Friday, January 27, 2006

Rethinking Distribution

Today is the release of the film "Bubble" directed by Steven Soderbergh, and with it comes an experiment. Bubble is part of an experiment in releasing movies to theaters and homes at the same time, so it's available for downloading and will be available on DVD in stores on Tuesday. This is a new way in releasing a film, and it has the industry taking note. Where this model may prefer the distributor it does not favor by theater owners. This new distribution model is driven by two things. Technology and economics. On the economic side it is no secret that Hollywood studios receive a substantial amount of revenue from DVD sales and rentals. In 2004 47% of the distribution pie came from DVD's. That's $21.0 billion dollars from DVD sales and rentals alone. The other parts of the pie came from pay TV (9%), Television (28%), and theater distribution, which was 16%. On the technology side it is now possible to reach more people digitally then through other conventional means of distribution. This includes Pay TV, and the internet. Though downloading movies to your hard drive is something of a new way of distributing movies technology such as the i-pod, and the PS2 player are making that market more viable, and a producer would be a fool to not look at added revenue for his or her film.

As televisions and computers begin to merge and create new ways to deliver product to viewers eventually the distribution model of yesteryear will go the way of the dinosaur. There will still be a market for theater distribution, but a producer will not have to look at that as his or her only source of revenue. Some would say that this is the end of theater distribution, and why would any person go see a movie in a theater when they can see it in the privacy of their own home? All I can say to that is that the argument isn't something new. A little known invention called the television once was once thought of as the killer of movies. People thought long time ago that why would anyone go see a movie in a theater when they can watch TV for free in their home. Well guess what? The movies didn't die, and I'm happy to report that movie theaters are still in business. What happened? Well it's the old evolve or die syndrome. What happened to theater going was that it was transformed, There were movies in 3-D, in technoscope, and yes technicolor, and a movement happened that revolutionized the industry for a decade and that was drive-ins. Yes the movie audience was evolving and they wanted more, so Hollywood gave them more. Sure these new theaters were sometimes called passion pits, and they seemed to be just a fad, but it worked, and Hollywood produced some interesting films during this period.

Another fact was that the movies were driven by a younger crowd who had more discretionary funds to spend on entertainment. It is happening again. Once more the distribution market is changing, and once more the audience is beginning to change. There are more films being produced now then there ever have been, and the market has opened up to include niche type markets. Sure Hollywood produces the blockbuster, and that is what it does well, but foreign films, art films, and even B-films are making it to the market, and being distributed through alternative distribution.

It's a new day in American film-making, and the distribution model is changing. With all change there is resistance, but as the villainous Borg of Star Trek would say "resistance is futile". Change will happen slowly at first, and then it will be business as usual. For the independent to the studio film-maker these are changing times, and they are exciting times. Distribution of a film is work, and it always has been, but now it's becoming more and more wide open and all who want to see their film succeed can now try and step up to the plate. Nothing worth while is easy, but then it never is.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Writing, writing, & MORE writing

It's been always impressed on my mind that a film is as good as it's writing, and that's somewhat true. I'm no William Golden, but I do know good writing when I see it, or better yet read it. My first film was an attempt to get it done. The story had some interesting points and I tried to make it interesting. For some who have viewed Deadly Obsessions I've succeeded, but I do have my own criticism of my own work. Film is a visual medium, and while making it I tried to be as visual as I can. The dialogue was heavy, and the actors did a fantastic job with it. Given more time I believe the film would have been a bit better, but time is your enemy, and with every tick of the clock more money is spent, and since money was limited so was our time.
So as I'm writing my second feature I'm more and more looking at the written word, and since I have more resources open to me due to making the first film I'll be able to make a tighter film. I've been looking at different films lately from mostly European filmmakers. One filmmaker who has caught my eye, and interest is Claude Chabrol. He is often referred to as the French Hichcock, and his films deal with the suspense, and drama. Chabrols's name is associated with his criticism in Cashiers du Cinema, and the rise to the French New Wave. It is no secret that I am a fan of this era, and this period in cinema history.

