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.