Thursday, April 26, 2007

Cinema Manifesto!

Two posts in two days no less. I'd like to get a little personal here and explain the man behind this blog. I've been restless these past few months, and it seems as though it's gotten worse as I near my birthday. The older I get the more I would like to do, but I know full well what it takes to do make a film. Gone are the days when I'd call my friends up, and say "hey gang let's make a movie". Back then it was all fantastic, fun, and a bit unique. We do a sci-fi film one week, and a monster flick the next. No challenge was too hard, and no subject was forbidden. We tried to imitate what we saw on TV and in the movies, and sometimes we manage to get it right. Creating miniature sets, directing the pretty girl on the block to fight for her life against the alien horde, and just plain telling a story was fun. In my teens it provided a outlet to express myself, and it steered me away from the normal adolescence problems of drugs, violence, and apathy.

Throughout my younger years I submerged myself in the doing of making a film, and even worked on several productions. Somehow between then and now I lost something. Maybe I became more and more jaded about film production as I saw more and more shit happening that had nothing to do with filmmaking and everything to do with glory whoring. A true filmmaker will always tell you that filmmaking isn't about the glamour or the prestige, but about the film itself. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that filmmaking is far from glamorous. The long hours, the pushy producers, the dictatorial directors all wear you down. You curse them and begin to despise the craft that you so much love. I had always said jokingly that on my job applications I would put the word "film" under religion, but in essence filmmaking has always held a special place in my heart, so maybe the joke was on me.

I have always wanted to find fellow film enthusiasts who share my love for the cinema. I would dream of how the new wave started in the 50's in France, and would hope that I could be part of such a movement, but I found no one. It was only after I invested in myself that I had the confidence to go it alone, and even there much of the credit can go to my wife. If you don't believe in yourself how can others? So that drove me to make a feature, and to do it as Spike Lee said "by any means necessary". It took some time, but I finished, and I've gotten compliments in doing so. One of the main actresses of my film has really inspired me, and it is her compliments that I really relished. Through making and finishing the film I have fed that demon within me, but it has taken a lot out of me. The reality of filmmaking is one where you come out exhausted. I know now why some projects take so long to ferment, and sometimes they are never completed.

I have no problem telling stories. There are stories aching to be told, but are they worth a significant part of my time and effort? That's the question. Doing it alone is an all or nothing scenario. There is only you at first, and you need to generate "heat" for the project, but in order to generate this "heat" you need to be committed to it. That's the crux of my problem. A film takes a lot of your time, and time is what I don't have. Time is finite, and I only have so much of it. I see my boys grow older, and I don't want to miss that. I see people growing older and passing from our lives and I want to spend more and more time with them because I know time is running out. Plus I need to earn a living, and that takes time. You see where a film can get lost in the shuffle.

Yet my love of the cinema hasn't dwindled. I still hold it up high, and relish a good film. I still get the same feeling in a movie theater as I did when I was in my early teens. Nothing has changed, yet everything has changed. I've written a script, and seem hyper critical on it. I know it can be better, and sometimes when adding other creative souls into the mix a mediocre script can be a better script when the right people work on it. So it brings me to why I've been doing more talking and less doing. The film that I hope to eventually make has to mean something to me, and say something. Yeah I know I can make a film now I've proven that, but can I make a meaningful film?

Of course all the hardships of the first film will be the same as for the second film. How do I promote it? How do I get it seen?, and why should anyone see this film? The market for films has changed radically since I went to school, but the one thing that hasn't changed is that quality still matters, and that means the story is the thing. It always has, and always will. I don't know if this all sounds too snooty & high and mighty, but I promise it wasn't suppose to be sounding that way. It's just that I've done so much crap in the past, and as time moves on I want to do something that resonates with the viewer. Maybe that's too lofty a goal, but man I really want to be remembered for being a good filmmaker, and story teller.

So there you have it. The good, the bad, and the lofty. When I started this blog all I wanted to do was communicate with like minded people. I had nothing really to sell but my enthusiasm. After completing my first film I know now that filmmaking for me is more then a business. Foolish I guess, but still heartfelt. You see I still want to capture that idealism, and wonder of when I first projected my films to my friends and family when I was in my teens, and I still believe in taking cinema to another plateau. Lofty yeah, but then again the dreamer never really died. He just was hibernating.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Being a Pro

Okay since I'm waiting for some footage to digitize, and waiting for a presentation to be emailed to me I like to take this moment to talk about getting professional.

