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.