Thursday, December 27, 2007

Early AM Meanderings!

I find it a difficult thing to come to terms with. This thing we call the Internet. I mean first off it's a great way to meet people who you wouldn't ordinarily meet, but do we actually know the people we are communicating with? I mean the Internet is this BIG thing that seems to give us alternate identities which become sort of our alter-egos.

Don't me wrong I've met some interesting artists here on the web, and I think it has it's use, but the majority of the web is filled with nonsense, and just plain self indulgences. I've always subscribed to the belief that Grocho Marx once said, and that was "any club that would have me as a member I wouldn't want to be in", and that's what I see in the Internet. Cliques, groups, and porn. Is the Internet a great marketplace, or just a corporate whorehouse. I mean we now can get things twenty four seven, and have it delivered to us in a day or two. Is this commerce or is it just plain corporate commerce disguised to look like a democratized flea market.

I have no problem with companies selling their wares, but sometimes I just hate what I see. I voice my opinion, and what happens to it? It's drowned out by a million other voices, and some with a lot more deep pockets then me. There are examples of people who use the Internet to their advantage, and actually sell their products but at what costs. Do they make a profit? Are these authors, painters, and photographers heard or are their websites just ignored by the general public.

No this is not a rant from a failed artist. It's just a rant on an observation. It's always GREAT to hear peoples opinions, and have discussions, but I find that rare. No matter how enlightened we think we are I always wonder why we hide behind the computer and waste so much time looking at it. Wouldn't it be more productive to go out and MEET people. Maybe that's done to some extent. I have been to several meetings with artists, and it always is a great feeling to talk about each others work, and discuss what we are all doing, but the connections never last. It's what can you do for me, and if nothing then we move on.

There's a disconnect I feel, and I don't much care for it. Real life always wins because we all have to live, pay the bills, raise the kids, pay the mortgage, etc, etc, and etc. But sometimes I just wish we could rise above our own egos, and just say hello, and start a discussion.

Okay that's it. I'm done. Just a random thought early in the AM.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Spinning Wheels!

So no reviews, and no production news. Just some thoughts at the end of this year. I've been trying to make this blog a blog that deals with filmmaking, but real life always interrupts. I'm basically an AV geek who is fortunate to work in a field where I can use my skills, but I've been trying to get inspired, and do another film. A film that counts, and a film that if it winds up to be the last film I do I'll be happy and satisfied.

So hence the schizophrenic blog entry. I guess we all sit down this time of year and count blessings, and for others it's a time of deep depression. There seems no in-between here, so we do what we can, and push on. Filmmaking has been something of a saving grace for me. It feed my dreams, and helped me focus in those wayward years called the teens. It's also inspired me in my adulthood, and I've seen some great films in the past that sometimes just come and go. You would think more people would see them, and be inspired by these films, but in such a crowded field some films are just swept away in a multimedia frenzy. The successful films or should I say the "good" films are made with a lot of passion, love, and determination. These films were made by filmmakers who cared about the films they made. The unfortunate thing is that studios don't see the dollar signs behind them, and only promote the films marginally. These films fall through the cracks and are rediscovered on cable, or DVD if they are lucky.

So what does someone like me hope to ever accomplish with no studio behind him, and a stubborn streak that just won't let go? I guess I want or better yet NEED to make the best film I can and hope that it's discovered by the real people out there. A few years ago this would only be a pipe dream, but now with the Internet things are possible. But only if the story is good, and only if the story touches people can it be a success. The public needs to be willing to spend some of their hard earned cash on an unknown filmmaker. If the story is worth it people will tell other people, and that's how a good film now gets distributed.

So I sit spinning wheels. Writing, and re-writing, and more re-writing, and always behind the 8 ball because filmmaking is NOT the only one thing I love now. There aren't enough hours in the day to do everything, and so the wheels spin and spin. Maybe I'll get there, and maybe not. I really can't say, but at least the wheels are spinning, and I'm trying. What else can I do?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

I am Legend (2007)

When I first heard that they were going to try do Richard Matheson's story "I am Legend" I thought sure why not. When I heard Arnold Schwarzenegger was considered for the lead role I just shook my head, and said "they still don't get it". That was before the Terminator became the Governor of California. It's been that long since I've heard rumors about this film, and now it's out starring Will Smith as our lead. My interest began to rise at hearing and seeing some of the clips from the film.

I can say that by far Will Smith is one of the best actors of our era. It's been a long road for Mr. Smith. I mean seriously did you ever think that the "Fresh Prince" would become an Oscar worthy actor? Beat you didn't, but he has, and it is Will Smith who carries this film. That and his faithful German Shepard companion. The movie doesn't follow Mathesons classic, but it does have a lot of updating, and it sticks to the stories premise about a virus that has broken out, and most of the Earth's population is dead. I'm not going to call this a bad adaptation because it does work. Francis Lawrence is the director, and his vision of a NYC that is desolate and dead is in some way quite beautiful. The cinematography by Andrew Lesnie and the production design by David Lazan and Naomi Shohan is astounding.

There are some really good sequences too in the film, and Smith does a really good job at making us believe that he is a man on the verge of insanity. The scenes with his family and even his German Shepard companion are touching, and believable. Smith's Robert Neville is someone we care about, and want to see. Even though Neville is a man who is slowly loosing his mind we really do care for him.

I've read reviews that the third act is the weakest, but I beg to differ. I was thinking it was going to be a chase and rescue the damsel in distress movie, but it wasn't. No it's NOT faithful to the novel, but the filmmakers twist the "I am Legend" ending to a more hopeful one. Maybe it's just to make you feel good, but it worked for me.

As for weak effects I may have had less CGI of the "infected", but that's a nit pick. I thought Smith's performance was on the mark, and he made me want to follow Neville's character.

With an BIG opening of over $76 million I think the public has spoken, and voted with their pocket books. I'm interested to see if the movie has any legs, and if it will it be around in a month or two. I have my doubts. Since Warner Brothers decided to release this during the Christmas holidays it may just get buried by other pictures that will open on Christmas day. I do believe that the film will hit $100 million soon, and Warner Brothers will be laughing all the way to the bank.

Along with the movie a computer game is also being released, and marketed. I'm sure that will bring in the demographics that Warners is seeking. All in all the movie is a good film about loneliness, and guilt. Will Smith does a great job in it, and I would love to see his acting get recognized sometime next year. Will Smith makes this movie, and that's no hype.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Monster Road


I bought a DVD awhile ago called Monster Road, and finally got to watch it, and after watching it I thought to myself why didn't I see this sooner. No matter. Director Brett Ingram has made a film that is thought provoking, and entertaining as well. "Monster Road" is a documentary about the animator Bruce Bickford. If the name sounds familiar Bickford was responsible for the animation in most of Frank Zappa's films. In the film we are introduced to Bickford's father George who is suffering from Alzheimers. The first time we meet him he says 'Do I have an honest face?"

Throughout the film we are treated to how Bickford grew up. Bickford lives in Washington state near Seattle in a house his father built. George is a main character of the film also. In Ingrams web site he describes George like this:

Bruce Bickford’s father George, a retired Boeing aerospace engineer of the Cold War era, is the other main character of the film. In his own career, George also applied his keen intellect for purposes of miniaturization. But, instead of clay animation, George’s medium was the intercontinental ballistic missile. Now faced with the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease, George struggles to maintain his grip on the past while confronting existential questions about creation, death, the afterlife, and other mysteries of the universe. With the methods of an engineer and the curiosity of a five-year-old, the elder Bickford marvels at the "wonder of it all."

In the film we see Bickford continuing to do his work, and still creating to this day. We see his struggle as an artist, and we get glimpses of why Bickford does what he does. It's an amazing documentary, and a tribute to the creative human spirit. I really invested a lot into these people, and cared about them. The DVD is available at Ingram's web site, and it's worth having. If your a creative being you'll be enthralled at how Bickford and his father George interact with each other.

