I just wanted to remind all the folks in the northeastern states of New England that a screening in my hometown of Long Island, Maine will take place Friday at 7:00 PM (July 29, 2011). It’s a free showing at the Long Island Community Library Learning Center. A full projection with up front stereo sound. Very basic, but sweet.
In addition, another screening in NYC is scheduled for August 18th at the Tribeca Grand, but more on this when August comes.
Movie Industry Bounceback – Improve the Experience!
So this morning Jan and I went to the 84th Street AMC to check out the new Captain America movie that was released this week. I ordered the print at home tickets online – paid the additional $3.00 “convenience” fee and then departed. The matinee show was for 11:30am.
We arrive at the theater and it turns out that the air conditioning for our particular auditorium wasn’t working. Auditorium 6. I find it interesting that theater management put the cheap matinee in the non-air conditioned theater… very odd indeed. Moving on, so we get to the previews and suddenly people in the audience see this as their cue to become obnoxious. They start talking and heckling the previews, very annoying since the previews are my favorite part of the show. They’re important because they set the mood for the feature. If they’re heckling now, I can only imagine how the feature will go. Then BOOM, down sits this massive, overweight woman wearing a cowboy hat. She crunches Jan’s legs inward – and then… refuses to take off her hat. Jan and I move to the end of the row – into the next aisle down. I normally don’t like sitting on the end, but I made an exception.
The people in front of us start talking as soon as the feature begins. They’re talking about Marvel Comics, the company, the characters etc, making no effort to whisper. But whispers are annoying too, you know how I know? Because the people behind us started whispering – “oh what’s that” “those are headlights in the fog!” Actually they’re headlights in the snow, you idiots. Oh by the way, the sound of people munching popcorn with their mouths as wide open as possible is just absolutely disgusting.
Jan and I left after about five minutes, very upset. We got a refund – not in full of course. They couldn’t return the “convenience fee”. Really? This was the opposite of convenient. This was absolutely INCONVENIENT. Arg… so – here’s where this is going. For the past several years, the movie watching experience has gone way down hill. Ticket prices have gone up and dedication to providing an amazing experience has gone way down. If the movie business is going to succeed they need to reinstate and ENFORCE rules of conduct so that everyone can enjoy the show without having to put up with a neighbor’s disgusting habits – obese size – and utter disregard for the other viewers. Seems now all anyone cares about is whether or not you’re sneaking in outside food.
Or maybe avoid a movie theater without stadium seating and air conditioning. By the way, the best movie watching experience I ever had was when Jan and I saw Ed Norton as The Hulk at the Los Angeles Arclight – and that wasn’t even an interesting film. But the theater was really AWESOME in just about every way possible. AMC should aspire to be like them! I take movie watching seriously – it’s the only thing I enjoy doing on an entertainment level. I don’t like sports, I don’t like television – I LOVE movies! FILM. THEATER. The standards for live theater should be applied to movies – that’s it. That’s the point of this blog.
:: Update, the manager of this particular AMC has rectified the situation. Good person – understood that I wouldn’t want anyone going through this when watching one of my movies. -E
There’s an easy way for everyone to understand photography law. If you’re in public, there’s no expectation of privacy and therefore your picture can be taken and you can take pictures of ANYONE. One of my favorite people on the internet, who I never actually met in real life, is Carlos Miller. He blogs about photographer’s rights and often many of his blogs are about cops harassing photographers and sometimes detaining them on trumped up charges.
A wonderful and rare circumstance ocurred in Alexandria, Virginia – just across the Potomac from Washington, DC. A photographer named Eric Spiegel (wonderful first name Eric – totally cool name) was walking around, trying to get candids of local residents for a street photography series. He comes across this man:
As soon as the picture was snapped, the man leaped up and accosted Mr. Spiegel. With the man’s hand latched to Spiegel’s arm, Spiegel made his way to the nearest police officer and the officer sided with Spiegel on the matter. This is rare and the officer should be commended for actually knowing basic photography laws. It doesn’t happen every day. I’m beyond ecstatic with the outcome of this story and that the photo has been released. The best way to educate people is to put these stories out there and blast these photographs all across the internet.