Getting Professional? What the hell is he talking about? I read an article by an actress I met awhile ago in where she describes her career. Her name is Debbie Rochon, and she is a funny, and smart actress whose been in a number of low budget films, and she is co-host with Dee Snider for "Fangoria Radio". In the article she describes how she was hurt on the set of a film while doing a stunt. I'm talking seriously hurt, and where the filmmaker seemed to have no insurance.

Here's my advice to the serious. GET INSURANCE! Noticed I capitalized that. If you don't then you're not a serious filmmaker. I love actors. I'm kind of partial to their creative side, and I love mixing it up with them. For all that they give they also need to be protected. You're a fool if you don't take the time and get insurance. Most locations won't even let you film in their locations unless you have insurance to cover any damages that might occur. Thankfully nothing like that has happened to me, but I did have to replace a carpet I ruined at a location, and insurance covered me. What type, and where do you go to get insurance? Crack open a production guide, and look inside. Their a number of them located in NY, and LA. You can get insurance for just the duration of the film production, or you might consider getting it for a longer period. Check out the web too. Type in Production insurance and follow the links

I went with a local company called BABB Inc. I payed for a year's worth of coverage, and it cost about $1,200. There are policies that are shorter and cheaper, but I liked this one, and since I was going to shoot on and off throughout the year I used BABB's year long policy. It covered me for theft, casualty, and damage just to name a few.

So do yourself a favor and get insurance. You want to be a professional you need to step up to the plate. In a society that is very litigious your only doing the right thing. Protect your production, and protect the people that are helping you.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Grindhouse

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So I went to see "Grindhouse" this week-end, and kind of enjoyed it. Kind of? What does that mean? Either you like it or you don't. Which is it bud? Well I enjoyed both Tarantino’s and Rodriguez’s films, but as always the audience votes with their pocketbooks, and the week-end grosses aren't good. A review I really agree with is Joe Leydon at his blog. Joe gets it right, and I agree with the man.

But did I like it? I know, I know I can all hear you. I enjoyed Rodriguez’s better, but I did like Tarantino’s film also and his knack for dialogue is quite good. I'll probably go out and buy the DVD and hope there is a ton of extras on it, but I don't see "Grindhouse" becoming a series. Most theater audience's don't care about the 70's exploitation flicks. I love many of them, and have fond memories of them, but today's audiences really doen't care. We live in a over saturated market where anyone can program their own entertainment to their tastes. DVD's, the Internet, on-demand, Net-flix, and satellite are all possible, and viewers can now program their own drive-in experience in the comfort of their own living rooms.

Check out Mr. Leydon's review. He's spot on, and pretty damn accurate, and he's a professional movie critic.

As for me for what its worth I'd say wait for the DVD of "Grindhouse" to come out, and have a fun night with your friends and loved ones. And if you really want to see some real cool 70's flicks rent such films as "Vanishing Point" and/or "Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry", and have a ball.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

A John Carpenter Blog-a-thon: The Carpenter Effect

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Over at Lazy Eye Theatre Piper has proposed a John Carpenter Blog-a-thon, and his effect on today’s cinema. I happen to be a fan of Carpenter’s earlier work. Assault on Precinct 13, Halloween, The Fog, The Thing, Starman, and even Prince of Darkness are all good films. His work with the cinematographer Dean Cundey was always something to behold. I think Carpenter hit his plateau with his remake of "The Thing". The Thing was and is a film that shows Carpenter at his best. Carpenter always has a certain amount of dread running through his films, and in "the Thing" that dread is notched up on steroids. After all the film is all about paranoia, and along with the Cundey’s cinematography and John J. Lloyd’s production design, Henry Larrecq’s art direction and Ennio Morricone’s music the film achieves a level of tension and claustrophobia that only enhances that feeling of paranoia.

In Prince of Darkness Carpenter achieves a level of malevolence without ever really showing it. That dread hangs in the air throughout the film, and though our heroine perishes at the end and saves the world we are still left un-settled, and disturbed by what had transpired. Its as though evil has been stopped, but yet it's still there in the darkness waiting for another chance. Carpenter does this a lot throughout his movies

Maybe it’s this that we can call the Carpenter effect. His best films are ones where things are resolved, yet they come at a high cost to our hero. That’s what makes Carpenter’s films so unique and exciting to watch. I remember seeing "The Thing" in the theater, and I was transfixed by it’s feel. I even sometimes looked over to the person who was sitting next to me wondering about them. That’s what Carpenter wants, and I believe his best films do that. Maybe if Carpenter would get back to his roots he’ll hit pay dirt again.

