popping up, and becoming popular with the students. A new generation is beginning to think "media smart". These students are becoming aware of the tools that the media uses to get them to buy things, and are turning the media back onto itself. There are also more and more microcinema filmmakers out there who work on a small scale, but whose films are no less important and who have an audience. As cameras get smaller and the technology becomes more and more proliferated we are going to see more and more of these films. Wait till films are delivered through broadband into our very homes and schools. There will be no holding this wave back, and Hollywood will do what it always does. Hollywood will try and copy the success of a few and try to cash in on this "niche" only to find out that it's audience is a bit too smart, and it bites back. The future is wide open.

Friday, August 12, 2005


So with the production of the DVD my mind races to other projects. DV is the tool to do just that. Digital video is a medium with instant gratification, and multiple possibilities. If you don't like a cut or a scene you just delete and start fresh, or maybe by sliding around your video & audio clips you come up with something more interesting, and it's all a mouse click away. Just drag and drop, copy & paste and you may just find out a unique way in getting your point across. "Deadly Obsessions" was to prove to me and others that a feature is capable without the extravagance of a Hollywood budget. But the possibilities now are too numerous now. Their are people out there who are making movies in their garages, and getting them out to the audiences that want them. Regional filmmaking is becoming more and more, but even more then that is that different markets are emerging who specialize in one or two genres.

Sony just came out with an HDV camcorders and though it will never replace the professional ones that cost thousands of dollars it does now put HDV into the hands of thousands of consumers. The Sony HVR-Z1U is only the tip of the iceberg. More manufacturers are planning to come out with their own HDV cameras. So the revolution evolves and continues to evolve into a more and more fragmented market. You have people making their own horror/goth/fetish films, love stories, action adventure, and even sci-fi films, and all are geared to a certain audience. Marketing these films can be a mouse click away thanks to the Internet, and now the person in some town in Montana can connect to a genre that interests him or her.

The world is wide open, and it is growing my leaps and bounds every day. Already Hollywood is beginning to feel it's strangle hold on cinema slipping. In this weeks variety, and in other newspapers there is talk in Hollywood that this summer was the worst in box office sales. Some say it's because of the DVD, and others say it's because of the poor product Hollywood has been producing of late. My feelings it's a bit of both.

I feel liberated by this. Sure it's harder to market your particular film to viewers now because of the fragmented market, but one can now do it without others taking a piece of the pie. If successful you will make more on your product then you could have ever made going through traditional distributors.

Does that mean that the distributors are done for. I don't think so. After all selling to a WORLD market is complicated. There are already some pipelines that distributors have already tapped, so it would make sense to go to one for help in worldwide sales of your little epic. But before that happens you may have already gotten back your budget, and what ever comes in is gravy, and can be put into a new film.

The world is wide open, and opportunity is there. All you have to do is step up. Any takers?

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Coming soon

"Deadly Obsessions" is on it's way to DVD, and will soon be available on the web. 

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

The wheel does spin

I've been thinking about what I really want in life, and why do I feel so stagnant. Chalk it up to the lazy days of summer, and having the attitude in saying "WTF". This Friday opens a movie by a favorite filmmaker of mine. His name is Jim Jarmush, and his film is entitled "Broken Flowers". If your unfamiliar with Mr Jamush's films here are a couple that may sound familiar: "Stranger than Paradise", Down By Law", "Mystery Train", and Coffee & Cigarettes". I like Jarmusch's style, and he has such a unique way of looking at the world. He's a filmmaker I'd consider a true filmmaker. I like that he doesn't rehearse his actors but instead talks to them about the character. What do I mean by a true filmmaker? What is that? Doesn't any person who makes a film become a true filmmaker. The simple answer is NO!

A true filmmaker has his own unique look and feel, and he doesn't compromise in his or her vision no matter what the budget is. A true filmmaker takes cinema into different places, and tells his or her story in unique ways. Pushing boundaries! That's what it's all about for me. I've proven to myself that I can make a film from A to Z, and do it on the cheap, and yet make it look half way decent. Now I want more. I want to push film into other territories. There are so many filmmakers out there who are following the same road that Hollywood has been going down for decades now. Nothing new, and that's what eggs me on. Even I am susceptible to the old fall back position of telling a story. I get frustrated when I realize it's more of the same formula that has been ingrained into me by countless viewings of movies and television. That's the frustrating part of creating something. Maybe it's too much to ask to be different, and that constant experimenting is the ONLY way to achieve anything new, but the process is maddening, and sometimes just plain sucks!

