Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The DIY Thing

Been listening to a discussion about DIY filmmaking, and I think it's all very inspiring. Check out The Workbook Project. Lance Weiler interviews Paul Harrill of Self Reliant web site, and Mark Stolaroff of No Budget Film School. They have some interesting things to say. Also if you get a chance take a look at Their a bunch of filmmakers in Alabama who made the film Hide and Creep. It was shown on the sci-fi channel, so they had some pretty good success. The film Hide and Creep was shot on Super 16, and the filmmaker really loves film, and he makes a really good argument for using it.

I've always thought the DV thing sucks. The compression you get and the tapes themselves are the worst, and I work with them day in and day out. But I'll probably do my next film on DV. Why?

Because it's cheap, it's accessible, and I can get fast turnaround. But I'm also doing some stuff with my Eclair NPR, and seeing what I can do. Having NFL films nearby is helpful. Though I do like ColorLab down in Virginia, and they do great work. Only thing is when I do those little experiments they cost a bit. Developing and transfer, but the results are pretty interesting. I may just use some 16mm on the next project too. We'll have to see how it all shakes out.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Write you bastard, WRITE!

So yeah I've been writing more and more. I'm working on a second draft of a film that I could possible do. As I write more it gets a bit more ambitious then I thought it would, but then again aiming for above what I wanted isn't too bad. If it ever gets into production I'll worry about it then. As for now I have one criteria in getting this script done and that is is it doable. I know it's all in the rewrites. I've read books, and heard commentaries about it all. Now it's time to apply what I've learned.

Granted I have no idea if I'll get this script to the screen, but I promised myself that after this one I would write another outline for a film, and then maybe even tackle a long dormant project I had started but never really finished. One is even a short story which I think is more possible, and would satisfy my hunger to get behind a camera again. Yes it's a full addiction, and after the day job it's hard to get motivated or enough energy to write but it's what I need to do. I know so many other people who are or were better writers then me who have not written a word since they gave it up. I can't fault them. It's always an uphill battle, and life does have a way of getting in the way of things.

Since undergoing my writing campaign I've become a bit more more imaginative. The side of the brain where imagination is sparked is slowly kicking in. As a child I cultivated this area like no other. Drawing, writing and filming. It was a good time, and I'm finding a resurgence of it quite invigorating. Again I can't say where this will lead. I would like to post the scripts that I finish on some websites like Trigger street dot com, or Coppola's web site. I haven't really gone to them in awhile, and it would be good to get other peoples ideas and opinions. The promise of not being in a vacuum is what inspires me to do so.

Creativity is a hard thing to cultivate. One can get stuck in the world with real world problems and slowly let the creative side of your brain die. We choke it off by involving ourselves in other peoples lives and not taking care of what is important to us.

Things will move on, and its important to dive into life and have something other then just writing or filmmaking or whatever else you like. Some of the best ideas and experiences come from involving yourself in the messy chaos we call life.

So I'm writing. I'm still trying to reach out to others but am finding it hard to coordinate schedules and actually sit down and talk. I've always admired the French New wave of the 50's and 60's. A bunch of film critics and film enthusiasts getting together and talking about cinema. I would love to know what they discussed, and how they collaborated. It would be eye opening I'm sure.

Well its just a dream for now. Maybe something will come out of it. I just need to push forward, and keep on trucking.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Guillermo del Toro radio interview

If you want to hear a really good and inspiring interview with director Guillermo del Toro. He is the director of Pans Labyrinth. Go or better yet run: (it's that good)

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Grind

I've been debating on how to start this entry, and figured I just wing it and explore some issues I'm mulling about. One of them is to do another film. No matter how much I talk here I really want to get another chance to do another film. Doing a first film is quite eye opening and you learn a lot. I want to apply that knowledge of what I learned and try again, but motivation is a problem. How do I motivate myself to do another film. How do I get myself to jump through all those hoops to do another film? With Sundance happening right now I guess the desire to do another film is high, but as I read about Sundance I am dismayed by how insular that world really is. I mean do I really have a chance to get in such a festival. I've tried to enter several festivals with "Deadly Obsessions" and I've always hit a brick wall. I even questioned the films quality. I mean when so many doors are shut in your face it doesn't take long for self doubt to set in.