We all know Joe Pesci from some of his memorable roles in films like The Super, Goodfellas and Home Alone – but tonight I watched a film from 1992 that I didn’t even know existed: The Public Eye. This film is so unknown and unpopular that it doesn’t show up in IMDB’s instant results when searching for it and the poster on IMDB is below standard quality for their poster image content. In addition, for a Joe Pesci film with many stars involved, it only has 22 user reviews posted.
In this film, Joe Pesci plays one of his most memorable, heartbreaking and thought-provoking characters in the form of a freelance press photographer during World War II. It’s a beautiful film about a character that embodies the hungry artist, the struggle that he encounters in dealing in social settings and his inability to turn off his passion for the sake of his own survival. I absolutely loved this work of art and could very much relate to what the character was going through. It’s available on Netflix instant and I highly recommend it.
Every artist who is truly passionate about their work should give this a gander, at least once, to understand what a truly dedicated and obsessed artist goes through.
So how do you filmmakers making their movies in a public space deal with the general public trying to go about their daily life? First off, don’t be a jerk. As a filmmaker or a non-filmmaking member of the public – not being a jerk, goes both ways. As a filmmaker, achieving my work day is AS important as maintaining good public relations. I believe that this should be the same for members of the public and authorities. One of my biggest pet-peeves are rude, disruptive people who purposely walk through shots with their hands over their faces. It drives me CRAZY. I found the following shot in some of my footage from the other day, for a commercial project:
There are several ways this could have been avoided and all of it is on the part of the passerby. Not that I fancy my work more important than them getting to their destination, but I deliberately placed myself on the meridian accordingly, so that there was plenty of room for two way foot traffic just behind me. First off he could have stopped and asked if I was filming or at least ask me to stop filming for a moment. Second, he could have re-routed to the massive space behind me. Walking in front of the camera was certainly avoidable – but its clear this idiot’s intention was to “attempt” to ruin my work day.
Anyone who has followed me knows my contempt for authorities who make up their own rules regarding filming in public. From the hassle I endured while taking pictures in Los Angeles, to the security guard at Brooklyn Borough Hall who shut me down while filming The Long Island Project and then most recently the MTA while filming across the street from the Manhattanville Bus Depot this winter (see older blog). These are other examples of people deliberately ruining a filmmaker’s work day for no other purpose except that they can.
Regardless of how the public treats you as a filmmaker – always – ALWAYS, be thankful, gracious and make every effort to create an environment that caters to you without sacrificing the public’s ability to function. These few and far between instances when disruptive people come after you will be minimal if you follow this one simple rule: be courteous. I believe that if I was any less careful as I’ve been over the years, the instances of people disrupting my shooting would be far higher.
Hey all, I just wanted to put up the last of the NYC Premiere photos from the Caroline of Virginia screening with New Filmmakers New York on July 4th. Check them out below. The wait was due to developing time. I shot these on a disposable 35mm camera (yeah what!).
The Anthology Film Archives in Manhattan’s Lower East Side.
Eileen O’Shea and Jan Major waiting before the show, outside the Anthology Film Archives
Actress Lauren Meley (Caroline), Actor Michael Scott Ross (The Musician), Producer Jan Major and Writer/Director Eric Norcross (me!)
Jan Major and Eileen O’Shea talking after the show.
In response to USA Today calling Grand Rapids a dying city, the entire town got together and produced this lip sync music video – an epic achievement which clearly demonstrates how inappropriate USA Today’s report was. This just goes to show you, don’t let the media dictate who you are or where your future lies. The media doesn’t know a damned thing except how to be elitist.
There’s a common misconception among many people in the industry, both beginning filmmakers and marketing people who have been around for some time. That is of course the idea of length, determining a film’s success or overall greatness. Length doesn’t make a film great, it’s whether or not the filmmaker has allowed the story to dictate its length or forced it down or up to a certain length because of external requirements/guidelines. Film’s should be as long as they need to be to work, regardless of marketing or festival dictations.
Marketing people shouldn’t be key in the final film. My contention is that if they can’t market what the filmmaker creates, they’re not capable of doing their job and therefore the marketing department should be replaced. More and more (thanks to the baby-boomer generation), marketing people have yielded the most power over the content of a film – including how long it runs.