So I push forward, and hope that an idea catches me and lights the creative flame under me, so that I can finally break free of the mundane, and be extraordinary.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

The State of Things

So I've come to the conclusion that the only way to sell this film is through the web, but first I'd like to get it out there and somewhat noticed. Film festivals seem to be a big bust, and I'm finding out that it's not so much that you have a film to show, but who do you know on the film festival committee. I know this sounds like sour grapes, and maybe in part it is, but if a festival is truly trying to be "indie" friendly then why wouldn't it give a local production or a truly "independent" film a chance to be seen? I'll tell you why, and the reason is that it's all about the prestige and the MONEY. It's no wonder experimental filmmakers can't get any play any more. The festivals seem to all be catering to the Hollywood image of a festival. Stars, celebrity judging, award ceremonies to celebrities are all that matter. The more stars the more prestige, and the more prestige the more money a festival brings in. I've tried entering over a dozen festivals. From small ones to big ones, and nothing has come of it except an empty bank account. Maybe my film isn't so good? Maybe it isn't worth seeing? Maybe it's a real stinker, and I'm just a bad filmmaker? All these doubts and questions can really play with your self confidence. Then I see what is playing at these festivals and I think no, maybe I'm just not Hollywood type material. No star's, no car chases, no happy endings, and no blatant T&A. Mind you "Deadly Obsessions" is a film about adultery, and there are some risque scenes in it, but filmed entirely tackfully, and tastefully. Believe me when I say it was done intentionally due to my love of film noir. So how does one get spin on a movie that some found entertaining, and interesting. The key is to get it out there. The public and yes the critics are the ones that will make or break the film. I sometimes feel as though I'm not putting everything I have into this movie, but what I put in is all I got. Working, & raising a family keeps me real busy these days, so it's hard just to get some notice of the film. Maybe I'm just whistling in the dark, but I notice that there are several others out there who are doing it also, and who have just as much passion as I do, so I guess I'm in good company. The best thing about all this is that I've learned to be smarter, and I know what to do and what not to do. In the craft of filmmaking that's all anyone can ask for. Because that next movie, or that next project is right around the corner, and you need to be ready to take that next step.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Writing, Preparing for DVD, & other stuff

Between writing some new/old material, and getting all the elements together for the DVD of "Deadly Obsessions". It's been a busy few days. Of course there is also the day job too which keeps me going, which I don't mind, so there is little down time. Being a father of two boys also keeps me busy, but that's all par for the course, and somewhat enjoyable. I say somewhat because it does get a little crazy when both boys start crying, and yours truly feels like Michael Keaton's character in "Mr. Mom".

I've been working on a script for some time now, and it's been going through several drafts and several severe plot line changes. They say the key to writing is re-writing, and I would have to agree with them on that. I'm sure there's another re-write in this scripts history, but one that isn't so dramatic. I've nailed down characters, plot lines, and resolution. Now comes the details which will change as I write it, and if I'm lucky enough as I shoot it. Actors always bring fresh eyes to a project and I've always listened to their ideas. A lot of the times it makes the story stronger, and gives it a bit more of a punch, but as always you can't incorporate ever idea you hear. But that's how good films evolve. Anyone say different and they're lying to you.

This week I'm dropping off the materials for the DVD, and I hope to have it finished by the end of July. I'll probably go through Filmbaby, and see what happens. I've stopped with festival submission save but a few, and I just want it out there for people to see.

I'm aching to do another film, but I may do several shorts instead of scripts I've already written. It may be part of a bigger production, but right now I'm concentrating on the writing or rewriting of my script, and then I'll see which short film interests me. I'm sure I'll be tweeking those as well, but for now I'll work on the second feature script and then concentrate on the shorts. I would love to devote MORE time to get "Deadly Obsessions" out there, but I can only do so much, and I've been reading more and more about niche film markets, and how through the years they've been developing. I have no special contacts, and I don't have a rich uncle or aunt to support me and my family, so I have to do the best I can. There is a lot of bravado in this industry, and usually nothing behind it. I was fortunate enough to work on several films in my youth while I was going to school and later I worked on several projects as a freelancer, so I know how it works. I'll keep plugging because it's what I do. It's all I know how to do. Like the blog says this is a filmmakers journey, and I want this to be a true depiction of what it takes to do something you love. No complaints, and no regrets. Always onward!

Monday, June 27, 2005

The Copyright Cartel

Here is an interesting story on how some filmmakers tackled the copyright issues in their film "Mad Hot Ballroom". The documentary is about young children doing what else ballroom dancing" to several different songs. I've always been frustrated at the copyright issue, and what is fair use and what isn't. Where I work we adhere to "royalty free" copyrighted material for projects, but there have been a number of times where I felt it should have fallen into the "fair use" domain, but once you add lawyers to the mix the field becomes littered with landmines. The article makes an interesting point in saying that maybe the filmmakers were being too cautious, but then again as an indie the film-makers had to protect themselves, and even school districts insulate themselves by enforcing the royalty free music only policy. It's too bad because interesting material gets censored before it's even shot. One more thing the filmmaker of today has to worry about.

Romero rules!

Okay so I have to comment on Romero's latest flim "Land of the Dead". If anyone would like to hear the master himself NPR
has two interviews with Romero. One interview done a year ago, and the other done during the premiere of his latest dead installment. Needless to say that Romero's latest is one which will not disappoint. But now for the bad news, and that is the latest box office places it 5th, and has made a little more then $10 million. It's still early but not good for summer business especially when the remake of "War of the Worlds" is releasing Wednesday. I just hope that Romero gets another shot at doing another film. Romero has been a maverick in filmmaking for sometime, and in an interview he did when "Dawn of the Dead" came out he talked about regional filmmaking, and it was an interesting concept to subscribe to, and now with the internet, and niche film markets opening up more and more you can see Romero was ahead of his time. I have heard that the DVD release will have extra scenes, but not by a whole lot. Romero talks about filmming his latest. Romero comments on the hectic shooting schedule (47 days) and how he had to pinch his pennies to get the film done the way he wanted it. Filmmaking is a tough gig even for the true and battle tested Romero.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Okay so I'm all psyched to see this film. George Romero remains a favorite of mine, and I'm amazed to see that even Romero has a hard time getting films financed, and this from a guy who has a track record. As a teen I was heavily influenced by Romero. Creating all those backyard movies way back when in my youth were fun. It's been about twenty years since the last dead film, and I'm anxious to see the results. My thoughts on Romero can go on and on, so I won't do that here. Needless to say that it's good to see a talented filmmaker get his shot again. The horror genre needs to be resurrected if you pardon the pun.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

41 and done?