Which brings me to a certain question. When do you know the magic is gone? Aren’t artists supposed to be inspired? Isn’t the artist responsible for the tone, and the feel of his or her film? Right now I feel that maybe fortune does favor the young, but then that way of thinking would ignore some great artists whose work only began to get noticed in their late 40’s 50’s and 60’s. So is that why Carpenter’s work has become mediocre? I’m not sure. I remember reading an interview he gave about being an AARP member. He sort of joked about it in the article, but it's a fear within us all.

It’s true that in our older age we seldom take risks, but one can not change ones character. If you take a look at Carpenters work they are consistent in theme. His earlier work is better, and that theme of forebodingness runs throughout his work. If I had to bet I’d say Carpenter isn’t done yet. His segment for Showtimes "Masters of Horror" called "Cigarette Burns" proves that. Like another director of the horror genre George Romero who mines the same type of material as Carpenter does they're not done with us yet. Both of these directors are older and far from retirement. There are too many new terrors and fears to exploit in today’s world. Here’s hopping that the studios realize that there is a lot left in the old guard and tap the vein that Carpenter often mined successfully Because I want Carpenter to do what he does best and that's to scare the crap out of us.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

New Projects & the Future!

Finishing a script has its rewards. One can sit back as the printer spits out your latest opus, and smile. You've done it, and it's perfect in your mind. That is until you re-read it, and make notes. If its one thing that I've learned about film making it's all about the re-write. So am I finished, or does this matter?

Sure it does. You've spent hours on writing your opus, and now its on the printed paper, and together all those pages tell a story (you hope). My first drafts are rough, and then I go to the computer and re-write it. As I input my notebooks into my screenwriting software, I re-write the project and when I'm done I have a second draft of the screenplay. It works, and it's not bad way to work, but right now I'm kind of hot and cold on the screenplay. I wrote the current project around the resources I have. I've limited myself but it's not all that bad. I've tried to limit characters and locations, and in writing it I've broken some rules I set up for myself just for the plain fact that I didn't want to be confined to a certain location for the duration of the story.

As a producer I fight with the writer in me. Do you know how much that's going to cost? How many camera set-ups is that?, and finally special effects? That's going to cost. It's a bitch and I can't help it. You work with what you got. I do know that when or if it the script gets read by actors it will change once again. Actors do that. They can make scenes interesting by just giving certain glances or long pauses between dialogue. It's where the magic happens, and where I really like playing.

I've decided I want to do the film as quickly as I can, but I want to have a decent rehearsal schedule for the actors that way when they get onto location they know what they need to do. That's my pet peeve with a lot of movies. A lot of filmmakers don't use professionals, and it shows. I've covered this in other posts so I'm not going to go over this. It's just something I think needs repeating.

Will I be doing this film as my next film? Maybe not, because there is something else that I want to do, and something a bit more close to my heart, but this screenplay has gotten the juices flowing. That's a good thing. Because I'm sick and tired of talking about film and I really need to do some production work.

I've been lamenting that resources are scarce, and limited, but it's time to step forward and try something new. So let's see what else I can dust off, and get excited about.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Blogs, Vlogs, and the Net

There's a guy up in the Boston area who has a real passion about blogging and vlogging. His name is CC Chapman, and he has a presentation he did on the web about "new media".

He knows his shit!, and he makes sense. It's a nice little intro to what is happening on the web. I've talked here about regional cinema, and grass roots marketing and how important they are to the independent filmmaker. In his presentation CC goes through some case studies that other people are doing on the web. It's an interesting presentation, and CC is a down to earth kind of guy, so take a look and listen on what he has to say. The presentation is about 48 minutes long. I think you'll like it. Thanks CC for the presentation.

CC's presentation

Friday, April 06, 2007

The Trashy Movie Celebration Blog-a-thon: Django

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Django was released April 6th 1967, and it still holds up today as a great trashy spagatti western staring the cool suave Franco Nero. As we all know durring this time a lot of spagatti westerns were hitting the old drive in, and it did pave the road for Clint Eastwoods "The Good, the bad, and the ugly. But before that there was Django. Eastwoods film would come out later that year in December. Sergio Corbucci was the director of Django. Corbucci would go on to direct such other classics as: "Revenge of the Gunfighter","and "Companeros". What makes Django that extra special film? Well not only does the film try to take itself seriously, but it also has fun doing so. In the first ten minutes of the film ten people are already dispatched in a hail of bullets. The opening of the film has a song that will have you whistling the tune after seeing it. The tune itself is hilarious, but you'll remember that tune good or bad.

