April 27, 2011
No shortage of supplies will quell my process, ‘nor will I let it delay me! So here’s the gist for those who haven’t been following the technology market. The tsunami from a couple months ago ended up wiping out some of Sony’s manufacturing plants, including their plant that manufactures magnetic tape. This includes HDCAM tapes, the format that high end CineAlta cameras shoot on and the format that most film festivals exhibit movies with.
One horror story that prompted me to act on acquiring my blank media ASAP was that a first time filmmaker who got his film into the Tribeca Film Festival, couldn’t get his movie onto the required format because none of the blank media was available. All of the professional distributors were and still are as I write this, sold out and many houses are selling used or “erased” tapes and many of those are selling for double the price of what a new tape originally went for. The worst of the houses had tapes, but were reserving them for the studios or networks basically telling indie filmmakers to “take a hike”. Yes sir, they won’t get my business ever again!
So I needed to acquire two 40 minute tapes to master Caroline of Virginia on. Although I’m still a month away from having to do this, the idea that I wouldn’t get a hold of such media terrified me. It petrified me! No one had 40 minute HDCAM tapes. One house came me with a 32 minute used tape and wanted to charge $250. My film is 37 minutes. It just didn’t work and the place, which unfortunately is regarded as reputable, was obviously trying to scam me. Well, I did end up finding new HDCAM tapes. Three actually. Where? Of all places, Amazon.com! Oh, the irony.
April 10, 2011
Let’s Talk About Film Length
I’m a big believer in the idea that films should be as long as the story dictates. I don’t believe that distributors, festivals or any other entity, other than the story, should have a say in this. Of course there are general “ballpark” guidelines, but for a film to go under or over those guidelines by fifteen or so minutes should never be an issue – even for a festival but all in all I find that the stigmata that comes with a film’s running time is wholly inappropriate.
Recently I made a query to a certain film festival in Flordia, about whether or not they’d be willing to allow for a 37 Minute Work in Progress of Caroline of Virginia and the e-mail that was returned to me (in a matter of hours) pretty much insulted me on every front. According to their listing on WithoutABox.com, they limit their shorts to 30 minutes and at 37 minutes COV is too short to submit as a feature. Additionally, I am to understand they despise WIP submissions (I assume this is because their selections people are probably not very skilled at watching movies and likewise have no eye for original content, but this is my anger speculating… mostly). After getting heated over the utterly insulting e-mail, that was clearly written without researching any of my credentials or looking at the clips of the film that I have up on my COV Festival Portal, I decided to look into this person (who’s name I am redacting). He’s made a lot of films, none of which I’ve heard of (and I’ve heard of some pretty obscure material), but the most striking thing about his resume was that he had self-published a book on Lulu.com. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve published a book on Lulu.com and so has hundreds of children who don’t know how to write.
My film is 37 minutes and it’s going to remain at 37 minutes. I don’t need lessons in how to approach my post-production from a nobody director. I get enough bad advice from my peers as it is (most of whom wouldn’t give me good advice out of spite for my work). I contemplated (briefly) cutting 7 minutes from the movie, but the flow would have been obliterated. So what’s the purpose of this blog other than to vent my frustration over such a ridiculous e-mail? Well, the purpose is to push for all filmmakers to stay true to the art and don’t edit according to the rules of a festival. Festivals that truly appreciate film will accept it for what it is, not what they want it to be. And that’s what has happened here.
*Update: Received another response. Even though the individual at the film festival has not looked at ANY of my work, he insists I need his advice and that I should purchase his Lulu published book. Hmmm????
April 07, 2011
Content: Why Conserve?
I had the pleasure of seeing Jeremy Leven’s new film “Girl on a Bicycle” last night, a work in progress preview of a very well made motion picture. It was one of those screenings where they videotape the audience reaction and then have them fill out questionnaires at the end. I’ve been to several, the last of which I participated in a focus group to discuss a documentary on the founder of AA.
This movie was a work of narrative fiction. Shot in Paris with European actors, this movie has BALLS. It wasn’t completed of course, which is disconcerting because I fear they may pull out some of the material that I felt some of these types of movies need: content that would make the bible belt shake at their knees. Not that it’s a raunchy or explicit type of movie, but it’s got some very personal scenes that are depicted in a relatively realistic manner which may have made some of the audience members uncomfortable. These are the scenes the MPAA frowns on (as opposed to violence which the MPAA condones for some silly reason).
I think also, the idea that the children in the movie would be comfortable calling a strange man “Pa” made a lot of people squirm. I thought it was brilliant and Leven shouldn’t change a thing. Lock the picture, render the effects, finish the sound design and color time it to completion – wala, ready for the multiplex.
The good thing is that I felt most of the people in the theater responded well. We had to fill out note cards and I of course gave it my best review possible as I often sympathize with original films that are not likely to do well in a country where most of the population prefers to see a predictable superhero movie over a work of art such as this. I noticed the people around me doing the same. They were rating it excellent across the board. When I left the auditorium there was one disgruntled man who claimed that it was the worst film he had ever seen but refused to elaborate on it. I wanted to kick him in the gonads but New York State has very strict laws regarding assault so I restrained myself.
All in all, Girl on a Bicycle, so long as the filmmakers restrain themselves from mutilating the testies of the movie, will be a classic on par with Love Actually.
April 04, 2011
How Passionate Are You?
Passion is key to success as an artist on any front. Passion, true passion, borders on the line of obsession, which in turn affects ones sanity. Passion for film, passion for video technology, for the art that these two technologies can create is an astounding thing. If you want to be an independent filmmaker, let me tell ya, you have to have bePASSIONATE. You have to want it more than a new car, more than a new house, more than sex, more than ANYTHING. There are millions of people out there trying to make it as filmmakers and you’re competing with every one of them. Some have the resources to buy their way in, most don’t. Most are like me, they come from a community with absolutely no connections to the film industry, the television field or any of the business that could be used as a gateway. If you’re like me, you better be passionate because it’s going to be tough.
You have to be prepared to see your family and friends elevate themselves and accumulate resources that few independent artists are able to acquire. You’re going to see your friends start families, inherit property, get approved for mortgages and acquire jobs because their companies prefer stable family men over independents who live their lives outside expectations. Because their banks trust them over you, because you make movies and they work for the big guys. You have to prepare to live in squalor while your friends and family attend brunches and family-only functions. You have to prepare to receive multiple eviction notices while your friends and family go on two vacations a year. This is the dark side of being an independent filmmaker, apart from the real world of expectations, conformity and acceptance.
The good thing you have on your side is that most people aren’t willing to put up with any of this. They’re not passionate, dedicated maybe, but not passionate. Are you this passionate? Are you this crazy? I am and will always be no matter what happens. I don’t conform to expectations and I will never give up this art to go on some silly vacation and I honestly don’t understand people who would.
April 04, 2011
New York City