So I was reading this article on pitching a film to a studio. It seems that a Michael Davis a 44 year old director of straight to video films has gotten a deal at New Line Cinema to direct a film called "Shoot'em Up". In the article it says that studios in Hollywood don't look at people over 40, and usually stick with young talent. Well I think I know why Hollywood has been loosing some of it's audience. It's the age factor. Hollywood is notorious for it's short sidedness, and it's attraction to youth. All one has to do is look under plastic surgeons and one will find a plethora of doctors all located in the Los Angeles area. But I digress, and this is all nothing new, so why the anachromony? Because I don't think it's over for me. Maybe call me a dreamer, or a hopeful romantic, but I in no way feel like I'm done, and that I'm toast. The old battle cry "I have not yet begun to fight" comes to mind, and I like it. Davis did his homework, and showed the studio what was important. NO hype, just good storytelling ideas, and a plan.

You see Hollywood is scared. The box office is down, budgets are up, salaries are sky high, and the movie going public is voting with their pocketbooks. Some say the DVD revolution is to blame, but that isn't it. They said that about the video cassette in the 80's and here it is 2005 and we still have theaters, and the public still enjoys going to a GOOD movie. Seeing a film in the privacy of ones home is great, but the experience of seeing it with an enthusiastic audience is even better. Movies are communal type things, and like amusement rides people seem to enjoy the emotions one goes through when watching a GOOD movie. Notice I said good movie. The key word in that phrase is GOOD. Which brings me back to the age thing. The 40 and over mentality needs to be dropped. Right now there are several directors who are way over 40, and who are much better filmmakers now then they were in their younger days. They say youth is wasted on the young, and that is sometimes true. The Hollywood model just doesn't work, and it knows it. The world is opening up, and audiences are getting more selective. It costs more to go out and see a movie now, and Hollywood is aiming at the spectacle market. The amusement ride is what Hollywood is interested in, and it's franchise. Good story telling has suffered, and we need a renaissance of good movies to show Hollywood that it's about the story stupid. 40 and over indeed! I think not.

Friday, June 17, 2005


Two ideas have gotten hold of me, and both would make excellent films. I have not fleshed out the details, but it is something I'm very interested in. The above picture is from a pulp novel written by the late Jim Thompson. You can put his type of writing under such books as Dashiell Hammett, or Mickey Spillane, but Thompson was a bit more harder edge hence my like for his novels. There have been a number of films over the years that were based on Thompson's work. The Grifters, After Dark My Sweat, and the Getaway are all films that have had some success. Even "the Killer Inside Me" was made into a interesting film, but lately Thompson's presence has been absent in cinema. The rights to his stories are too expensive for this independent producer to ever buy an option on one of his stories, so I've been toying with doing something in that same genre using my own story. What appeals to me in these stories is the grit, and the rawness of the material. So hence project number one.

My second idea is something a bit more personal, but which deal with topics that other films have dealt with, but have never dealt with all of them in one film. No special effects, no gun play, just simple straight story telling. Something where everyone can relate to, but which hold special meaning to me. After all no matter what I do it'll take me a while to get this made, and in that time you LIVE with a project. It becomes your other child, and you better LOVE that child or it'll be destined to die.

I will be putting my film Deadly Obsessions onto DVD next week, and so I'm hoping to distribute through Filmbaby. It's an alternate distribution method, but one worth exploring. The film needs to be seen, and this is the only way I know where I won't be theived out of money. The distribution arena is a tricky area, and from what I've gathered it is not friendly to the maker of the film. In fact you may loose your film in the process, so instead of that happening I need to take it into my own hands and see if this wonderful thing we call the internet can do anything for a film I'm proud of.

So that's it in a nut shell. I've also have interest in two short films that have been eating at me for some time now. More in the avant-garde realm, but no less challenging from a film-making perspective. So always busy, and never to give up.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Feeding the Dream