Then again I've watched so many other films that I think aren't as good, but have gotten distribution or a festival run and know in my heart of hearts that its not sometimes the product but the people. I have no inside information on these festivals, and I know no one on the selection committee. It does seem that knowing some of the organizers of these festivals is a helpful way of possible getting into one of the festivals. I'm not crying foul or anything. I mean we all gyrate to what we know. I'm just a guy with a film about a marriage going to hell. Deadly Obsessions is a film that isn't very hopeful or sunny. In fact its pretty mean at its core. I realize that maybe the film could be cut shorter too, but still it would have the same problem as being a very depressing film. So what to do? I've decided to move on, and I want to do another film. I'm done with "Deadly Obsessions". I don't have the energy to work on it any more. I'll continue to support it, and try to do right by it by providing a self distribution path through the Internet. I'm even trying to cut a better trailer for the film to put up on the website. I've taken down the one that was on it.

So that leads me to another project. Another film. I want it to say something and I'm not sure what. I know I'll be working on it for sometime, but I don't want to take forever in creating it. I just want a story that's worthy to be put up onto the screen. In my youth I loved horror films, and I still enjoy them, but I just don't want to go down that road right now. I've burned out on them in my teens and young adulthood. I remember doing them with my friends, and working on them in my early film career. They were fun then, and now I want to say something more. I ant to go back to them someday, but first I want to say something else, and that's whats driving me to my next project. Of course I need to be fiscally responsible, and my budget will dictate my limits, so its not an easy tightrope to walk.

Meanwhile real life keeps muddling in and the grind goes on. It isn't easy to follow your dreams and raise a family at the same time. Compromise is always there, but the dream still lives on. It refuses to die, and be snuffed out, and the stories keep coming, so I'm still not out. It's just frustrating to not do what one really wants to do. Then again nothing worth doing is easy. If it was we all be doing it. So keep the faith Pilgrim and follow that dream. It's worth it in the end no matter how hard it is.

Monday, January 22, 2007


Okay I did it. I finally got to the theater to see Babel this week-end, and enjoyed the film immensely. I’m a big admirer of the director Alejandro González Iñárritu. I loved “21 Grams”, and thought it was done surprisingly well. Since it’s win of a golden globe the movie is suddenly getting more theater play. According to Box Office report Babel came in 12th up 505% from the previous week. Guess you can say that the Golden globe award can be translated into box office dollars.

The film, which deals with several story lines that sort of inter-connect, is interesting, yet I did hear a few grumblings from the audience as I walked out. Seems as though some had a hard time following the characters, and the director’s use of non-linear storytelling confused the audience a bit. My only complaint was that some scenes played too long, and maybe the filmmaker could have cut it a bit. The film runs 142 minutes and though I don’t find that long I do feel there were some scenes that just went on too long. An example of this would be the scene in the nightclub that takes place in Tokyo. I understand that the director wanted to convey a sense of alienation with one of the characters who is deaf going to a disco, but the scene just ran way too long for me. The editing along with the cinematography seemed too drawn out. But that’s my only quip about this film, and it’s overall a good film. The film does have a message which it aptly conveys, and I look forward to Alejandro González Iñárritu next film.

The film is about when tragedy strikes a married couple on vacation in the Moroccan desert, touching off an interlocking story involving six different families. How Iñárritu achieve this is pretty remarkable. The film is written by Guillermo Arriaga who also wrote “21 Grams” & “Amores Perros”. An actress who should be singled out which I don’t think will should be Rinko Kikuchi who plays Chieko. She plays the deaf mute, and though she has no audible lines she conveys her character quite truthfully, and you feel for her. The filmmaker handled her storyline with great compassion and it did say a lot about our society and how many people can feel disconnected from the rest of society. All in all it was a good film, and that’s three for three in my book. First "Children of Men" then "Pan's Labyrinth ", and now "Babel". That does not happen often and it was a pleasure to watch some skillful storytelling. I hope "Babel" gets a few more awards and maybe then Hollywood will release the film to a larger audience though I do hear that the DVD release for this film is already planned for February 20th of this year. Knowing Hollywood it will, but as William Goldman said "nobody knows nothing", and that's oddly true about Hollywood Land.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Susan & Arin Live from Sundance!