Ingram spent several years trying to put together the film, and took on many freelance gigs to help finance the film. He was helped by two other filmmakers. Ingram's co-producer Jim Haverkamp, and documentary filmmaker Neal Hutcheson . It is a really good film, and it won several awards at several film festivals including best documentary jury prize. So support a really independent producer & director and buy this film. I don't think you'll regret it.

Monday, December 03, 2007

The Portable Film School


While I was at a new Boarders book store I made my way to the film section as I often do, and this book caught my eye. It's called "The Portable Film School", and it is written by D.B Gilles. I began reading some of it, and he makes some good points in it. It seemed like a good book about writing the "good" screenplay, and how to achieve it.

The one thing that struck me is the need for an outline of your story. Gilles refers to it as a "beat" track to your story. For example this happens in the beginning and then this happens midway through the first act, and then as a result of this, the character does this. You see what I mean by "beat" track.

I've always known that one must write a outline of sorts, but just how detailed? If you just sit in front of the computer and hope that the muse will begin helping you write that story you're doomed to fail or worse yet never complete your story. I like what Gilles had to say, and I'm interested in the book, so I'm putting it on my Christmas list. Ideas for stories are not so much the problem, but the fleshing them out is. How to interest an audience for 90 minutes is sometimes a challenge, and it's a lot harder to do that then just come up with story ideas. As the old saying goes "it's in the details", and I believe that Gilles gets that, so I'll be putting this book on my to reading list.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

MediaStorm



Some really great stories told through images and audio are here. It's amazing the sites I come across that seem to blow me away. Real stories, and real people. It's what filmmaking truly should be about. It's far from the junk on TV. This is personal filmmaking, and it touches us in unique ways. The one above about the Marlboro Marine will take your breath away.

Take a look over at MediaStorm. I don't think you'll be dissappointed.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Building an audience or Hey is anyone out there?



The following YouTube post is pretty informative. Sara Pollack describes an interesting way to use YouTube for filmmakers. The landscape has changed drastically, and instead of having a one way conversation with your audience you can now have a very interactive conversation with a prospective fan base.

This would have helped me a lot when I was cutting my film. It's always a GOOD thing to get constructive criticism, and in a way it's how YOU become a better artist. Just thought I bring it to everyones attention.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Last War



First off "The Last War" was written, produced, and directed by a gentlemen by the name of Amodio Giordano. I met him at the advertising agency I worked. We both loved George Romero, and were a fan of the his work. My credits on this film were the cinematography, the editing, and sound mix, and I'm billed as associate producer. Amodio and I were a two man crew, and we acquired our equipment from Staten Island Community television. Amodio is a great graphic artist, and he even made a poster for it which hangs on my wall in my office at home. Another man who should be credited is also my friend Andy, also named maxruehl on YouTube. Andy helped in the mix, and I believe it is his moan that we hear in the Church sequence. We slowed it down, and filtered it.

The sound mix is credited to Charlie Banner & Nick Devito which was in reality Amodio and I. We mixed the entire film in one Saturday at the agency. It took about 8 to 10 hours, and it came out really well for the equipment we were using. The original soundtrack was by a man named Ron Granger, and our recording engineer was Roger Bartlett. Ron had toured with Patti Labelle, and Roger was responsible for some of the music in "Urban Cowboy". Both Amodio and I visited his home studio in NYC, and were amazed to see two Gold records on his wall. It was my first brush with some great artists, and I never forgot it.

The video was edited on an old A/B editor that could do dissolves. We edited the film over two week-ends I think, but I'm not to sure. We even took out shooting permits, which came in handy when a highway officer stopped us while we were filming on a Staten Island road way. We showed the officer the permit and he smiled and said have a good day.

The film was shot over two week-ends I believe. One day Amodio and I had over slept, and we had to boogie out the door to the shoot. I stayed overnight with Amodio and his family, and it was a very communal feeling. I liked that. We were doing what we loved, and I was getting some great shots. Everything looked good, and even though we weren't shooting film I really loved the images we got. Later Amodio would decide to put the images in Black & white, and keep the past footage in color. We had discussed the possibility of doing this throughout the shoot, so I shot accordingly. It was a good choice and one that helps the film.

The film even won in two categories in the Nova film festival. It won best video in health & environment, and best original teleplay. Amodio deserves the credit for this neat little film, and I cannot help express my appreciation to our star Noel Catti, who was a real trooper throughout the shoot. Amodio and I eventually helped him with his video project which was a Christmas musical. Another BIG thanks goes to our voice. The incomparable Geordie McNeil. Geordie was the agencies resident voice. He has done commercial voice over work, and he is a great editor & producer.

The film was shot in 1990, so its old, but the work still stands out, and it's a good film. I had hoped that we would carry this working relationship into making a feature, but that all collapsed, and never was. Like all things it was great working on it, and it was a lot of hard work, and passion. I thought it deserved to be put on-line and viewed.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

10 MPH DIY Manual

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Check out the guys at 10 mph website. They wrote down their experiences for their film, and they have some interesting things to say about DIY distribution.

Here's a section I really thought relevant. Especially where I'm right now.

Keep on keepin' on. I notice a lot of filmmakers in the festival circuit that have spent an arm and a leg both in terms of time and money to make a film. They are reaching the point of burnout and don't have any idea how to make another film. So, they don't. Josh and I realized we had to keep making films, otherwise we would have probably faded away too. When we launched plans to make 10 Yards we were pretty burnt out, but it was refreshing to see how this film re-invigorated us and gave us a lot of new energy around developing this career. We were also amazed at how much easier it was to raise some of the money we needed to make the film. With the success 10 MPH was having on the festival circuit, people were more apt to support. Whatever it takes, if you are into filmmaking because of the career, you have to find ways to keep making films. That job I took between 10 MPH and 10 Yards was fast becoming too comfortable and I could see how easy it would have been to slip back into that world for good. I'm not saying that's a bad thing. It'll happen to many of us and someday may still happen to me, but I really do hope it's a clear and conscious choice if it does. Not something that is the result of a bunch of dead ends.

The burning out phrase rang a few bells, as well as having another project ready to go. I've always had ideas but always those ideas seemed still too grandiose. I am always struggling with budget, but I do know talent, and when you get a bunch of talented people together the possibilities are endless. I just need to find something that really draws me in, and get other people involved. So it's off to more writing for me. I'm down, but I ain't out just yet.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Target Practice



For my first production course in college I had to do a final film for the course. "Target Practice" evolved form that. It was shot on Super-8 film with a Chinon camera. I used both Plus-X and Tri-X reversal film for the project. The story was simple. Two drug dealers rip each other off, and a car chase ensures. I mounted the camera onto the hood of the cars. I had an old Super-8 box like camera that I inherited from my grandmother. It was a typical tourist camera, but it was small. I used that as a crash camera of sorts. It didn't weigh much so I taped the camera with gaffers tape onto the hood of both cars. I took a general reading of the light with my Sekonic light meter, and set the f-stop & locked it. I wanted to see the drivers face, and not silhouette him against the bright sky. Therefore I took the reading at the drivers side of the car. I even mounted the camera onto the bumper of the car to show the road racing ahead of us.

The music was put in by me and my friend Andy using his extensive music library of soundtracks. We put in two sound effects into the film. The screeching of the cars tires, and the bottle breaking. It was a hit and miss method. The soundtrack was recorded onto a magnetic stripe that I had the lab do after I edited it. Andy, a classmate of mine, also helped with the special effects. If you look quickly you see a shot of a bullet hitting the man's shoulder. We used chocolate syrup for the blood since the film was shot in black & white. The crash was done with a camera mounted on a bike.

We were young and we loved what we could do. Some of the music is from out favorite soundtracks. When we were done we thought we had a pretty good little film. I received an A from the professor, and he would become my professor in most of my production courses I took at college. This was not edited on video, or digitally. The film was done the old fashioned way. Tape & splice.