So after finishing the trailer for the film what's a person to do if funds are low, but ideas are plentiful? The answer is write, write and rewrite. So that's what's happening. In no area in the film-making process is the idea of a story more powerful then in the writing stage. It is here where YOU, and only YOU begin the long film-making process. All things are possible at this stage, and all avenues are open to you. You as the writer are God in your universe, and it is you who manipulate characters, storylines, and plot points. Of course when production begins, and even when you start pre-production things in the story will change due to time, financial constraints, and just pure luck. That's the magic or should I say the reality of film-making. Chaos ensures, but if your good it's a sort of a organized chaos. Yes I know that doesn't make a lot of sense, but in film-making little does. For a really funny and yet eye opening account of film-making see the movie "The Stunt Man" by Richard Rush. The film is chalk full of what the film-making process is like. Another funny yet realistic film that delves into the movie making mystic is "Living in Oblivion" starring Steve Buscemi. So that's where I find myself right now. Not behind a camera, but behind a word processor. I've always found that this process of writing is the most angst filled. So many ideas hit you that sometimes it's hard to get it all straight, and then knowing that what you write is subject to the realities of film-making can sometimes drive a person a little insane. I was told by a successful director that "if your 100% happy with your film at the end of the film-making process quit the business because it will never happen EVER again". I didn't fully understand it then, but I certainly understand the statement now. You can be close to being satisfied, but there is ALWAYS something that you could have done better if you had a little more time or money. So armed with the knowledge of knowing that the script is only a blueprint to your film you will make the film-making process a lot more interesting and rewarding for you and the crew. Richard Rush took ten years to make his film "The Stuntman", and in those years he suffered a major haert attack. Yet the film was done, and to some extent it was well received by critics. So if you ever wonder why Hollywood makes all those re-makes or sequels it's because an original idea takes so long, and rarely gets anywhere without some major force behind it. Either that or it's pure persistence which is the case for the film "The Stuntman". But I digress.

My screenwriting teacher told me that a story is most susceptible to greatness or mediocrity when the film is in the writing stage. All great stories are re-written, and it's important to know your story from A to Z and know all the plot points and the character's motivations. There are a number of books on the writing of screenplays which all cover the mechanics of writing the screenplay, so I won't get into them here. Two books by the screenwriter Syd Field are "Screenplay" & "The Screenwriters Workbook" are worth checking out.

So that's where I am now. A filmmaker has many stories he or she wants to tell, and should always look forward to their next story. I still have much to do with my film "Deadly Obsessions" , but in time I'll get the film out there to its audience. Till then one can only concentrate on other stories that one might like to see made. Hopefully sooner then later, but in the film-making business time is all relative to what one makes of his or her opportunities as they present themselves. So here's to moving forward.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Cutting Trailers, & selling a movie

The past few weeks I've been busy cutting trailers for my film "Deadly Obsessions", and looking into expanding the web site and getting a merchant account so I can start selling the film. I also need to put the film onto DVD, and I've been looking at pricing. In the past day I've finalized the video, and converted it into an MPEG file.

Cutting trailers is an art form all to itself. I read interviews with filmmakers who worked for Roger Corman, and in the interview they say that they would cut in a shot of an exploding helicopter if the footage from the film wasn't visual interesting. While cutting my trailer for the film that sentiment reverberated in my head for some time. To put it bluntly there are no rules to editing trailers. Just as long as you get people interested in the film. Well I haven't gone that far and edited in some exploding vehicles, but I hope I have made the film a bit more interesting with the footage I've included. At first I just sat at my editing console not knowing what I really wanted, but after talking to my wife, and a bit more staring I finally realized in what direction I wanted to go with. Did I want a narration throughout the trailer?, or did I just want music, and montage some scenes of the movie?, or did I want to just use both dialogue and picture to convey my story? I ultimatly choose the music route and I montaged a few scenes together. The results weren't too bad, and I hope to put it up sometime soon.

Which brings me to the redesign of the web site. I believe it needs to be restructured from the ground up. The actors page and a whose who of the film will be slightly modified, but the frontpage will defiantly be different. So when I finally get this done I'll post the link. Money is always a factor, so I may be moving my domain to another server, which I still need to learn to do. Filmbaby dot com is a choice I may also do. I figure the more the film is out there the more people will see it. The object is to get the film out there, and the web seems like the place to start.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

"Cinema is Over"

In an article in Britain's Guardian Jean-Luc Godard was quoted as saying: "It's over, there was a time maybe when cinema could have improved society, but that time was missed." Now far be it from me to criticize the great Jean-luc Godard, but I have to disagree with the above statement. To me it sounds like sour grapes. Godard himself mentions in the article that his movies have been unsuccessful in a commercial sense. I happen to disagree on that also but that's another argument for another time. I guess Godard is measuring his success to what Hollyweird produces, and it's success at the box office. I'll agree that the film business is just that a film business, but to say that cinema is over, and that no good can come from it is wrong. There is a lot of cinema out there that works, and gets it's message through. Of course since the results are not measured in the millions, Hollyweird and its brethren are not paying too much attention to theses small personal films, but make no mistake theses films are reaching it's target audiences. Through the internet and alternative distribution small films made by ordinary lovers of the cinema are getting out there. These films are eclectic, and cover all sorts of genre's. Some of these films are made on budgets that on a Hollywood budget would only cover the craft services of the film. Occasionally when the film crosses over it's target audience and finds a wider audience does Hollyweird notice and then step in to market that film to it's wider audience.

