Tuesday, March 28, 2006

A frustrating Obsession



So I finally uploaded a clip of a trailer for the film in the hopes to attract more people to the site and the film. I've even entered the film in two other festivals. My reason being is that I'd just like the movie to get seen. Times have changed, and it seems as though there are a lot more content out there since the explosion of the digital age. I won't make excuses on why or why not the film is a success, but I still remain upbeat about the film. In my earlier days I worked on a lot of low-budget horror films, and I guess I sort of burned out on them. I'm not saying that I don't like the genre, but there are few films of late that I seem to have enjoyed. There is a lot of content out there, and as I've said before niche filmmaking seems all the rage. I just want to do films that I like to look at, and films that I would be proud of. I'm sure the world can do without another horror film, so I guess I'm going against the tide. Reality holds my attention, and the real world is a lot more interesting and even scarier then any horror film I can create.

Of late I've been thinking of doing something again. The itch is there, and it doesn't go away. That's why sometimes I am a bit stunned at people on how they can walk away from things. I've known people who seemed passionate about movie making, and yet they don't follow their dream. Maybe things happen, but all I know is that my obsession still grows, and I want to continue to do more films. Of course the reality is always financial, and a matter of time management. It takes a lot to produce a film, and get it out there. I think it's even harder now then it was back in the day. It's just that the technology has changed and there are a lot more people out there who are putting out product. Good, bad, or in-different it seems there is no shortage of films. I wonder if there will ever be a shortage of films? It seems highly unlikely. Especially with broadband increasing it's market share each year.

Ego also has a lot to do with movie-making, and I've long ago gotten over mine. I can't afford to have it, and when you're working on such low budget films there is no room for it. I hold no grudges on people who didn't have heart. For them life is a bit complicated, but no matter the complexity in my life I can't seem to turn my back on movie making. And so there you have it. My obsession.

I still remain optimistic, but with the daily grind, and life in general it gets harder and harder to produce things that I could be proud of. Will there be more? I'm sure of that. How much more is anybodies guess. I keep admiring those film critics who long ago so admired American cinema that they produced their own films that became groundbreaking. How I would very much like to be part of that someday. Persistence, and hope. They're all I have, and maybe someday they'll pay off, but till then I guess it's just me and my dream.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Tsotsi



I recently went to see this film, and this is long before it won an Oscar for best foreign film. Tsotsi is a really well made, and moving piece of cinema. The film is from South Africa, and it is about a young street kids life in the ghettos of south Africa. "Tsotsi" in South African means "gangster", and as I said the film is about this one boy who lives a life of crime in the streets. Through this film we see a world that is almost alien to us, yet familiar. There have been several films about gangs, and/or boys running in the streets of America, and all have their place, but what Tsotsi has is heart. In the film we meet a un-redeemable boy who does bad things, and at the end you are rooting for him. The ending is somewhat filled with some hope. The filmmaker did say they shot two endings, but when the film was finished the ending that is in the film seem to be warranted. The film is moving, and engrossing. It sucks you in, and you may think you know where the movie is headed, but it surprises you often. The film is in south African dialect, and is sub-titled, but in no way does it interfer with your understanding of the film. There is very little dialogue to begin with, and what dialogue there is is fully understandable. I'm always saddened when I hear that films with sub-titles don't do as well, and when an audience knows it is sub-titled they stay away. If you judge a film by whether it is sub-titled or not I feel that you are missing some of the best cinema produced. Sure Hollywood makes some good films, but it's presumcious to think that Hollywood is where the best films are made. As the saying goes "the worlds your oyster", and it would be a shame to miss great cinema because one thinks audience's won't understand the movie because of it's sub-titles.

Go see Tsotsi, and you won't regret it. Films like these only inspire me.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

MYSpace the Movie


Meet David Lehre. His short little film that he posted on his web site was picked up by other's on the web and distributed around. Because of this David's web page gets more then 1 million hits a day. To be precise I believe it's 1.8 million, but whose counting. David and his buddies made a film based on MySpace, and had a little fun with it. Well he posted it on his web site, and in time he crashed his server. Traffic came pouring in, and soon after that he found himself with a deal with MTV entertainment to produce a film for them. Talk about light speed An article in the LA Times describes the circumstances and what happened to David almost overnight. You see David and his buddies have produced over 50 short films together since high school, and because of his body of work, and the popularity of his latest film he was offered to produce for MTV entertainment.

This is the kind of thing that we'll all see more of. As the web and TV & cable collide more and more web-based material will eventually seep through to our living rooms. The computer and TV are going to merge together, and there will be no stopping it. Then producers will have to think along the lines of HD, and bandwidth because that's what it'll take to get the consumer interested in their movie. That and what ever other exploitive tricks they can think up of to get them to download their product will be fair game. I've said it before and I'll say it again, and it's the same thing that Francis Coppola once said: "someday a 17 year old farm girl from the mid-west will blow movie-makers out of the water with her film that she did on her computer", and that day is coming. Happy film-making ladies and gentlemen.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Film School 101 (Hollywood style)

While perusing Filmmaker's Magazine website they had a post about M. Night Shamalayan's budget for his last film "The Village". This is courtesy of the people at Smoking Gun's web site. It's no surprise on where the money went, but it's interesting to see how Hollywood produces their mega-hits. Can Hollywood be called the American version of a sweat shop? All the above the line money as compared to all the below the line expenditures. I'm sure everyone was paid handsomely for their services, but having worked on some low budget films, and seeing how the pie is divided one can make an argument that Hollywood certainly pays for it's stars, and that one can say that there is a lot of fat one can cut from the budget. But that's Hollywood. Glitz, glamour, sex. It's what they sell, and they pay for it. Is it any wonder that Hollywood keeps re-making old films or re-inventing them instead of coming up with more original material. It's too damn expensive, and when one factors in marketing , and advertising costs just to get a movie out there it's any wonder Hollywood can even survive on what it does, but it does.