The audio is so-so. I tried eliminating all of the hum, but some is still present, but I believe it's watchable. Maybe someday I'll get it put on tape professionally. Colorlab does a very good job at putting old film reels on tape. It's a bit pricey, but the quality is really nice.

No I didn't have any permits, and you see my actors waving guns in the street. It was a different time back then, so if you're going to do something like this now I suggest you get a permit, and or tell your local precinct what you're up to. I really liked the post punk scene, and you get a sense of it here. I had seen the film "Smithereens" by Susan Seidelman and I liked how she made her film. It was very DIY, and very much an independent film . Amos Poe was another interesting filmmaker. Both showed up at our school and talked with us. They're attitude is still very much alive in me today. Another influence was Beth B. Her film "Vortex" was shot in Super-8 and it was very interesting to watch. But my goal was 16mm. To me that was professional, and when we all got to Production 2 at Brooklyn College 16mm ruled our lives, and we loved it, and I still do.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Little Children

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Okay I said I wasn't going to do this, but while I write I sometimes draw inspiration from good films, and "Little Children" is one of those films. The film was released mid 2006, and had a limited release. It did open to some very good reviews, and for a week or two had a bigger opening, but it quickly faded from the theater screens after awhile. The movie stars Jennifer Connelly, Kate Winslet, and Patrick Wilson. It is about a womens affair with another married man and the events that transpire in small sleepy surburban town. I can't say enough about this film. From the cinematography by Antonio Calvache. To the directing of Todd Field. Everything rings true. Maybe it's because Fields shares screenwriting credit Tom Perrotta the author of the novel.

The performances are all played well, and is an example of the power of silence. Throughout the film we have a feeling that we know where this is story is going to go, but in the end it doesn't. That surprised me, and I enjoyed the surprise. A great performance is given by Jackie Earle Haley who plays of all things a convicted sex offender.

Todd Field hits this one out of the park, and like his previous film "In the Bedroom" the film is a good example of not the spoken word, but the moments in film where silence is the most powerful thing. Fields does give us a narrator for the story giving it a sort of documentary feel, and this is only because the narrator is Will Lyman who is known for narrating numerous PBS "NOVA" and "Frontline" episodes.

I've always been told that using a narrator can take the viewer out of the picture and prevent him or her from suspending belief, but it works here, and after seeing a couple of films that use it successfully I don't know if the arguement has any merit.

Anyway the film "Little Children" is now out on DVD, and on-demand, so it's worthwhile seeing. I don't think you'll regret seeing it.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Gone Baby Gone

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Ben Afflek's new film "Gone Baby Gone" is a nice modern noir about a missing child, and the people who seemed to be involved in the plot. Affleck uses his brother Casey Afflek to portray Patrick Kenzine a private detective. His partner is played by Michelle Monaghan. The film depicts the underbelly of Boston. Affleck populates the cast with original actors from the area, and it gives the film a lot of credibility. John Toll does the cinematography, and it is the photography that makes the film seem very authentic. The film is from the novel by Denis Lehane, so the dialogue feels real.

I liked the film, and felt it was a good debut for Affleck to do. I heard the budget was around $20 million, and it looks it. But what sells the film to me is the use of actual locals as actors. These parts aren't just for atmosphere, but the majority of the local players have actual lines. Along with the dialogue by Ben Affleck & Aaron Stockard who share screenplay credit the movie feels like a a tight and taunt little thriller. My problem with the film is why the characters do what they do. I won't give it away, but I'll say that good intentions go bad here, and how others don't know what the police are doing is beyond me. Ed Harris, Morgan Freeman all have good parts to play, and they do their best in the film, and their performances in the film are worth the price of admission. Affleck picked a nice tight script to make his directorial debut, and his work with the actors in the film make it an interesting film to see.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Everybody's Lonely



I've been playing around with Premiere, and finally was able to post a short film I did while I was in school. My professor wanted us to do under and over exposed shots. I believe the exercises was called "daydreams". I shot this over two or three week-ends. We shot it with a Bolex, and the stock was plus-X reversal film.

I learned that when you under-exposed reversal film it turned to mud. Over-exposing reversal was better, but still you couldn't over-expose too much. negative film has a much better latitude, and is very forgiving. I soon learned to love negative film, and my favorite at the time was Kodak's 7294. It was a color stock and it had a fast ISO, so you could shoot with few lights and get a really decent picture.

I received my grade, and moved on. Later I transferred the film to videotape from the work print. I also put to video most of the footage from that shoot, so I could edit on video later. I added the still pictures when I worked at an advertising agency and used their equipment in the evening. The pictures are of my cousin, and her family. I thought I could establish her as the girl I shot while in school. I kind of liked it, and it stayed. I added Harry Chapin's song "Everybody's Lonely" at this point, and I soon had a new film I could show others. I've been a Chapin fan since I was a little, and so I made it a sort of tribute video to him. It wasn't my best, but it did have the feeling I wanted.

I believe I over-exposed the reversal film by a stop and half, and also did the same for the under-exposing. I tried two and three stops, but over-exposing that much burned out the image, and under-exposing made the emulsion too thick, and the images looked like mud. I would have loved to see a print struck from the footage, but expense was a problem. When you're a film student all your money goes to text books, and then processing, and film stock. There's little else you can afford, so making a print was saved for you're final film.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Jamie Stuart

Check out the web page The Mutiny Company. Jamie Stuart's take on the 45th Annual New York Film Festival is funny, and interesting. The videos are located here at the Filmmakers Magazine web site. Stuart is a very talented and interesting filmmaker. Check them out you'll be inspired.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Write like you mean it!

Okay so I've been having trouble writing something about my dad. It needs to be about him, and not about our relationship, or am I wrong? How can I write something about someone without having my own feelings put in there. Isn't it about the relationship?

Well no it isn't. It's about a mans decent into confusion & chaos. It about the man's feelings on loosing himself. I know, I know movies have been done about this. Most recently a film called "Away from her" by Sarah Polley has tackled this issue with great skill, and has been hailed by critics as a wonderful and powerful film. I have not seen the film since I was writing something that was similar, and I didn't not want to be dismayed by what I had written and what Ms Polley film had portrayed. In no way could I probably approach what Sarah Polley had done due to my budgetary restraints, but I am hoping to make it a true account of how my father felt as he was being taken from us ever so slowly.

Why do I write about this here? Partly to try and express the difficulty of writing good material. I know that it will take me some time to complete this project, but it is something I am passionate about, and its something I feel worth saying. I have no high expectations for this film other then to tell my fathers story to his grandchildren. The grandchildren he never got to see. The film is a worthwhile endeavor and something that I really want to make work. I don't know if I can pull it off given the budgetary constraints. Every time I think about the story I dread writing about it. I feel that I may never do justice to the memory of my father. As I write I seem to reject more ideas or material then I accept, and I know I'm self censoring myself at times. It's not about me, it's about a fathers journey. It spans 80's years, and a lifetime of achievements that are good and bad.

Finding the time, and getting it all down on paper seems a chore. I've at least identified what I want to do, but the task at hand still seems daunting. I know I can make a film. My first film showed me that, but this time it's personal and it means a lot more to me. Wish me luck I'm going to need it.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Irene Glezos on Stage!

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That's right this week-end, and next Ms Glezos will be in a one women play at "the Studio". It's called "Where Do You Put The 'Y", and it's directed by Brad Calcaterra. If that name is familiar brad's directing, writing and acting can be seen in the independent film "four eyed monsters".

The Studio is located 25 west 23rd street. On the second floor. Call the studio at: 212-463-7962 for more info.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Scripted or Improv

I've been thinking for the past few days if a film is better off scripted or whether a story is best told by the technique of improving. Now I've been on many sets and I know the realities of filmmaking. We're always fighting the clock, and filmmaking becomes a financial race. I've never had or been on a set where the budget wasn't finite. People have to work, and bills need to be paid, but it seems more and more that better films are made if you work with your actors. The performances are enhanced, and the story does have a life of its own. Make no mistake films like "Nashville", or "Short Cuts" were and had been scripted, but it was the director who knew when to let his actors go and service the story better then what the writer could write.