Hollyweird is only interested in the blockbuster, and that's fine with me. I like a good shoot-em up love story once in awhile to take my mind off the mundane of life, but I also love GOOD cinema, and there is still some good cinema being made both in Hollywierd land, and other places where you might not expect good filmmaking to come from. Now I'll be the first to admit that with this overabundance of films there is a lot of schlock. After all we cannot all be Godard's, and a lot of these video-makers try to emulate what they see in the movies or on television. After all that's how the French New Wave started. It was a bunch of cinema snobs (critics) who liked early American filmmaking, and so with the advent of more portable cameras they took their films into the streets, and started filming. Does this sound familiar. After all with the advent of digital video it is now possible for anyone with a computer and camera to do some pretty extrodinary things. But does technology make for better films? The answer is clearly NO! It's the story stupid. The story has been the key throughout filmmaking, and will always be the key.

In the article the interviewer asks the question to Godard "can these small digital cameras save the cinema?", and Godard answers only in a scowl and says nothing. To Godard these "small digital cameras" are what is ruining cinema, and they confirm his opinion that cinema is over. I have to disagree strongly on that. Cinema is an ever evolving artform, and digital video is just another platform for telling stories. It is these stories told by numerous individuals that may just find it's voice, and just maybe transform society into a better society. Whose to say that some film that someone shot in Wisconsin will not touch someone else living in Paris or Milan. The internet, and the digital revolution is what will make the difference. An idea starts with one individual, and if he or she finds other individuals of like mind whose to say that that idea won't move mountains and transform society. Godard has it wrong. Cinema isn't over, it's transforming. It's ironic that Godard should feel this way since he himself is a pioneer in filmmaking, and storytelling. He himself embraced video in it's early stages, and he should embrace this new technology. If anyone should be revitalized by the new technology I think it would be Godard. Godard is an innovator, and master craftsman of storytelling and if anyone should lead this new evolution of cinema I couldn't find a better suited person then Jean-Luc Godard, so please Mr. Godard don't give up on cinema you still have so much to show us.

~viva Godard.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

What's Next?

I've been in a quandary for a while now. I've completed my first film, and I'm trying to get it into film festivals, but no luck there, so what do I do? I've been itching to do another film, but my resources are stretched thin. I'm also still working on getting my film "Deadly Obsessions" out there and seen. At this point all I want is to see it on a video shelf, but there isn't enough hours in the day for me to concentrate on selling the film, getting another film together, and of course working at my day job. After all I have a family and I like my job, so it's hard being torn in so many directions. I would like to just get a home for the film, and get it out there. I didn't make the film for profit though I was aware of keeping my overhead down so I could do the film for less, and for all intensive purposes I did that, but now I need to sell it. By the summer I'll be able to put the film onto DVD. Come hell or high water that's what I'd like to do. I've always thought that the internet would help me in selling my film, and I have several options there, but first I like to see if I could get some domestic distributors interested. I've been apprehensive about this due to my luck in the film festival community, but as someone said to me "just because you haven't gotten into a film festival doesn't mean the film is bad." So once again the push begins.

As for doing another film I've always been interested in anthologies, and long ago I wanted to do one with several partners, but it never happened, so I moved on. Now I'd like to re-visit the genre again, but this time with different themes then the one we were working on. Again I look at it as a practical way of doing a film. I can do it in spurts around my schedule. All that is needed is that I link the stories with a wrap-around story, and I think I may have that already. Of course there is little money to do this, but going the DV route is the most practical for me. I've been interested in many different things throughout the year and I've found several resources that inspire me, and excite me into doing new work. I've always thought that an artist does his or her best work with their back against the wall, and so I find myself there. I refuse to give up, and I refuse to go quietly into the night. I am a filmmaker and I have a lot to offer and say. There are others out there who have the same dream, and it's nice to know your not alone, and maybe someday on some project we can all pull our resources together and do the exceptional and make a stunning piece of work. The stuff of dreams, but a reality in the making.

Monday, May 02, 2005

The Mix

After locking the film down I was ready for the mix. I mixed my film at Agnello Films in northern NJ by Tom Agnello. Tom is a cinematographer & editor, and he knows his stuff. Over three days we mixed the film, and it all went well because of Tom. The one problem that Tom found was that some of the footage seemed out of synch. This was attributed to me not coding the film and mag track so that when I began cutting the film I lost synch. When projected it became a bit noticeable, so Tom had to take the time to re-synch some of the footage. We also added some new sound effects that he thought would help. Tom has an extensive collection of sound effects, and it took him no time to cut them in. We edited on a another 6 plate editor, which was similar to a KEM. Tom is one of the few who still edit this way. His basement is his studio, and it works without a hitch. Tom is also familiar with the people at Color Lab down near Washington DC where the film was printed. So if you are going to edit on film do yourself a favor and edge code your mag track and film together after you synch up your footage. It will save you time and a lot of headaches. Another thing Tom did was to clean up the sound of the camera in the production track. It seems during the production my camera was a bit too noisy, and you could hear it though it was blimped for sound. So with a few tweaks and turns on the old sound board Tom managed to minimize the sound, and now it's nolonger a problem for the film. My sound person used a very expensive & sensitive microphone, and hence the problem. When I tested the camera for camera noise I used a good shure microphone, but one not as sensitive to noise up front. Remember folks expensive doesn't mean good, so if I were to do this again I would use a good cardiod-microphone where it's pick-up wouldn't be as sensitive as the one that my sound person used.