I've been criticized for being to heavy on the dialogue, but in my case dialogue moves the story, and it's cheap. So I'm treating my next project carefully, and trying to get the writing as good as I can get it. What I'm most interested in is when I give it to the actors. I've pared down the players for the next one, and it'll stand on it's own only if the actors make it believable. Like I said before had I time on the first movie I would have wanted the actors to work with it a bit more. But what came out of the rehearsal, and the time I spent with them was pure gold. Even the crew helped in staging a scene, and it helped. So I'm really looking forward to working with actors again. It's what really makes a project bearable. I've never really liked the writing part, but I do know that it is the word that is essential. Without structure a film can fall apart, but sometimes in editing you can create a structure and a pacing of the story that you originally never had in the script. BUT you still need the story, and the story is what it's all about.

How I'll do this, and when is a question I even don't know, but I continue to plug along because it's the only thing I know how to do. Any other way would be tantamount to surrender, and I just don't know how to do that.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Forever Franco

Okay before I say another word I have to say it. I admire Jess Franco and his films. True the films are sometimes hard to take, but most often then not Franco hits one out of the park, and it really sticks with you. Who is Jess Franco you say? Jesus Franco is a European filmmaker whose made such classics as "Venus of Furs", "The Awful Dr. Orloff " and "Vampyros lesbos". These are only three films of his out of 186. Yes that's right you read right Franco has completed over 186 films and at almost 76 years old he's still churning them out. Franco has shot many films under many different aliases.

You either hate Franco or love him. There is no in between with him. Some of his films have had problems during production, and yet Franco has always pulled through and completed them. Maybe that's why I like him. Sure his films are usually relegated to B-movie type fare, but there is some sort of intelligence behind it. Some may just laugh, and call Franco more of a pornographer then a filmmaker, but after reading several interviews that he's given, and actually meeting the gentleman I am more inclined to see him as a true filmmaker, and not a hack that some label him. His films are an acquired taste and sometimes the films seem to be difficult to understand, but this is due to editing that Franco never did. You see Franco's films have been butched by distributors and producers who only try and market the exploitive parts of the film. One market would cut the film one way, while another market would cut it another way. Maybe that's why there is so many critics out there who don't like Franco's work.

As I've said always filmmaking is a co-operative endeavor, and sometimes the director does not have control of his films, and he is at the mercy of others who know little except the bottom line, which is all about the money. With the advent of DVD and the hunger for more product it is my hope that more distributors like anchor bay will release films by such directors as Franco with the filmmakers input. Maybe then the critics will be silenced and finally these films can be seen in their original version. Already films from such filmmakers as Mario Bava, Alain Robbe-Grillet, Jose Benazeraf, and Jean Rollin are being unearthed, and restored.

A whole decades worth of films have been lost to unscrupulous distributors, and maybe it's not too late. I've always admired the European way of filmmaking. Smaller crews, and interesting story lines have been a staple of European directors. New World conservatism was absent in these films and many of them pushed the envelope in taste, and in subject matter some would say, but these films always had an exploitive element, and it's creators knew what they had to do in order to pull in it's audiences.

Jess Franco is one director who has made many different types of films, but always with a passion. In some of his restored work you can see this. So yes I like Franco, and his work. It's a hit and miss with me, but I always come away from one of his films and see a bit of genius in them, and I hope that someday I can have the energy and the passion Franco has in making films.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Hollywood Smaltz!

The one thing Hollywood does right is bring the spectacle back. Take the Producers for instance. In 1968 the film with Gene Wilder & Zero Mostel came out and it became a classic, but Hollywood loves to re-invent it's own, and in this case it was Broadway that got Hollywood's attention. Mel Brooks created the Broadway play "The Producers" in 2001, and it was a smash. Nathan Lane, and Matthew Broderick are hilarious in the parts of Max Bialystock & Leo Bloom. So hence comes the movie "the Producers" in 2006. It's an old fashioned musical with some very funny skits in it. If anything this is what Hollywood does right. Only Hollywood has the money to create such lavish films, and it is usually these films which live on in our collective memory. But what happens to the original? Where does it go. After all it was the inspiration for the Broadway play, and the present day film remake. The original was re-released on DVD, and looks better then it did when it first was released in 1968. MGM Entertainment re-released the original with supplements that will make an aging cinefile's heart burst with joy. I recommend the DVD, and also whole heartily endorse the movie remake which is out now.

Hollywood does everything big, and in the case of the movie "The Producers", it does them right. Go see it, and tell me you don't whistle a tune or two as you are walking out of the theater. And who knows you might even start to dance. It could happen. You know you want to.