The more and more I study film, or try and make a film that is realistic and engaging the more and more I draw on actors to flesh out the story. I'm currently writing, but what I put down on paper just seems so cold, and doesn't speak to the reality of life. An actor can give a look that conveys a thousand words that I could never do justice too.

I was always told that the script is a blueprint of the film, and like all blueprints they can be changed due to the reality of the scene. What I’m hurrying to do is put down my thoughts, and try the best I can to capture a scene, and then possible work with actors to make it spring from the page to the screen.

My problem is that money is always a factor. Maybe that’s why so many films suffer from bad performances, or amateur like performances. Some productions use people that they know, which isn’t a bad thing, but it isn’t the right thing for the film. Sure you need a person who can show up, know their lines, and give something to the film, but expecting that on the cheap is a recipe for failure, and bad filmmaking.

I’m trying to put together a film about a man loosing his mind as he comes down with Alzheimer’s. Though from personal accounts, and personal experiences I know how that looks like, and what happens it’s hard to convey that into words. An interaction with actors is needed, and maybe a better story comes forward. AFter all the best actors are almost empathic, and that's how they draw out their best performances.

I’ve heard work shopping a screenplay or play is nothing new, but it’s a bit new to me. I believe that honesty needs to be addressed and when the film finally comes together that it isn’t my film as much as it is OUR film.

I know it’s still my financing, and it’s my story, but getting others involved may be a way to break out of this paralyzed apathy of mine, and create something better then myself. After all isn’t that the goal of art. To transcend ones own limitations, and create something bigger and better in scope.

Or am I just wishing too much!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Reeling & Rolling!

I've been wanting to writes something here for sometime, but there's always something that prevents me from getting the old thoughts up here.

First off it seems as though John Turturro 's film "Romance & Cigarettes" is doing well at the film Forum. The film is in it's second week and has boosted a nice week-end total. According to Indiewire the film earned $15,893 at New York's Film Forum, good enough for the number one spot on the iWBOT for two weeks in a row. Plus the film "In the Valley of Elah" earned $133,557 from nine venues, which is very respectable.

Director Larry Fessenden's thriller "The Last Winter will be opening Wednesday, September 19 in limited release at the IFC. I've been a big admirer of Mr. Fessenden for some time, and after hearing him talk at a seminar here in Philly about his film "Habit" I was very inspired to do a film. Also I've been reading about one of my favorite filmmakers John Sayles who is busy putting together his film "Honeydripper". John Sayles is an all time favorite of mine, and I find what he does amazing. The quality of his films makes me shutter with joy. Mr. Say;es consistently produces good pieces of cinema, and manages to keep on doing so without the Hollywood hype machine behind him.

So yeah can you tell I'm psyched too. All this energy and so many avenues to travel on, but what one story will catch my eye, and make me want to see it completed. That's the thing about us sub-basement filmmakers. We have so little resources that we need to make it interesting for us because were going to live with our film for some time, and one can't get tired of ones own film. If you do it's like they say "films aren't finished, their abandoned".

It takes a lot of energy to get a film going, and even more to finish it. It's not lack of ideas that hinders me. There are so many story's out there, but what one will you fancy, and what one will you want to put your name on. What type of story/film will use all your resources to the best of their ability while at the same time producing a quality product.

A film professor said to us when we were still in school is all you need is a house in the woods and you're set. Maybe at one time it was, but not anymore. Audiences are more sophisticated today, and another "don't go into the wood alone tale" isn't going to get much traction in today's media obsessed culture. I mean haven't we seen those types of stories all too many times?

So I'm leaning towards a more personal type of film. I can't say what, because I honestly don't know. AT times I wish I had a collaborator to bounce off ideas on, but that does present itself with its own set of problems, and I've been down that road before. So yeah I'm chomping at the bit, and reeling to do something else worth while. Sometimes its a good day, and other times it's a bear. But I need to decide on what I want to do, and start doing it.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Romance & Cigarettes

I read about this last week, and was interested in why a film like "Romance & Cigarettes" hasn't been picked up by a distributor. I mean it has stars, great production value, a great soundtrack, and it's a musical of sorts. The filmmaker John Turturro decided to self distribute, and I think he's crazy. Crazy like a fox that is.

Now comes this news from indiewire:

"Weekend earnings of $18,445 shot actor-turned-filmmaker John Turturro's self-released musical "Romance & Cigarettes" to the front of the iWBOT, as well as the top, self-released debut by a director in recent memory."

The movie is playing at the Film Forum in New York city, and it looks as though it'll be playing for awhile. Good films can and do get seen. It's just getting harder to get noticed and separate yourself from the rest of the pack.

The executive producers are both Ehtan Coen & Joel Coen. John Turturro was there last Friday night for a Q&A. You can listen to it here at the Film Forum site. Now I really need to see this film.

Pirating Movies in Queens

The NY Times has an interesting article about pirated movies. It's actually happening in the old neighborhood I grew up in. Pirating is another problem the filmmaker faces in distributing his or her movie. If you don't think it affects you you're wrong. Money made by pirating movies goes into the wrong hands, and never makes it back to the filmmaker. I remember working in NYC and seeing the vendors on the street selling their knock-offs.
Independent filmmakers could possible learn a thing or two about how these pirates work. As one filmmaker says the pirates have better distribution then the studios. It would be great if we could use the pirates tactics in our own DIY way of distributing you're own film. That way we would ensure that the filmmakers who made the film would actually get the the money he or she is owed. Interesting concept isn't it!
*photo by Todd Heisler/The New York Times

Sunday, September 09, 2007

The Target Effect!

So I'm in a Target store looking at the DVD section, and what's newly released. There are some really interesting films that I made a mental note of to put on my list. But what is really noticeable is the prices of some DVD's. IFC films had several for $7.99. One of them was the movie "Factotum" starring Matt Dillon. They even had a double feature DVD of "Footloose" and "Flashdance" for $7.99.

Now I'm not a rocket scientist, but how does the independent filmmaker survive in all this when major motion pictures can be owned for as little as $7.99? The films all have production values, star a famous actor or two, and are of interest to the regular guy on the street whose looking for a pleasant distraction from the mundane of life.

It's not even just Target stores. Walmart is the same thing. Though I did see a statistic that Walmart has a 40% share in the market of selling DVD's to the consumer, so I would assume that Target and stores like West Coast Video, Blockbuster, and Sun Coast Films share the rest along with probably Amazon.

Doesn't seem like there's room to sell you're movie unless a studio picks it up, and you eventually wind up in one of the discount stores mentioned above.

That's probably why you are better off selling to you're base, and going it alone. What I mean by selling to you're base is that selling a movie directly to the people most interested in seeing you're film. Horror films, relationship films, action/adventure films all have their niche audience. You tap into that and you're golden. The question is how to attract them, and how to call attention to you're product without a major studio marketing machine behind you.

I won't begin to tell you how you can do it. Different things work for different people. But before you start shooting that first frame of film get to know you're audience, and do some homework. You'll thank yourself latter for it.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

DIY films distribution woes!

First read what Anthony Kaufman has to say about competition for indie-film distributors. It's a good article and it has some valid points.

It's at the Village Voice's web site here.

Then go to Reeler editor S.T. VanAirsdale's response.

Both have great points, and I will be the first to agree that in the past two years it has become frustratingly difficult to get ones film seen. There is so much product out there. Good and bad, and that's the problem.

It kind of reminds me of when porno went video or when B-movies were all the rage, during the VCR revolution in the 80's. Their was a glut of BAD films in both genres, and distributors flooded the market with inferior product. When distributors began selling their tapes for $5 and began running their films in EP mode instead of the preferred SP speed the quality of the product sank. All to save on the cost of a cassette. Good B-type thrillers & artful films that were created in the late 70's and early 80's soon devolved into video crap. Eventually those movies found themselves in the bargain bin at several discount stores.