I remember working on many professional films where I heard camera noise at the screening, but when the film went to a mix the sound was minimized, so it's fixable in post, but that's something my film teacher hated saying, and I know why. It will cost you additional time and money to fix, and it can be avoidable with just good microphone placement, and a good microphone in general. The mix was fun, and exciting because I was seeing all the elements come together and making a honest to God film that I had created. Tom also shot my titles which were plain white titles on black, and I designed the title cards. Tom brought a lot to the table, and I'd work with him in a heartbeat, and hopefully I will again. Tom is also a director of photographer and has served as a DP on several independent films which are currently on tape.

Throughout the making of this film I've been exposed to many different people who have made a concentrated effort to give it their best in the making of my film. I could never have done it without paying these people for their services, and their expertise. But like any addiction after doing this I want more, and hopefully I can use the same people and pay them a bit more on someone else's dime. I'm afraid that may not happen again, but I always hope, and after acquiring the knowledge and experience in making a film I can say that I am a filmmaker, and my experiences and my film prove that.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Back to the Future

Found this picture the other day, and it is of me dressed as the killer in some Super-8 short I was making at the time. I had been very influenced by films like "Halloween", "Friday the 13th", and a whole slew of low budget horror films to numerous to mention. I was always filming something, and trying to coax people to star in my films. You see the technical was never a problem with me. It was getting the people to work on the films that was hard. Usually they were my friends & family, but a lot of the time I had to do a lot of filling in. I can even remember getting my mom to run the camera for a quick shot of me dressed as the killer, or as a victim. It's ironic that that still is a problem. As you know if you've been reading this blog I do try and pay my actors and crew when I can, but it's hard to do so now even though expenses for DV filmmaking aren't as much as they would be if I was shooting on film. When I went to film school I was excited about meeting others with the same interests, and for awhile it was great, but we never supported each other as much as I would have liked. Competition was introduced, and though I think a bit of competition is good it eventually divided us more then it united us. Throughout film school I worked on any, and every film I could. I remember long train & bus rides early in the AM or late in the evening sometimes lugging pieces of equipment. I never complained, and always tried to do the best I could do on other people's projects, but the group that I had hoped would form never did. In a way I guess I'm still looking for those individuals who are die hard filmmaking enthusiasts, and people I can help and work with. It's not about the money. It's about the work. If the work is good the money will come, but I'm in the minority in thinking this way. I had FUN back when I was doing my little epics, and I want to have a bit of that when I work on other films. My sensibilities have changed since I was a young teen and early adult. I have little patience for wanna-bes, or bull-shiters today. I'm slowly getting back to where I enjoyed doing this, and slowly the work becomes more meaningful to me. When I was young there were NO limits because no one told you there were any. That's where I want to get back to. It's where creativity really thrives, and where creativity exsists good work can be made and accomplished. That's all I want in the end.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Scoring the Film

So how did I go about scoring the film with music? Well I enlisted an old time friend by the name of Peter J. Gorritz who lives in LosAngeles California. Peter and I go way back, and we had talked about the score when I was in LA for a visit. The above photo is of me when I did my commentary to Peter for the music. I literally videotaped the film from the flatbed editor, and talked into a microphone as the film was being played on the editor. On one channel I had the films dialogue and on the other channel I had my voice telling Peter what I thought the music should be like, or when it should comes in and out. Basically it was for queuing music in and out of the film. As for the musical style Peter and I had talked about that over the phone and through emails. I recommended several films, and he recommended several composer's style, and in essence that's how the counteract evolved. As Peter scored the film he would send me two discs. One with the music synch to the picture as a MPEG file, and the other was the MP3 file of just the music which I would ultimately give to NFL films who would transfer it to magnetic track so I could edit it on the flatbed editor. Since I videotaped the footage from the flatbed editor the music was pretty much in synch with the cues I gave Peter on the tape. Of course the one thing that I would recommend is that you should get your composer onto the project sooner then I did. Preferable when the film is in pre-production. But being Peter and I had spoken earlier we managed to work very well together despite the distance & the circumstance. I should also tell you that during this time Peters father passed away, and the project was delayed for a bit, but after a while Peter picked up where he left off, and continued to supply me with some outstanding music. If anyone would like to get a hold of Peter he can be contacted at his bands site which is The Last Dance. I cannot recommend Peter highly enough. So that's how the score was done, and finished. I used some very low tech methods to do things, but they all worked out, and I believe that if one were shooting in the DV format the process would be easier, and cleaner, and one would not have to worry about synch. I paid Peter also, and he was very accommodating in his fee. Remember time is money.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