Seems like filmmakers Susan Buice & Arin Crumley are headed to Sundance. The Sundance channel is sponsoring them, and they'll provide daily (yes daily) video blogs from the festival. I still have not seen their film as of yet, but hope to someday soon. Whether you love them or hate them you have to give the two their props. They shamelessly promoted their film, and it got noticed. I hear they won some awards including some cash awards, so I'm thinking what next from these two. It seems that they've been pitching their movie "Four Eyed Monsters" for some time now. Hopefully we'll all get a chance to see the film soon on DVD or cable. Maybe then they can start on their second feature. CONGRAT"S guys on the success!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Serendipity in Movie Making!

So after seeing some good cinema the past few weeks my mind goes on to wanting to do something myself. I even put on a documentary on the making of "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre". Not the remake, but the original by Tobe Hooper. While watching the documentary I began to wonder how does a movie like TCM or "Night of the Living Dead" get made. Now these are two American horror movies but one could also look at such films as "400 Blows", "Breathless", "Citizen Kane", and "Easy Rider" as films that are now classics and will always be classics. It fascinates me on how these films were ever made. A lot of them were made on a low budget, and with a lot of blood sweat and tears from the filmmakers. But the one factor that comes into play about them all is that these films were made by a person with a unique vision who then assembled other like-minded people in order to create the final film. Sometimes it’s just pure luck that the right amount individuals meet at a certain time and create art. Some of these artists knew one another from working on other projects, and other times that person happened to be at the right place at the right time to get introduced to so and so who was gearing up for production.

Surely Tobe Hopper was very fortunate to have such people as Robert Burns, Daniel Pearl, and Kim Henkel to help Hopper in creating a unique horror film that would go on to be stored in the vaults of the Museum of Modern Art. This all leads me to serendipity, which is a moviemaker’s best friend or worst nightmare.

It’s foolish to think that alone you can do it. It isn’t impossible to do, and if you had enough money you might pull it off, but most likely that’s not the case. We may know many people who can help us but our problem is that we have few dollars to realize our dreams, and as I’ve said before good ideas don’t happen in a vacuum. So hence my obsessive compulsion into knowing "how" these films were made. By knowing the "how" maybe I can learn how to make a better film.

No matter the genre or the film it starts with a unique idea. If that idea is crap that idea isn’t going to fly. I mean who would have thought TCM would be a movie that would break the mold. In the documentary on the two disc DVD most of the crew & cast members did not think it would ever get released or be as successful as it was. Most just wanted to get paid, and move on. With "Easy Rider" it was Hopper and Fonda who were the driving force. Many had said that the "biker" genre was dead, yet when Easy Rider came out it became a phenomenon. Again the film was made for almost nothing, and with a guerilla like crew. Laszlo Kovacs was the cinematographer, and he was new to this country, and Easy Rider was one of his first major films. Again it was people doing what they loved to do and getting paid. It was after all just another gig, but it wound up to be much more then that.

George Romero has had more success with this phenomenon. Having filmed such films as "Night of the Living Dead", "Martin", and "Dawn of the Dead" with a local crew & cast. Romero broke out of that local scene and had success on a national level. Not once did Romero probably think that any of his films would become so popular as they are today. Yet the funny thing is that all these filmmakers now have trouble getting financing from Hollywood studios. Holly-weird works in some strange and unusual ways. I mean why did Robert Altman have trouble getting financing when he was so wildly known as top-notch filmmaker? Couldn’t the studios have promoted Altman’s name and create a name brand of sorts? Instead Hollywood produces such dreck as "White Chicks" or remakes of "Texas Chainsaw Massacre". But I diverge, and most likely that’s an argument for another time.