Now comes the "new" art crowd with their lattes and over priced fruity drinks and the cycle begins again. What's hip and what's not.

The common equalizer may just be the digital download. I mean if I could download a film for under four dollars maybe the power of distribution will revert back to the audience where it truly belongs and not the eclectic distributors who only service the snobbish elite.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

My Summer of Love

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So what happens when it's late and you're flipping through channels. You sometimes get hooked on a film that you can't stop watching, and before you know it the film is finished, and you're smiling because there is good content on them there channels after all.

That's how I saw Pawel Pawlikowski's neat little film My Summer of Love. I was intrigued by the characters Mona played by Nathalie Press and Tamsin played beautifully by Emily Blunt. It is a simple tale of two young women spending the summer together and who happen to fall in love. Now before you say anything I like to point out the two great performances that Ms Press and Ms Blunt give. Pawlikowski doesn't go for the exploitable nuances of the story of two women falling in love. He instead shows how the two are drawn together by their similarities and differences in character. Mona is the village girl who lives with her brother who has become a born again Christian. She misses her old brother played nicely by Paddy Considine who can be seen now in theaters in the The Bourne Ultimatum. Tamsin is the wealthy girl who is carrying the guilt and love of her dead sister, and her dysfunctional family. I bought the relationship, and really enjoyed the photography of Ryszard Lenczewski. A lot of the film seems to be shot hand-held, and I liked that, but sometimes I wondered if putting a wide lens on would have been better and using a dolly. The close-ups are in your face, and what the actors do without uttering a word is an example of how a director can usefully use the frame to his or her advantage.

What ultimately sells this film is its performances. Blunt & Press are extremely well liked, and we want to see how this relationship is going to end. The story is based on the novel by Helen Cross, and the screenplay is written by Pawel Pawlikowski along with Michael Wynne as collaborating writer.

I'm now interested in more of Pawlikowski films, and have in mind to seek out his debut film "Last Resort". If you don't like character studies, and are not interested in good acting don't bother seeing the above, but I always like finding little gems like this film. It both restores my belief that good cinema can be made, and is being made by artists who care about their professions. See My Summer of Love, and I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Hostel

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Okay I finally got to watch Hostel, and though I’ve heard a lot about the film I wanted to see it for myself. I was curious, and wanted to see what all the hype was about. I saw it for free on Showtime on Demand while the kiddies were away. I like horror films, but lately my tastes have been a bit eclectic, and for me to like a horror movie it better deliver on several levels. Unfortunately Hostel did not for me. The movie started off like a typical horror film. It sure had its quota of T&A, but it did feel like a paint by numbers kind of film, and for a horror film to be effective it needs to get visceral and hold nothing back. Now I know what you’re thinking. Did he see the same film I saw? I mean the gore factor was heavy. Wasn't the gore visceral enough? The answer is no. I see that type of gore and it does not faze me. Now you’re asking have I become de-sensitized to the violence? I mean can a person become so de-sensitized to the violence that he or she isn’t repulsed by the images of violence? In this current generation I would say yes. Especially with this generation’s infatuation with video games, but for me it’s all fake and all I hear is the director yelling “more blood”.

I’ve worked on several low-budget films where one film tried to push the envelop on gore, or T&A, and no matter what filmmakers do all I see is rubber appliances. Nothing more. Some quick cuts and loud music along with a loud effects track pushes the audience into “the in your face” shock scene. In the theaters this may make the audience jump, and scream, but played on video I just don’t see the terror in it.

You want suspense, and a creepy feeling go see movies like “Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer”, or the original “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”. Even the original “Halloween” had a sense of terror and shock that few horror films of today have. Is there any original horror being done today that is good? Some of the South Korean horror films have struck original notes, and even some small American independent films have been successful in the terror genre.

Actually Hostel follows a true and tried formula and try’s to take it to the extreme. Some label it “torture-porn”, and they may have a point, but its just studios trying to take it to the next level, because of our obsession with reality TV. Today we expect our wars to be delivered to us 24/7 via cable news, and the Internet. News shows lead off with stories of murder and death or something I like to call “scanner journalism”. What it is is producers listening on police & fire radio scanners and dispatching news crews. The famous words “if it bleeds, it leads” is nothing new. Sensationalism, fear are the sellers of today’s market, and it has leaked into our horror movies as well.

In the end Hostel is just another horror movie that doesn't deliver. At the end our reluctant hero seeks revenge on the people or person who did him wrong, and he does so with vengeance. The hunted becomes the hunter, and our hero becomes just as violent as his tormentors had been. There is a pay-off, and nothing new is said. It is our reward after sitting through some over the top gore scenes. The fault of Hostel is that I really couldn't’t care less for any of the characters, and maybe that’s its problem. In horror movies you identify with the protagonist is some way. Here you do not. Everyone is one-dimensional, and at the end of Hostel though our hero has managed to escape you really don’t care. I heard that they did a Hostel 2, so apparently the formula worked and money was made, but if they continue to follow the same formula I would wager a bet that the audience will get tired of watching helpless victims being tortured. Eventually they would just move on to other movies or maybe they would get re-connected with the old classics, because classics never get old. Maybe it’s a lesson filmmakers need to take to heart.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Unfaithful

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Okay I said I wasn't going to do this again, but after watching this film last night I had to comment. Why haven't I seen this film sooner. After all it was released in 2002, and is based on Claude Chabrol's 1969 film "La Femme infidèle". I happen to be a Chabrol fan, and I just didn't think that the film about a women's affair that leads to murder would be any better, and I would be right too if it wasn't in the very capable hands of Adrian Lyne. In any other directors hands we would have been served up a bland tale that has been done to death, but what Lyne does is create a compelling drama about a women's obsession, and a husbands fury.

Peter Biziou cinematography is stunning, yet that is nothing new in a Lyne movie. Lyne has a flair for the visual, and he uses that in the film. The only flaw is that maybe after all the build up the third act kind of falls flat, but I buy what Lyne is selling, and that is things can get away from us.

Truth be told I would have killed to make something like Unfaithful. The film is a throw back to those old noir movies. It was something that I was trying to do with my film "Deadly Obsessions". Lyne creates a mood with out sometimes his characters uttering a word. This is no small feat and it shows that Lyne is a good director. Diane Lane gives a top notch performance, and it's films like this one that really hammers that home. Richard Gere gives a subtle performance here, and is very believable as the husband.

The scene where Diane Lane has her first encounter with her lover is a very sensuous and erotic scene in no small part due to Lane's performance. Unfaithful is a really good film about guilt, and obsession and worth seeing.

While watching the film I couldn't help but compare similarities between "Deadly Obsessions" and "Unfaithful". I am in no way comparing the two films, but I was keenly aware why Lynes film works on so many levels. Mood is a big factor in a noir, and Lyne has tons of it in his film. I relied on my actors to give me that and they did. The bickering, and the bantering back and forth did that, but I needed more of a visual motif, and I didn't because I was obsessed in getting the film in the can. I wanted to finish because I knew of so many films that didn't get completed. I'm not saying that I don't like my film, but as all filmmakers will tell you they see their mistakes and not their films attributes.

As an old film professor would say "blah, blah, blah...." No one wants to hear it, and he would be right, but I wanted this blog to be more then just a blog about reviews, new artists, and such. It's suppose to teach me something, and see how I develop or better yet how KGB Productions develops. I can say that after watching "Unfaithful" I was sparked by the creative muse. I may not be in Lyne's league, but I can sure try and get there, and by doing so maybe I'll keep the faith and actually make that second feature I'm still writing about.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Shadow World

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Who says you don't learn anything from old media. In the local news section of the Philadelphia Inquirer was a piece by Daniel Rubin about a blog called "Shadow World". The title of the article is called " Beneath the El, dark video verité".

