Observation: Actor Turned Director

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So this guy I know, an Actor turned Director, let’s call him Antonio (it’s a fictional name). I met Antonio last spring when he asked me to edit and finish one of his films, on a pro-bono basis.  Up to this point he has made two shorts. One starring him and one not starring him.  The second one that didn’t star him was the one I was hired to edit.  I whipped out the first pass assembly within days and finished the final cut in a couple of weeks.  Then, Antonio asked me to fix the ending of his previous short film, the one that starred him.  I was not the original editor of that film and I did not elect to take any editorial credit, although I do credit myself with the strength of the ending  as it’s a million times stronger than it was before.  In fact, aside from one festival, after I made the cut with the new ending, several other festivals jumped onto the bandwagon and agreed to screen it.  I stayed in touch with Antonio for many months after the films were completed to advise him on the festival process and to support him during the promotions some of his events.  I also decided to help out Antonio by including his films in a series I program for, in an effort to get them screened back to back in an actual movie theater with professional grade equipment.  The screening was a success.  Many of his actors and actresses, their families and some press people I invited, all came out and it was a good time.  But then something strange happened: even though there were pending festival submissions on the film I edited, he had it being broadcast live on IMDB.  Now, while I’d like to assume ignorance is bliss, this just isn’t the case.

Antonio knows fully well that having a film “live” on the internet is a good way of ensuring it’ll get rejected from a festival. So why would he want to sabotage his own festival submissions? Why waste the money to submit and then do the one thing that would turn their programmers off to including it in their upcoming season? This is where I begin to speculate, using information from a variety of sources, but really, second hand info as told to me through people closer to Antonio than myself.  I’ve come to the conclusion that this wasn’t pre-mediated, but that he was clued into making this decision by an outside party.   When you have an actor turned director and that actor has one film that he’s in and another film he’s not in, he’s going to push the one he’s acting in a hell of a lot harder.  That’s understandable, but I can’t get it into my head on why he would take the extra step of sabotaging the film he didn’t act in.  Why make the film at all?

When I e-mailed Antonio about the live IMDB screener, he didn’t respond directly, but simply took it down.  Shortly after, I found out through another source that he had put it out there deliberately.  This entry is more of an observation – questions that lead to questions.  Is he sabotaging his own movie because he didn’t cast himself?  Why make a film and then sabotage its success?

-E

Faking It: Manipulated Photography Before Photoshop

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MET - Faking ItOn January 27th, the “Faking It” exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art comes to a close. The exhibited explores the manipulation of photography, before the use of the extremely popular computer program: Adobe Photoshop.  In an exhibition made possible by Adobe, we get a glimpse of published and unpublished images that were manipulated using chemical or other physical means, that in the times these images were created, the techniques were considered revolutionary.  Sample after sample, we begin to realize that everything we think is new in post-production are quite ancient (some effects even dating back to the beginning of photography in the 19th century).  For example, the replacing of dull/bland skies with deep, partly cloudy skies, were a commonplace practice, specifically in the publishing industry.  Old photography technology often blew out the sky to nothing more than a white glare, so cumulus clouds had to be timed in later, in an extensive post-production process.  In a series of photographs to advertise dish sets, we see that the “bling” had been added by hand to make the china more alluring to high priced buyers.  There are a lot of examples of the “Applied Coloring” technique, where photos were quite literally colored by hand, in the same way old motion pictures were.

Filip Dujardin METNear the exhibit, in a completely separate gallery, is the The Joyce and Robert Menschel Hall for Modern Photography, which also has a concentration of “faked” photography. The content of this exhibition is rolling, as it is dedicated to showing work created after 1960 (and there’s always work being created after 1960).  One work I gravitated towards was an image created by photographer Filip Dujardin, who used the free program Google Sketchup, to create a photo-realistic image of a fictional building.  The fact that an image created using Google Sketchup is displayed at the MET is a sign of good times to come.

The MET writes on their website for the exhibit: Over the past two decades, digital technology has made us all more keenly aware of the malleability of the photographic image, and many lament a loss of faith in the testimony of the camera. What we have gained, however, is a fresh perspective on the history of the medium and its complex relationship to visual truth. Through today’s eyes, we can see that the old adage “the camera never lies” has always been photography’s supreme fiction. I couldn’t agree more.

-E

Reflecting Back: Sixteen Stories

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Sixteen Stories Script TitleRecently one of my instructors of yesteryear reached out to me, as he had just started following my public Facebook page.  Mr. Nichols, my Graphic Arts instructor for two years at Portland Arts & Technology in Portland, Maine, sent me a PDF scan of his copy of a screenplay I wrote called Sixteen Stories, which ended up being my first movie (produced my senior year of high school).  Just like the scripts I produce today, this script included the name of his particular character on the front cover, in this case it was TELEVISION PRODUCER, with all of his dialog highlighted. What I found fascinating were the corrections he made to the narrative, my grammatical errors and what not, but that he also changed any curses (or offensive non-curses) to words an instructor can actually say in a student film, as exampled by the screenshot I have posted here:

Sixteen Stories Script Sample

 