While I was doing my film I thought of nothing but getting it done. I just wanted it to stop. I did have some talented people who were on my crew and cast, but I didn’t have enough money to go full tilt boogie. So the argument of having good people behind you doesn’t work in this case. Maybe I just didn’t have enough $$$$ to get the film done. I was making the film in a vacuum, and what happened between making the film and distributing the film was that the market changed. Now EVERYONE can make a movie, and if you have some exploitable elements (nudity, sex, explosions, and nudity) you can get it distributed. Just don’t expect to get the full pay outs distributors once gave upfront to filmmakers in the past. There’s so much product out there that it’s hard for the one person to get something shown. Would the films I listed earlier like TCM, or "Easy Rider" be successful in today’s market as they would have been in the past? I don’t know, but I’m still always fascinated by "how" a film like TCM or Easy Rider gets made.

Serendipity is something that may happen or may not. The one common denominator in all the films that have reached "classic" status is that they had people working on them who loved what they were doing. That "classic" became what it is today because of the collaboration of its artists. Can anyone imagine anyone else doing the cinematography for Citizen Kane other then Gregg Toland?

Knowing the right people and working with them can make all the difference. That’s why there are so few classics being born today. I know there are people out there with passion. Passion is the main ingredient in most of these films, but the Internet seems to spawn a lot of people who pose as artists when actually they’re nothing but charlatans. It’s hard to sort out the talented people from the posers. The real passionate ones are working, and have little time to taut their accomplishments. So what am I saying here?

Surly I am one of these people I'm writting about since I have a blog and website for my film, but promotion was an after thought for me and my primary reason was to reach out to other filmmakers or cinema lovers. I’ve tried to promote my film and failed, yet I’ll always continue to promote the film because I believe in it. There are a lot of passionate and knowledgeable folks out there. I still have dreams of making that one film that will get through to its audience either if its my own film or a film I’ve worked on with others. My second goal is perhaps to make a decent living through my filmmaking ventures. It isn’t fame, or money that drives me, but a desire to create something bigger then myself. Each of these films I l listed before have done just that, and I guess every filmmaker dreams of that. You can’t hit a homerun every time you’re up to bat, but if you get to bat often maybe one of those times you’ll hit one out of the park. So I find myself wanting to get at bat again, and see what I can do. There’s a lot of hills and valleys I have yet to go through, but seeing good cinema and hearing how it was made is an inspiration and something of an obsession for me, so point me in the direction of that brick wall baby. I got a new sledgehammer I want to try out.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Pan's Labyrinth

Del Torro's Pan's Labyrinth is a visually stunning and poetic film that should not be missed. I'm a BIG fan of Del Torro, and he has a unique style. I hear he is planning Hellboy 2, and I'm sure it will be quite good. The story of Pan's Labyrinth is a stunning piece of cinema. I read that he made the film for $5 million dollars, and he was offered twice as much if he would make the film in English. I applaud Del Torro to sticking to his guns. I'm sure the film was a struggle to make. From the cinematography to the set design the film looks fantastic.

The story of Pan's Labyrinth is also a great little story for our time. Set during the the Spanish Civil War where Franco crushed a rebellion by the republic. Franco went on to rule Spain with an iron fist for several decades. In a society struggling with freedom and terrorism this movie is about hope and sacrifice. It is also a fairy tale, and a good one at that. The actors all give great performances, and the little girl who plays Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) is stunning, and she will melt your heart. It is her performance alone that I recommend the film.

After seeing this type of film I felt really good. I like seeing good filmmaking, and Pan's Labyrinth is as good as it gets.

Two films in two weeks that I was crazy for, and that I thought really kicked butt. Children of Men, and now Pan's Labyrinth. Both directed by Mexican filmmakers. me thinks me needs to see Babel by Alejandro González Iñárritu. All three of these directors have a film out, and all three are three of my favorites.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Children of Men

What can I say about this film that hasn’t been said before. “Children of Men” is one of those films that after seeing it you just can’t get it out of your head. Alfonso Cuarón brings to life a near future that is bleak and dying. A world without children and a world slowly sinking into oblivion. He uses immigration, jihads, rebellion, and apathy to create a world that seems to have no hope. Using today’s headlines Cuaron shows us a glimpse of a world that could be. The film is based on P.D. James novel “Children of Men” and was published back in 1992. The movie provides us with such a unique view of the world that you’ll want to know more on how we got there. My only suggestion is go read the book.