Corbucci employed an over the top, comic book style to his violence. Django at one point wields a proto-machine gun on foot ostensibly, in a period when most mobile Gatling guns rode mounted on wheel-carts. Django mows down scores of villains with deadly accuracy. Implausible, to say the least, but it is all in the fantastic, surreal context of Corbucci's West.

Django was banned outright in several countries for its extreme violence. In fact Django spawned several pseudo-sequels and dubiously retitled knock-offs. 2o years later after the original a sequel was made called "Djang: Strikes again". Franco Nero reprised his role again for the film.

All I can say is that the film is over the top, yet its very well done, and an enjoyable romp. Like most films Django was shot in Spain, and the cinematography and art direction looks good. Corbucci's West is not a very pretty place. There is mud, and desert, and quicksand. Corbucci litters his western with interesting characters. People look worn, and dusty almost like the real west was. The only problem sometimes is that the dubbing isn't that great, but somehow the film manages to rise above it. The dialogue is sparse, and corny at times, but Corbucci gives some of the best lines to his minor characters. One minute you are laughing and the next you rooting for more kills. The film is that visceral, and that much fun.

I had first seen this film a long time ago late at night on TV. It was severely cut and yet it still worked for me. Django received an extremely limited theatrical release in the U.S when it first came out. The film went as far as unspooling in major cities for one week, and then was relegated to the X-ploitation houses of Times Square.

The plot was simple. A man enters a town where two warring faction are killing each other. The Mexicans are on one side. They loot the town, and abuse its inhabitants. Then there are Major Jackson's men who are the so-called protectors of the town, but who extort and abuse the towns citizenry also. It is Django who comes between the two warring factions. He works both sides of the fence and manages to rack up a decent kill ratio on both sides. If it sounds a lot like "For a Few more Dollars" you would be right, but "Django" is a film that is over the top. It must have been an interesting time in movie making durring the 60's when one filmmaker tried to out do another. The trick is how far can you go without making the story totally ridiculous? Corbucci knows just where to take the action, and at times I swear he is winking at you knowing the absurdity of the scene, but never flinching on the action.

It's what makes Django a fun film. Watch it and have a party!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

RIP Bob Clark 1941-2007

April 4: Director Bob Clark dead in car accidentTMZ reports that Bob Clark, director of the original BLACK CHRISTMAS andother cult horror favorites, was killed in a car crash on the Pacific CoastHighway early this morning at age 67. He was riding in a silver Infinitiwith his 22-year-old son, Ariel Hanrath-Clark, when they were struck by anSUV driven by 24-year-old Hector Velazquez-Nava. Both Clarks were killed,though Velazquez-Nava survived and was arrested for driving under theinfluence of alcohol; he¹s scheduled to be booked for gross vehicularmanslaughter once he is released from the hospital.

Clark began his career with the offbeat 1972 zombie film CHILDREN SHOULDN'T PLAY WITH DEAD THINGS and followed it up with 1974's DEATHDREAM, a.k.a. DEAD OF NIGHT, about a soldier who returns home from Vietnam as an undeadflesheater, and the same year¹s CHRISTMAS, the influential stalker filmabout a houseful of sorority girls terrorized by a murderous obscene phonecaller. He went on to such diverse successes as the Sherlock Holmes-vs.-Jackthe Ripper thriller MURDER BY DECREE (1979), the raunchy megahit PORKY'S(1982) and the sentimental favorite A CHRISTMAS STORY (1983). In recentyears, his horror films began enjoying a newfound popularity that inevitablytranslated into remakes; an adaptation of DEATHDREAM called ZERO DARK THIRTYstalled, but the updated BLACK CHRISTMAS opened on its namesake day lastyear and hit DVD this week. Clark himself was to take the helm of a new CHILDREN SHOULDN'T PLAY WITH DEAD THINGS set to film this year. (-Michael Gingold)

Sad and tragic news.

Neat Link

It never ceases to maze me what you can find on the web. Over at iklips they have a segment called lunch with David. David Poland is a guy who sits down with writers, directors, and stars of movies and just has a nice intimate conversation with the person. It's eye opening and revealing. I always like the one on one interviews, and you get so much more out of it when the subject is relaxed. Richard Dreyfuss is his latest guest.

Directing actors has always been fascinating to me. The way the creative process works is really inspiring, and fun. It's also frustrating and complicated. That's why I like working with professionals. You get it all. The ecstasy and the agony all in one. It makes for good movie making, and something I want to continue to do.

Check it out if you have some time.