You'd think I be anti-Hollywood with all this, but I can't be. I look on and marvel at it. Only in America can an industry not only survive but flourish in the quest for entertainment dollars. How much can audiences stomach before they begin to rebel. I think it's happening already. Just yesterday I read that a studio was going to release their films on pay-per-view while at the same time releasing the film to certain theaters. Studios are already competing for your entertainment dollars, and in the future they will have to compete harder and smarter for the almighty dollar. Maybe budgets like Shamalayans' will be scaled back. Something has got to give, and the cost of making a film still is expensive when factoring in marketing & advertising dollars. Is this an opportunity for the maverick independent producer to muscle in on some of that entertainment cash? Maybe.

I still see the big boys controlling the product pipeline, but there are ways for a filmmaker to do original work, and profit by it, and it all has to do with winning that audience. Get enough people wanting to see your film or even better purchase your film, and sooner or later the big boys are going to take notice. The sincerest form of flattery is to imitate, and that's what they'll do, and maybe just maybe they'll cut you a slice of the pie. After all the Empire does have it's perks. If you want any proof just take a look at the above budget. M. Night Shamalayan is a good and talented filmmaker, and he got there by getting good material produced. There is no reason why there can't be more M. Night Shamalayan's. Now get out there and write, produce, and direct.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Martin



I've talked about this film before, and how much I admire George Romero as a filmmaker & storyteller, so after looking at it again and hearing the commentary which is on the DVD I seem to have found a fondness for the film that I didn't have before. Long ago Romero once talked about "regional filmmaking", and that more and more of it would happen in the future. No one could have predicted that the tools to film-making would become less and less expensive thereby empowering a whole new generation of film-makers. But instead of it becoming a regional phenomenon, it has become a world wide phenomenon based largely on the internet. In the 60's the portable cameras such as the Eclair ushered in a wave of in-the-street film-making that was not seen ever. Film-makers were not tethered to the studio, and instead they had more portability thereby making the outside world their own studio. Today film-making has become much more portable, and less expensive. No longer do you need to spend large sums of money on film stock and processing. Today it's all about HD, and digital. Already Hollywood and mainstream film-makers are jumping on the digital bandwagon. In a market that has become quite diverse, and fractured into thousands of niche type films digital seems the only cost effective route to go. As technology gets better and better filmmaking will become all digital, and film will become a distant memory. It's already beginning in today's schools where students are no longer taught on film, but instead on digital because it is cost effective. I still believe personally film will be around for some time, but the writing is on the wall, and film production will be relegated to more expensive productions that will market their film towards people who think of film as quality. After all digital movies can be produced for much less and can be quickly produced then if they were shot on film. Quantity is NOT quality, and it's something we saw in the 80's during the videocassettes revolution. In the 80's there was a hunger for product, any product that could get itself onto tape. Some of these films were original shot on video, and the quality suffered. They were quick slice 'em & dice'em films that were hastily put together, and it showed. Distributors paid good money for these films, but the consumer soon caught on, and then started to look for films that said "shot on film".

The same thing is happening now to some extent. There is a lot of product that is shot on DV, and some of it's really innovative, and good looking, but there is a lot of garbage out there too. In time consumers catch on, and quickly the market begins to change. So what has all this have to do with the film "Martin"?

Martin was released as a regional film. Meaning the film was released in several different regions at different times. I believe they called it a "limited" release. As soon as the film closed in one region it would open in another. This was due to the releasing company being able to have only a certain amount of prints available at one time. Films like "Martin", or "Eraserhead" had to have word of mouth to succeed, and they were given a bigger window to succeed in. Now films have shorter life cycles, and usually if the film has poor word of mouth a film is usually taken out of the theaters and relegated to DVD, where suprisingly enough it can have a second life. "Martin became a midnight cult film, when there was a market for midnight films. Today there is little market for such films. There may be a revival of sorts of these films in today's market, but in no way have they caught on the way they once did. A "Rocky Horror Picture Show" if it were released today would find more success in the DVD market then it would in the theater.

Martin was a predecessor of things to come. Romero shot with a small crew, and cast friends and family in his film. All were professionals, and had worked in theater, and or commercial spots, but all were friends of the film-maker. This is what we're seeing now. Friends and family doing there own thing, and creating films that would ordinarily not see the light of day. With equipment becoming less and less expensive we are seeing not "regional film-making", but global film-making. There is no need to go through the distribution avenues of the past when one can almost try and market it one's self. This is no easy task, but then the stakes are lower too. Someone will eventually do something so unique that the industry will sit up and take notice. After that it will be copied, and marketed to death until it becomes no longer the "in" thing to watch, but by then there will be something new that will take its place. There have been blips on the radar screen to confirm all this. "The Blair Witch Project", and or "Bubble" are all examples of films that a small in scope, but have been given wider notice due to the way they were marketed.

I guess that's what I see Martin as a precussor to all this DV film-making, and it still inspires me. I'm in love with the idea of a few people who love cinema putting together a film and getting it out there, and not because they want to be famous but because they have a great story to tell. I love the idea of film-makers creating because they love the medium, and that they have a special love for it. It's sort of reminds me what a certain bunch of film-makers who were making films on the streets of France in the 50's and 60's. They were doing it for the love of cinema, and thinking second about the market. It's usually how great films are created, and some day I hope to do at least one good film that resonates with others as they did with their films. I can only hope, and continue to do what I love to do, and that is make films.