David Kessler is the creator of "Shadow Land", and it's a fascinating look at the other side of life here in Philadelphia .Most of the vignettes are beautifully edited, and contain little dialogue. Others have the subject talking about his or her life. Each vignette is about two to three minutes. Each piece is well done.

I'm told David uses a tiny Sony Handycam (A Sony trv22). I really like what David is doing, and I like how he treats his subjects. No bias at all. Mr Kessler also lives in the neighborhood he films in and that's probably why he gets the footage he does. Kessler edits some things that his subjects might get in trouble for. David says that he doesn't want to be seen as exploiting these people, and I believe him.

Some of the the subject material reminds me of a film called "Streetwise" by the filmmaker Martin Bell. Streetwise is a gritty documentary that looks at the life and lives of teenagers living on the streets of Seattle. I remember seeing the film in NYC at the anthology. I was blown away with the visuals and the way it presented its subjects. David Kessler's "Shadow World" seems to be in the same vein.

Take a look and see if you're not captivated by David's subjects, and I dare you not to come away moved. Also if you REALLY like "Shadow World". Donate. Mr. Kessler has a pay pal button on his web site and is taking donations now. I look forward to seeing more, and maybe meeting this very talented man here in my adopted hometown of Philly.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Andrew Semans

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Came across Andrew Semans website, and after seeing his trailers and clips of his short films I was intrigued. The naturalness that his performers come across is what makes me interested in Andrew. I haven't seen any of his films whole, but from what I see I'm very much impressed. I'm always wondering how to make actors & actresses come across more naturally. I mean a film is scripted and I know with rehearsal actors can overcome that scripted feeling, but I also know it's all about chemistry too. You can rehearse till the cows come home, and sometimes you can't get that naturalness. I'd love to sit down with Mr. Semans and ask about his method, and how he works. I see he does his own writing and has also shared writing credits with two other people.

Sometimes they say too many cooks spoil a stew, but sometimes in filmmaking that's not the rule. Sometimes it's better to have people to bounce ideas off of and contribute. I wonder how much the actors share in the material. Anyway take a look, and maybe if you get a chance to see one of Mr. Semans films go see it. I think you won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Bergman & Antonioni

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It was shocking to hear about Bergman's death, but then to hear about Antonioni's death soon after kind of was a slap in the face. Both men were GREAT filmmakers, and though I have not seen all their films I had a profound respect for these gentlemen.

They were thinking filmmakers. Their films were and still are thoughtful works of art. I like so many were exposed to these filmmakers in film school. I don't think I could have appreciated them sooner. Both Bergman & Antonioni were masters at the cinema, and both men made me realize movies could be works of art.

With Laszlo Kovacs death earlier last week that makes three cinema giants that we've lost. I can only be consoled by watching the work they left behind.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Stories & Celluloid

I never seem to have a problem about stories. I read a newspaper and the stories all jump out at me, and since I've been trying to write a script that I like you may ask then "what's the problem bud?"

The problem is how do I do films with meaning, and do justice by them knowing full well my resources are spare and limited. That's the frustrating part, and yet it isn't an excuse. I mean if I was this brilliant filmmaker which I imagine myself to be wouldn't I be able to overcome these hurtles. True artists overcome their hurtles, and roadblocks. What's my excuse? How can I do a story that not only I want to see and hear, but that will strike a familiar cord in others, and hopefully get them to see it?

Isn't that the trick? So hear it is early Sunday mourning, and I'm paralyzed. Which road to go down, and which story is closest to my heart to expend a lot of my limited resources on? A writer writes. Pen to paper. It's that simple. A painter paints. Paint brush to canvas. A filmmaker makes films, and sometimes getting the energy up to do yet another story can be a challenge. So much to do, and so many people to involve.

I need to get passionate about something I believe in, so I can convince others to follow me off into the abyss. Finding that passion is usually the hardest thing. Not the stories. Their easy & everywhere.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Laszlo Kovacs 1933-2007

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Internationally acclaimed cinematographer Laszlo Kovacs, who lensed the landmark cinematic achievement "Easy Rider" and compiled more than 70 credits .Kovacs, who died Sunday, was 74.

Mr. Kovacs was one of Hollywood's most influential and respected directors of photography, Kovacs lensed "Five Easy Pieces," "Shampoo," "Paper Moon," "New York, New York," "What's Up, Doc?" "Ghost Busters," "My Best Friend's Wedding" and "Miss Congeniality."

"Kovacs was one of the great cinematographers in the 1970s who basically changed the way movies had looked up until that time," said Richard Crudo, past president of the American Society of Cinematographers. "His roots were in the low-budget independent world, and he took a lot of that ethic to another level. Years later, he became a master of the high-gloss studio look. But no matter what he did, there was always a tremendous amount of heart in his work."

The Hungary-born cinematographer never won an Oscar but carried during his career a remarkable story of courage that occurred 50 years ago during his country's revolution.Kovacs was born to Imre and Julianna Kovacs and raised on a farm in Hungary when that country was isolated from the Western world, first by the Nazi occupation and later during the Cold War. Kovacs was in his final year of school in Budapest when a revolt against the communist regime started on the city streets.He and his lifelong friend Vilmos Zsigmond -- who also went on to become one of Hollywood's leading directors of photography -- made the daring decision to document the event for its historic significance. To do this, they borrowed film and a camera from their school, hid the camera in a paper bag with a hole for the lens and recorded the conflict.The pair then embarked on a dangerous journey during which they carried 30,000 feet of documentary film across the border into Austria. They entered the U.S. as political refugees in 1957."As a man I loved him," said Zsigmond, reached in North Carolina where he is shooting the film "Bolden! "We always had a great time together." Their historic film was featured in a CBS documentary narrated by Walter Cronkite.After working on several smaller films during the 1960s, Kovacs was approached by Dennis Hopper in 1969 to film Easy Rider. Kovacs turned it down, but Hopper was persistent and met with him to act out all the scenes."At the end of that meeting, I asked when we could start shooting," Kovacs recalled in a 1998 interview with the International Cinematographers Guild. "That's how I happened to shoot Easy Rider. We knew it was something special, but none of us realized that it would win awards and become so influential."The counterculture classic, also starring Peter Fonda and Jack Nicholson, was shot during a 12-week journey from Los Angeles to New Orleans, entirely on location."That was the style of Poetic Reality, basically making movies that look real," Zsigmond said. "The lighting is real, and the people in the theater think they are seeing the real thing.*

Personally I liked the way Kovacs lite a scene. He would always try and justify the light whether it was coming from a window or a light fixture. Realistically is the way Kovacs shot movies, and the above statement by Vilmos Zsigmond rings very true. It's a sad day when you learn of such a talent has passed, but at least he left a lifetime of images to amaze and entertain us for some time. Thanks Laszlo.

*Excerpts taken from Pat Saperstein & Todd McCarthy's obit in Variety.com

Thursday, July 19, 2007

It was a Dark & stormy night.....

I always laugh when I read those lines. I think anyone who writes knows the in-joke on the above phrase. Writing is hard enough and it can be especially difficult when you set limits on what your writing about. Those limits can be location, characters, or both, and it's not fun living with these limits. It almost feels pointless to do this, and handicap yourself at the beginning, but how about looking at it in another light?

I've always thought great art comes from artists pushed to the limits. Mozart was after all almost deaf, and it never crippled is ability to make some fantastic music. I don't want to put myself in the pantheon of such artists as Mozart, but ALL artists go through it. How does one create with the limitations one is given. Whether it's financial, time related or geographic the successful artist usually over comes these limitations, and sometimes he or she flourishes.

I have to be creative. It's what I do. Whether I do it at home, or where I work, and yes even in my endeavors s into filmmaking it's just something I'll always wrestle with. It's would be easy to just give up, and just say "fuck it all", but somewhere deep inside me there is the artist who says "no", and hence my eternal dilemma

I won't bore you with what or how I'm doing, but I will say this and that is that I know there is a way of pulling my thoughts and feelings together into a film that I can be proud of. I need to work harder and smarter.