Children of Men” is one of those films that takes hold of you and doesn’t let go. It will affect anyone who sees it. I swear that after seeing it I just wanted to rush back home and hug my boys. I wanted to hear them laugh and run amuck as children do. I really can’t attest to Cuaron’s other films, which is a mistake that will be rectified soon on my part. I did see his 1998 film “Great Expectations” which was a bit more interesting then other works of that year. His film “Y tu mamá también” is a film that I’m anxious to see having heard many good things about it. Cuaron brings a certain detail to his filmmaking that envelopes you and makes you believe in the story. He is a very good filmmaker, and seeing “Children of Men” proves that.

I did say that the film depicts a world with out hope, and that is slowly dying. The film’s story provides us with hope, and it is this hope that propels the story forward. The last shot of the film is of hope, and maybe a better future. The ending does leave you up in the air after exhausting its audience in getting there, but I don’t think you’ll mind. Listen to the soundtrack if you doubt it. That’s all I’ll say about that. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone.

The performances by Clive Owen & Claire-Hope Ashitey are very real, and convincing. Michael Caine gives a really fantastic performance as Jasper Palmer. The cinematography is outstanding, and just the technical merit of the film is riveting to see. I cannot highly recommend a better film then “Children of Men”. I swear as a father of two I was deeply moved by its story, and seeing it made me envious of Cuaron’s talents as a filmmaker. This is a film worth buying when it comes to DVD just to hear the director’s commentary.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Rocky Balboa

So after seeing the other night the original film "Rocky" on TMC I had to see the last and final one in this franchise known as Rocky. I am a BIG admirer of the first one, and still find it today a very inspiring and tender story both in its story and in how the movie was made. To say that the original film came out of nowhere is an understatement. The film was about an underdog and it championed the underdog to mythic levels. I don't care if you're into boxing or not at the end of the original you'll feel as you went 15 rounds with Rocky, and when you hear Bill Conti's theme blaring there is no way you can not be involved. The movie rocks and the man who made it rock if you'll excuse the pun is the man Sly Stallone. He's a good writer and a good study of the human condition. Sure Stallone may be more known for his Rambo series then his Rocky, but you can't take away what Stallone wrote. He also stuck to his guns and wanted himself to do the film. It was him or nobody, and it took balls to do and say that. So give Stallone some credit, and give him his props he does GOOD work. I just wish he would write more, or get more into producing or directing for that matter.

So that leads me to "Rocky Balboa" the latest and final film of the Rocky franchise, and I really liked it. Sure it's a bit hyped,but there is a message in the film, and Stallone gives it halfway through the film. "That there is MORE" resonated with me. Hey! Maybe its a bit of a formula film, but Stallone filmed most of the film here in Philadelphia, and he does the city justice. Philly isn't all golden and shinny. It's worn, and deteriorated in places, but it's characters like Rocky that litter the landscape of Philly and give it character. Again when Bill Conti's theme comes on you can't help but feel something.

For all the underdogs, or the older folks who think life has passed them by go see this film. Is it a dream? Yes, and movies are dreams anyway, but one that instills hope, and has you rocking out of the theater with fists in the air can't be all that bad. For the final Rocky film "Rocky Balboa" is a good film to end on. All I'd like to say is thanks to Mr. Stallone for taking us on a ride with Rocky. The character Rocky has touched a lot of lives and has edged it's indelible mark in American cinema forever.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Edward Norton

I just read an interesting interview by Scott Tobias on the blog avclub. Go check it out. The most interesting tidbit of info that Norton talks about is independent film and the climate of production in today's market:

"I think there's more ways to get a movie made today then ever in the history of the entertainment industry. It's a very exciting time to work in movies, if you're a creative person looking to make a very personal, weird vision."