To be or not to be

Okay I've made a film, and done several short films now what? Work that's what. It's rather difficult to balance filmmaking and life in general. Since making a film can tax your resources both in the physical realm as well as the emotional realm it can be difficult to produce a good piece of work. A support mechanism is needed to help people like yourself to create interesting films, but in today's culture that is so hard to do or develop for that matter. I have been a member of a crew and felt worthless, and hated every minute of it, and on the other hand I've been in a work environment where everyone is working for the project because they believe in it, and enjoyed every second of it. These are two extremes, and there seems to be no middle ground. I guess one needs to keep plugging along, and take from each project something they can use later. Filmmaking is a group effort, but in that group are one or two individuals who move the project forward. It is these people that have a vision, and depending on their strengths a project will or will not come to fruition. The French New wave described this as the auteur theory. What the "auteur theory" said was that it was the director whose vision or stamp is put on a film, and it is the director who shoulders much of the credit or blame for a film. I used to have arguments about this, and I still do at times, but I'd like to take the meaning of the auteur theory and expand on it. Usually it's one or two people who are involved in getting a film together, and usually this is has been for me the producer as well as the director. I agree that when the movie is actually in production it is the director who is calling the shots, and not the producer. But I've known producers who've carried around projects for YEARS till it finally comes to fruition, and then even when the film is in production they have their hands all over the production. Getting locations, getting the crew, the director, the studio and so on are all what a producer does, and usually the producer will hire the director that best fits HIS or HER vision of the film. So now who is the true "auteur" of the film? I'd have to say that the producers hand is just as strong as the director's hand in a film. I think a person or persons who has a strong vision for the film should also be considered the auteur of the film. I still believe the director hammers out the product according to his vision, but the producer still has his or her handprint on the film because it was the producer who hired the director, and usually the producer who hires the director will want someone who shares or improves his or her own vision of the film.

So that's my theory on being a filmmaker, and the filmmaking theory known as "the auteur theory". One may not do a film for sometime and then suddenly when the opportunity presents itself you suddenly find yourself behind the camera again. Filmmakers are like addicts. We hate the process, and yet we crave a fix. During production we moan, and bitch about everything, and even when we are selling our product we curse the distributors. But we love the high that filmmaking provides, and we love the art of creation. So we write, and write, and write till an opportunity arises where we can put our written words up on the screen. We constantly chase the high, and we are both in love and in hate with all of it, but that's the plight of the filmmaker. So spare some pity for us poor creatures of the cinema. All we want to do is tell stories, and hope someone is listening.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

The Flatbed Editor

I started editing as soon as I got my film back from the lab, but before I could get creative I had to first begin the mundane chores of logging shots, and syncing up the footage. This is time consuming, and sometimes can be quite tedious. But it was something that had to be done. I should have also gotten my film and mag track coded after I sync up the footage. Coding is when numbers are printed on your workprint & magnetic track so that after you cut the slate from the picture you can sync up your footage by matching the numbers from the film to the mag track. I didn't and so I sometime had to sync by eye, and later found out in some shots that I was off synch by a frame or two. If this was done in video I be dead, but since I was doing it in film the out of synch footage didn't look that bad. Of course when editing on my Moviola Flatbed editor I oly saw a small image on the view screen. To get a better sense of how in synch you are one should see it projected. You'll know right away if you are out of synch or not. Remember your magnifying your footage so any defect will be seen as big as day, so if you do it my way then have it coded, and or after syncing up the footage show the footage through a projector and make notes. Why go this route? At the time I did not have access to video editing, or a non-linear editor, so this was the easiest. I acquired a Movieola Flatbed from a filmmaker here in Philly. I paid $2,500 for the flatbed which was in excellent condition. Getting the Flatbed to my apartment was another feat that I did again when we moved. One thing a flatbed editor is is heavy. I took it apart and got the person who I bought it from and my uncle to help me get it into the apartment. It was a tight fit, but we managed. I then moved it again only this time two BIG movers helped put it in my office where it now resides. The Flatbed is an archaic piece of equipment that really works. I've had to change the lightbulb socket, and had to tighten some belts in the five or 6 years I've owned it. So again I had to steep myself in knowing how the flatbed ran, and how I should maintain it. My electronic background helped. Renting a flatbed was out of the question. It cost too much, and for the price of rental I bought one instead.

Again this is not what I would do today, and I seriously don't think I'll do it again that way. First of all there are only a few labs that still develop a workprint for you, and transfer your sound to mag track. Don't get me wrong. There are a number of labs that still do this, but now it's develop the negative, and layback the audio to tape which costs money. But getting your footage to tape is getting cheaper and cheaper, and since you'll ultimately produce a DVD of the film you might as well go this way. After all if the film is successful then a distributor can take your digi-beta tape, and produce a print for projection then.

I had a great time editing my film. I loved the tactile sensation of running film through my fingers, and seeing an image on the print. It's something I recommend a filmmaker do at least once in their career. After all you'll appreciate editing more after going this route just by doing so many labor intensive procedures. You'll never complain about digitizing footage again. Okay maybe a little, but it isn't as bad as rolling up film, and changing reels, and winding down a reel to get to the footage you need. I heard Walter Murch the sound editor for films like "Star Wars", & "Apocalypse Now" edited standing up instead of seated, and half the time I did the same. Murch raised the flatbed up on two by fours, and edited that way. He says that editing standing up seemed the only way to go, and he is right. The above picture is of me and my assistant Jack the cat. I usually sat while watching the footage I had just cut. But while editing I uually stood, and Murch is right. It does feel right because editing on a flatbed you're constantly doing something, and your hands are between the film footage, the splicer, the mag tracks, and your film bin, so standing is a natural way of editing on a flatbed editor.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