They say after climbing one mountain you'll see all the other mountains that will be in your way. Guess lifes like that.

Monday, July 09, 2007

The West Side

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So I just came across this site and thought I mention it here because it's very well done. It's things like this that get me excited and kind of make me want to do something new.

The idea of putting something out there in serialized form is a good way of getting noticed. I came across this through Josh Oakhurst's website. Josh is a very talented & innovative young artist, and I like what he says.

The web site is called the Westside, and it's interesting. Simple, and yet very effective. You see they didn't get just anybody even though they were a no-budget film. The actors are really good, and the camera work is top notch. All shot digitally, with a small crew.

Now I know they say on their website that the creators will take there time on the episodes, and that's a good thing, but maybe to get the film in the can they should have the whole thing planned out, and shoot ALL of it.

The hardest thing I've come to believe is shooting and then stopping. Momentum sometimes is lost, and it's hard to ask talent to keep on coming back. Especially if their not compensated.

That's just me, and maybe their all good buddies and have a plan, but I really want to see an end to this, and see this series through. It's really that good, and I like what Josh says on his web site about the film "The West Side is just about, art, and story, and having a badass time being creative". Josh is so right, and that's it's power.

Thanks for the link Josh, and I kind of feel invigorated. Thanks a lot!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The Unkindest Cut

I've been doing a lot of reflection, and a lot of thinking about movie endeavors in general. The phrase "watch what you wish for, you might just get it" comes to mind. I could go on and on about movie making, but in our pop culture mentality WE think WE have the answer, and that OUR idea is the one that gets heard.

I'm here to tell you it doesn't, and so hence this post. It's been awhile since posting in this blog. My bad, but I said to myself long ago that if I didn't have anything to say why say anything at all. Sometimes silence is a lot louder then yelling.

A book I've read several times called "The Unkindest Cut" is a book worth reading for anyone interested in filmmaking. It's written by Joe Queenan who is a contemporary humorist, critic and author. Here's a rough summary of what the book is about:

When Queenan saw Robert Rodriguez's award-winning film El Mariachi, which was reputedly made for only $7000, he thought he'd like to duplicate the feat. Because of his extreme dislike of 12-step recovery programs, he decided to make a movie-12 Steps to Death-about an ex-LAPD cop whose life was ruined when a "schizoid anorexic recovering alcoholic with Attention Deficit Disorder slammed into the car, killing his wife and kids." Queenan plugged the film on the nationally syndicated Imus-in-the-Morning radio program and dreamed of the glories that lay ahead. But fantasy quickly turned to dreaded reality as he strived to write a screenplay, recruit neighbors as actors and lay out the filming over a 10-day period in Tarrytown, N.Y., where he lived. We see Queenan as he takes the $279 Hollywood Film Institute course; learns the astronomical cost of everything from camera rental to buying film stock. In the end Queenan is left with a bill for more than $67,000. Fans of Queenan (If You're Talking to Me, Your Career Must Be in Trouble) will find this memoir funny in parts but often tedious and repetitious, and student filmmakers may find it interesting for its nuts-and-bolts information. Major ad/promo; author tour. Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

The book lays it out in black & white the mis-adventures of making a film. Now I know filmmaking has changed a bit, but it's still all about the message. Whether you shoot on film, video, digital video, or even pixel vision you better know your audience, and know how to break through the clutter.

Time for a reality check. I strongly suggest you read Queenan's book. It gets to the heart of it, and it does provide some interesting info for the filmmaker who wants to succeed. As for me I still have some more thinking and writing to do, but as with all things there is never an end to anything. Just maybe a new beginning of sorts. Save me a seat I'll bring the popcorn.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Interesting Film Noir link

Another really neat web site is Film Noir of the week. It's created by Steve-O, and if you're a fan of film noir films then this is a good place to start. I'm always amazed at the depth and how Steve puts it all together.

I'm a big fan of noir films, and I guess Deadly Obsessions is my little tribute to it. When people tell me about the dialogue in the film and just how much there is of it I just refer them to such film classics as "Detour", Double Indemnity, and "DOA". A lot of noirs were dialogue driven, so I didn't see a problem with it. I'm not comparing myself to any of these classics it's just my argument in using dialogue. I do notice especially among the young that their attention span is quite limited. I see this in the students where I work. Maybe it's an age thing I really don't know, but as the French say "c'est la vie".

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Some Links

Okay it's Father's Day and so I'm taking a small break and enjoying the day, but here are two great links I think you should check out if you already don't know them.

One is Badazzmofo.com which is run by a cool dude by the name of David Walker. I actually bought a couple issues of Badazzmofo back in the day. I've rediscovered that he's on the web, and still kicking ass and taking names. Check it out if you have some time. His love for spaghetti Westerns is unparalleled.

Then go on over to Sunset Gun, and take a look at Kim Morgan's web site. Her love of the cinema, and her knowledge leaves mine in the dust. Her credits are numerous, so head on over there and begin to be amazed. She's awesome!

Still writing. As they say about writing it's all in the rewrite. ~sigh!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Beginning....

So how do I start my story. I've already based it on someone I know and that is my dad. He was a complex guy who said little, but still waters ran deep. The one event that transformed him into the person I know as daddy was the war. My dad was a soldier in World War II, and he was in the German army. He was a radio operator, and he had some stories, but they are few and he rarely talked about his experiences. Once in a while I caught a glimpse into the nightmare when he would talk about people he knew. He would go silent when too much of the memory came back, and the wall went back up.

So it's hard to write about someone who didn't share. Even if I would known how important those memories were back then I still wouldn't have gotten much out of my dad. Here where I work we've been video taping World war 2 veterans and their experiences. We've also been chronicling other soldiers experience from the various wars American has fought in. I directed a series of these early on called "Bridging the Generations through oral history". The series covers the Korean war, the Vietnam war, and world war 2. My mom was suppose to be interviewed for one of them because she lived though the American bombing of Germany, and she was an American citizen which was ironic, but she never did because she was in the hospital.

I even have audio tapes from my dad which I've been trying to get to play, but have had problems with it because of a format incompatibility. I've translated letters and have notebooks from my dad when he was a young man. All this material and yet their is still gaps in the collective memory.

So where do I start my story? I've come to the conclusion that it has to be from when I knew him, and go from there. In the end my dad suffered from dementia, and Alzheimer's, so in the end when we were close it was hard to get through the memories which were clouded, and lost to the disease, but there were bouts of clarity that I saw and heard of, so its from there that I have to jump off on.

I've been writing memories and stuff that I know of. I also go back to old photos of the family for reference, and inspiration. The film I envision is NOT a documentary. I don't think I can do justice to the film as a documentary. Too many facts uncertain, and I don't want to spend time dissecting events and get facts right. I want feelings to come through the film. The loss we all go through, and the things that make us us. It is the collective experience of fathers, mothers and children that make us who we are. That's what I ultimately want to cover, and its very frustrating to write about, but there is some progress.

Like I said before this is going to be really hard, so I better get it right and do it right.

Monday, June 11, 2007

So long Sopranos!

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Okay so I have to comment about the last show of one of my favorite series on television. It seems that the creator of the series David Chase has pissed off a segment of our population, and it's making news. It goes to show you that in our media savvy culture hype is everything, and yet here it lead to disappointment or that's what their saying. I don't buy it. The Sopranos was a series about a mobster and his everyday life. All the characters in it were reprehensible goons who you would never associate with or friend for fear of being eaten.

In real life the mob is worse. Being born & raised in Brooklyn & Queens NY I know. I've seen the real thing in real life. I've never seen someone get "whacked", but I remember the stories and the people. For Chase to make these characters even worth our time watching is an amazing feat. It's like a car accident. We don't want to look, but we can't keep our eyes off the accident itself. The Sopranos was a well written series that dealt with unusual characters in unusual events.