My advice if you want to be the most original filmmaker you can be, don’t yield control over to the marketing people and don’t cut your film down so that the theaters can “squeeze in” one more show. Don’t try to extend it to qualify it as a feature either. Each story will tell you how long it needs to be. Each story has a life of its own and you should let that life breathe, you should let that life exist in its natural form.
At the premiere last Sunday, we showed Caroline of Virginia with several short films, some of which were entertaining and others not so entertaining.
There was one in particular that was very artsy and no one quite knew what to make of it. It was called “Oneiroid Life” by Naida Zukic. On first glance I found myself very irritated that someone would have the audacity to make us watch something like that. I thought it was very selfish and mean. Sort of on par with the camera work done on Rachel Getting Married - where there is just no reason for such sloppyness.
But thinking about it all week I managed to come up with an idea of it. The idea could easily be conveyed if they re-titled it: “Dreams of the Blind“. Those who were present at the New Filmmakers New York screening will know exactly what I’m talking about. After drafting this blog I went to NewFilmmakersOnline.com and looked up the listing for this film. I hadn’t bothered reading about it prior. Here’s what the filmmaker wrote:
Oneiroid Life deploys dream aesthetic as a space for ethical and political engagement of anonymous violence. Oneiroid performative devices foreground human rights abuses to problematize familiar arguments orbiting the problem of censorship & violence. More specifically, the project considers the question of ethics & responsibility in relationship to: 1) politico-ideological representations of violence, and 2) the extreme sensitivity to (and censorship of) objective violence – torture, suffering, abuse, war. In Oneiroid Life traumatic dreams are psychic sites of struggle that preserve their attachments to objective violence as a necessary condition for possibility and critical agency.
I think the purpose of filmmaking can be easily defiined by what has happened here – whether you like the movie or not, if you’re left thinking about it, then the director has done their job. Yes, I absolutely despised this art film I’m talking about, but it left me thinking about it. So with that I say: Good job Naida.
Ask any struggling filmmaker what the worse thing about indie filmmaking is and nine times out of ten they’ll tell you the festival submission process. These days the festival submission fees can often cost more than the production of the actual film (as was the reality with Caroline of Virginia). If you’ve been reading this blog long enough, you know by now that I too have major issues with the festival system and semi-jokingly call it the Film Festival Industrial Complex.
Our ratio for acceptances is staggeringly low and very rarely causes for rejections are given. Some of the rejection reasons were so silly it makes me wonder why these organizations are able to retain their status in the non-film-industry. One festival told us that they’d be happy to watch our 37 minute film but almost instantly after received our submission fee shot back an e-mail saying “we just don’t see how we can program such length”. Um… scam? Yes, but unfortunately this was a “reputable” festival which I would have absolutely no chance in fighting. I let it go. Another reason sent from some hole in the wall festival in Chicago was that my film looked too clean, well rounded and studio-like. It looked like a Disney movie and they were afraid it would make all the other films look horrible. I actually got a laugh out of this because… well, isn’t that the point? Make the best film that yields the best aesthetics, best technical achievements and win the festival awards? What should I do, deliberately make a BAD movie? People like those idiots up in Chicago should be punched in the face.
Honestly – I’m black listing every single one of these festivals from my list. There’s no hope for their pretentious selections. How are filmmakers supposed to elevate their abilities if their being told to bring down their production value? We’re not allowed to get good at it?
One of the alternatives I’ve found is to program our film in unlikely venues: hotels, community movie nights, recreation departments etc. Sure, film industry professionals won’t see it but they were never my target audience for this movie anyway. I made a “main stream” looking film and therefore the general audience is all that matters at this point. If you can get general audiences to watch your film, you can bypass the pretentious snobbery of the festival circuit and quite possibly gain financing interest that way.
Although we premiered with the very fine New Filmmakers New York, our next couple of screenings will be held by non-festival organizations. They’ve commissioned the film, free of charge, to show to their local community, or members. So when you see this listed and see that it isn’t a festival – this is because our new mechanism for getting this movie programmed is working. The first non-festival screening is on the 29th in the Town of Long Island, Maine. You can read about it on the Caroline of Virginia Facebook Page.