The French New Wave & the Language of the Cinema

As a student in filmmaking I had some contempt for older filmmakers. The arrogance of youth prevented me from appreciating artists that had come first. It was only in my second year in college that I discovered the French New Wave, and I feel in love. I began devouring all things that covered that period, which also lead me to learning other American directors such as Ford, Hawks, and Chaplin. The history of cinema is not that old, but yet all that we do toady is based on things that other filmmakers did. Such filmmakers as Keaton, Chaplin, Eisenstein, and Griffith were pioneers in filmmaking. They discovered the language of the cinema. What is this language of cinema you ask? Well like any other subject filmmaking has rules that seem to have been grounded in the narrative. The way we tell a story can be done in several ways, and in the cinema different shots, and angles can be used to convey a different emotions. The early filmmakers found out this by trial and error. After all Edison was the inventor of the cinema, but no one talks about Edison as a pioneer in filmmaking. It seems Edison was just it's father and such filmmakers as Chaplin, Keaton, Griffith and Eisenstein were his children that played with the medium of the cinema and gave it its voice. I always seemed to have had contempt for cinema language classes as a young turk, but as I grew older I learned that a lot of what was taught in cinema language was the foundation of filmmaking as we know it today. After all one must know why a certain trick, or device works, and where it came from before one can use it in his film. We talked about Hichcock, Chaplin, Eisenstein, and a host of others and slowly an appreciation began to develop which still holds firmly today. Sure the film industry is a business, and I've worked on a number of projects to know that, but it is also MORE then just a business. A lot of that is lost in today's films, and audiences seem to see film as huge spectacles and an art form last. The proliferation of media in the past few years have flooded the market of products of various quality. The audience has become jaded, and it seems as though filmmaking has been rendered as just product. Occasionally a film enters the market that reminds us that film or cinema is an art form, and that good storytelling is usually done with quality. No matter what type of gimmicks studio's come up with to market their film it is the filmmaker who decides how to tell that story that makes the film a classic or not. The filmmaker who knows his or her history will invariable create a better product then one who does not.

So you see that studying films has it's advantages. With me the French New Wave struck a cord, and it shook me to the core. I discovered a whole new world in cinema, and my world opened up. I still am learning to this day, and I never dismiss the past. The language of the cinema is one that I hold very dear. I seem to always be the student of cinema, and it's helped me in my filmmaking career. Unfortunately there is more hype then scholarly discussion about film. I just hope that I can continue to use that knowledge about the cinema and apply it to my own films.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Obsession Part II

So what was the budget? How much did this all cost. The answer which every producer should give should be an honest one, and that answer is "under a million". I can even say that it was well under 100k. Are you interested now?

The biggest expense was filmstock which ran me around 3 to 4K, and then processing and sound transfer to a magnetic track, which ran an additional 7k. After that I was my own editor, and the expenses dropped. Food, transportation, and housing also ate a lot of my budget. I could have easily halved the budget for the last three items if I one, hired local actors, two gotten catering from fast food places, and three didn't supply any transportation for actors. Some actors had commitments like auditions to go to, so a car was provided. Three actors shared one car. It did work out, and the actors were all satisfied and relaxed. They did not feel like cattle, and it showed, so supplying transportation to the actors was a good thing. I used the rental agencies insurance, so my personal insurance agency didn't get stuck with damage charges. Food was prepared by my wife at times which included fruit, vegetables, bagels, cream cheese, and assorted meats for sandwiches. It was far more less expensive to do this then hire some one. My wife Phyllis got fresh food every day, and prepared it the following day. The actors ate, and also had munching food such as donuts, and coffee. Coffee was essential for the early morning shoots, and while we set up the lights & camera we all ate too.

I had started casting in NYC when my wife and I lived there, and so I had stacks of headshots to go through. These were all New York actors. I stuck with my choices, and that's why I didn't use local talent. My crew on the other had were almost all local except for two who were from my old alma-mater Brooklyn College. I housed them as well, but those two crew members were worth their weight in gold, and I could not think of doing the film without them. I could have also put the cast and some crew in a less then auspicious motel/hotel, but there was a good chain hotel nearby and I went with them. If I wasn't so busy with all the technical things I probably could have knocked off some money off the price. Remember everything is negotiable.

So are you getting the idea on where and how I spent my money. We also had saved money that became our "petty cash" money. Here we paid for "stuff" that would invariable come up during the production. So here's a tip. Save money by hiring local talent, and by doing so you save on lodging fees. But the caliber of the actors were great, and I could not ask for better craftsmen. I would suggest you talk to people in the area. Production people are always looking for the next project, and even if their committed to other projects they may know somebody. The circle is a not as small as you think, and like I said earlier if you pay people for their time they are more inclined to give it their all.

If done today you could shoot it on DV, and master it right on your own PC or Mac. No processing, no filmstock, and no extra delays. This should give you extra money to hire some good crew & actors. In the days since I did my film technology has come a long way. No more checking the gate to see if a piece of dirt got in the camera and ruined your shot. No now you check the playback, and see what you got instantly. You can even post it, and make the video look like film. It's a brave new world, and one were affordable filmmaking has become. So what are you waiting for. Write that masterpiece and get a move on it. It isn't too hard to do anymore. I had a crew of seven or eight, and a cast of four or five. You could make a film with less then that. It just takes some interesting story telling.

Some more adventures in the day to day shooting of the film, and how it's just as difficult after the shooting stops as it is while the shooting is going on. Stay tuned.