This hype is all what WE created. Chase knew what he was doing, and he hood-winked a lot of us, but people who got the show weren't surprised at all of how it ended. Life goes on for a mobster. His way of life is in a sort of decline. The good old days were never really the good old days. Unless you count drug trafficking, numbers running, loan sharking, and prostitution as the good old days. Tony's expression before the sound cuts out in the finale, and Chase cuts to black is typical Sopranos. What Chase did was true to form, and that's all I'll say. I just wish I could write as well as he does. I can only hope someday that my writing is as good or contains elements that Chase explored in the series in 51 minute increments.

So long Sopranos! It was a wild ride, and thanks Mr. Chase for bringing television back to where it belonged and that is in writing. Really good writing.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Catching a wave!

I noticed that I haven't posted here in a while, and its not because I haven't anything to say it's because I have too much to say. To make a long story short I've been hashing around ideas and thoughts for a new project. I've also been keeping busy at work with various events needing my assistance. But the main thought is what to do as a next project. I want to do so much but before I go down that path I need to make sure that the story and the project is worth doing. Because I have a feeling I'll be living with this one for sometime.

Short or feature? I really don't know. I've come to the conclusion what ever better fits the story I'll do, but first I need to write it.

I can tell you that it has a lot of personal stuff in it. About mortality, the relationship between fathers and sons, and just plain generational stuff that makes us who we are. If that sounds vague its not on purpose it's just that I don't have a handle on it all yet. Like I said in a previous post I'm writing and seeing what sticks. I've also been busy with the family and that in itself takes a lot of time.

SO why this post? I don't know why, but I felt it wrong not to say what's up. I could write about movies I've seen, or DVD's that are coming out, but there are better authors out there that do it better then me, so why bother. this blog is about trying to make a film.

Try looking at Everybody on Mars is dead blog. Their doing something, and my hats off to them. I do feel good knowing that there are others out there also doing their own thing, and trying to make their own movies. It would be cool some day if we all met and had a sort of convention, but our projects keep us all busy so it's a hard thing to do, but maybe one day.

Till then people keep the creative juices flowing, and don't forget to breath!

Friday, June 01, 2007

Die Mumblecore! Die please!

Okay there's an article about this supposed movement called mumblecore in the Guardian. Can I say please STOP! I've actually seen "Mutual Appreciation, "Dance Party USA", and even "Four Eyed Monster". I enjoyed "Four Eyed Monster" and was impressed how the filmmakers collaborated with others to create a unique urban tale about love in our media infested culture. It also helped that the filmmakers knew their stuff.

But to compare these films or genre of films to John Cassavetes films seems just wrong. I mean sure Cassavetes used his friends mainly in his films, but his friends were such artists as Peter Falk, and Gena Rowlands who were professional actors. These artists brought a quality to Cassavetes films that cannot be duplicated and actually made the films much more interesting.

Filmmaking is filmmaking, and how you get it done is all that matters as long as you get it done, but please don't compare a great filmmaker like Cassavetes to a movement called "mumblecore" or even call these filmmakers ""the Slackavetes". It's just SO wrong. Cassavetes was a filmmaker who was ten times as talented, and was a master at filmmaking and acting. Like everything that is media related the media wants to label something or compare something to something else.

Why not just say it's original and their films have some elements that Cassavetes explored, but yet it's a different animal. Andrew Bujalski is a talented filmmaker. I may not agree that his work is as good as the critics say, but I do recognize talent. Aaron Katz, Susan Buice & Arin Crumley also are talented, so let's be clear these filmmakers are pretty unique. Their part of the DIY attitude out there, and there films show original thinking, and original thought. Maybe that's where the comparison between Cassavetes and them should be written about.

The one thing I found interesting in the above Guardian interview is that even Mark Duplass, writer and star of The Puffy Chair, which made the 2005 official Sundance selection, concedes, "Sometimes I see films like ours and I think 'Fuck off dude, there's a war going on, who cares about your relationship?" You see even the creators of these films realize how silly the hype is.

Picking up a camera and making a story is one thing, but in an age where digital is fast and cheap just because you can do so doesn't make it good. If anything these filmmakers that make up this so-called "mumblecore" ( I wince every time I write it) are ingenious in marketing their films to their core fan base. If they make money at it great, but because of their hype please lets not debase a renowned filmmaker like Cassavetes. Let's have some respect!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

It's about Passion

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I was sitting watching the series "Entourage" on HBO, and a piece of dialogue stuck with me. It was when a producer tells the main character on how he got into the business. He explains to the character that he lacked the passion others had for the craft. Earlier in the show the main character tells his manager that Hollywood is all about power and not making films. People buy scripts that they have no intention of making. I've heard of such things, and I've never really worked on a high budget film, but I've talked to a lot of directors and producers, and they do say that it's a frustrating business.

And there's the rub. I've been a crew member on several low-budget films, and a multitude of commercials. Long hours, and low pay were the norm. Some commercials payed okay, but I was part of the agency who made it, so you could say I was an agency employee on several commercials.

Passion. I know you hear about it, and talk about it when we're talking about films, or film making, but the reality of film making is that sometimes you run out of steam. Life wears you down, and the everyday minutia of living can make a person lose that spark. I don't think we admit it in public, and that a lot of us sometimes just put on that game face and go out there and try and pretend that nothing is wrong. It catches up to you eventually, and it can happen at anytime in your life, so I don't look at a people and judge them on their experience, but instead on how happy they are.

In the late 80's I had the chance to go to Hollywood and see the town up close. I was only there for a little while, but I did see what the biz is really like, and I was miserable. I was homesick, and just wanted to head home. Tired of sleeping on floors, and being treated like dirt I went home with my eyes wide open, and a bit of a chip on my shoulder.

The fundamental question I have to ask myself these days is "why?" Why do I want to make movies. Do I have illusions of being famous?, or is it financial? After all I know the score, and I know how they play it. Movie making is a crap shoot, and if you saw the odds against you you would turn tail and head back and vow never to whisper the words film making again.

So why do it? I'll tell you I've always liked movie making. I love the illusion it gives, and the stories it can un-spool on the screen. Film making to me has always been something I've revered because when the stars do align, and things come together just right a great film can be made, and that's the magic of it.

When I was a young teen I was exposed to the teachings of Roger Larson. Who is Roger Larson? He was the man who formed a film club called "Young Filmmakers" in New York city. They were located in a run down area on the lower East side. I remember going there and getting off at the Bowery street station. This was back in the late 70's and early 80's, so NYC was still a bit run down. The Bowery station was a magnet for the homeless, but I did manage to visit Larson's club, and really enjoyed it. It was the first time I met people who were interested in filmmaking and some who were closer to my own age. Because of the distance I didn't go as much as I liked, but I fell in love with 16mm there, and by doing my own thing in Super-8 I was teaching myself the fundamentals of filmmaking. It sustained me through my teenage years.

Roger Larson even wrote a book which is way out of date but still holds special memories for me. It was called "Young Filmmakers", and I checked it out more times then I can count in my high school library. From there I learned about books by Lenny Lipton, and others that were tech manuals for Super-8 film making. So you can see why film making is a special thing for me. Filmmaking is not a cry to be famous, but a need to be heard. Some write, others draw I make films, and it's what I love to do. Unfortunately making a film takes a lot of energy, money, and time. One can't really do it all, and actually make a good product. Unless you're an animator, and then time is what you have.

Right now it's about getting back to the simplicity of making a film. Gathering a few individuals and cranking out a film over a week-end or two. Impossible you say? How can anything significant or good come out of something done so quickly? Well I'm here to say it can, and I just need to get my ass in gear and start looking outward for people who share my vision. I may not be able to offer lots of money, but I can offer good story lines, and some compensation. As for now it's time to sit down and write stories and see what sticks.

I don't know if I'll be able to get it all done because the grind does have a way of catching up. There is the family, work, your health, and just plain life which moves on, and doesn't stop. I need to simply get back to enjoying the craft of filmmaking like when I was a young man and not worry about the rest. Wish me luck I'm going to need it!