Aside from the grammatical errors and overuse of curse words, it’s really not a bad script.  For a first time endeavor I realize that I’ve kept to some of the same approach and rules now as I did then.  For example, writing locations that I knew, which I continue to do today, in an effort to make the execution of the production as stress free as possible. What was interesting though were all of the characters – they were not people I knew or even wanted to know. In fact, they’re not the kind of people who would ever function in any area of Maine, not the way I presented them in the story. In retrospect, what occurs to me as I write this, is that the people in this story were intended to be very cosmopolitan (despite their serious psychological issues), but were clearly portrayed by people who did not live in a metropolitan area of the scale that I was envisioning (or believed my city at that time, to be).  However, what is constant with the characters in this script, as in the scripts I continue to draft today, is that there are a lot of them from a variety of professional backgrounds.  Then, just like today, I am obsessed with what people do for a living, how they ended up there, and whether or not they have an exit or are stranded in their paths indefinitely   Although the script wasn’t intentionally separated into acts (as I had no education at that point on actual screenwriting), the story does flow, at least on paper, in a three act structure.  The only element missing that I would put a lot of thought into today is the character arcs.  Not a single character in the story has an arc whatsoever.  Nobody changes for the better and I suppose this was my teen angst taking over at the time.  The last thing to note about this script is that I actually wrote it on a typewriter.  In the year 1999 when I “penned” it, I did not have access to a computer at home. They were still relatively expensive for my family.  What we had was a Brothers typewriter that allowed the writer to type paragraphs into a digital screen and then “print” it all at once.  This is how I wrote the narrative, with the dialog being typed up in normal type-writer mode.  Just thinking about it throws me back to the moment of excitement when I finished this first script (all in one sitting between 4PM and 8PM on a school night).

Things about Sixteen Stories to note:

Upon writing this article I did a quick Google Search for Sixteen Stories, in an effort to locate supplemental material to include.  I found a tab for a song, 16 Stories High, which I wrote the music and lyrics for.  It was meant to be placed in the end credits of the film. It was performed and recorded by one of my neighbors, Jeff Cusack, who had also produced original score for the movie.  You can check out the guitar structure on various “tab” websites: http://www.guitartabsexplorer.com/cusack_jeff-tabs/16_stories_high-crd.php

Another interesting fact: two local celebrities (in my eyes) agreed to make cameos in the film. The first is Brian Hines, a local Maine actor who I had seen in two films from the only indie filmmakers I knew of up to that point. The second was Kyle Rankin, who was that indie filmmaker I knew of.  He went on to win Project Greenlight.

The trailer for the film can be seen on IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/video/wab/vi459643417/ 

-Eric Norcross

Building Relationships with Film Festivals

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Over the past couple of years I have met A LOT of filmmakers, either through my participation as a filmmaker or my behind the scenes work in the film festival circuit, specifically in the New York area.  I have come across a lot of films and networked with a variety of personalities, some whom I hope to work with in the future and others I hope to never see again.  Then there are those that I’m not so sure about, those with potential but are so young and so fresh out of school that they haven’t truly struggled to gain a footing in their chosen field.  Some of them still have the scent of naive hopefulness, fueled by nothing more than the fact that they haven’t tried yet. After all, once you try and fail, the naivety, along with the hope of success, begins to dissolve for most people.

One filmmaker of note I met early on while working with NewFilmmakers New York on the first round of NF Filmmaker Profiles in 2011. This particular filmmaker was only part way into his festival run of a short film he had produced while still in film school.  This was a guy who had gotten entry into 90% of the festivals he submitted to and won awards at almost all of them.  By the time his festival run for this first short film ended, he had collected 17 awards (that I am aware of, but probably more).  It had gotten to the point where he stopped going to these festivals and would just wait for his plaques and trophies to come in the mail.  This is something that I’m sure many of my peers would kill to have happen with one of their films.  When I met him again at the Manhattan Film Festival, he seemed taken aback that he had very little of an audience.  When awards time came around, he was distraught that MFF didn’t give him an award.  Regardless, his short film was beyond successful.  Like most filmmakers would do in this situation, he stepped it up a notch:  He made his second film on far superior equipment, professional grade digital cinema gear rather than the HDSLR he had shot his student film on.  He got himself a crew and more actors and made an intriguing and tastefully created short form narrative.  I saw it recently and it’s a good film, regardless of running time but with no festival screenings as of yet.  The reason: he informed me, that he only submitted to the major festivals was because, and i quote: “after the big success of (film title omitted) there was no point for me to send to smaller festivals…”  As you can well imagine, I whole-heartily disagree.  Because he has refused to submit the work to smaller festivals, it will likely never be seen and be considered a failure as a result.

Although I haven’t had a lot of success in the festival circuit as a filmmaker, I have worked with a lot of them on the film programming front and am friends with filmmakers who have had success in both the smaller and major festivals.  Some of the most successful filmmakers I know continue to submit their work to the smaller festivals, admitting to me that they will never feel totally secure in this field.  “There are just too many talented people who could swoop in and take your place if you’re not always on your toes” says one filmmaker in an interview I conducted recently.  Another says that he just wants people to watch his films, whether it’s at a big festival, small festival or a theatrical release.  I don’t think it’s wise to disassociate one’s self from the small festivals and screening series’ that have a record of accepting your work.  The idea here is to build relationships with these institutions, not alienate them.  If they reject you work multiple times, that’s one thing, but to write off a festival that is clearly on the same page as you is spoiled bratty non-sense.  I hope this individual grows up and changes his approach because he has made a good film and I want to see it out there.

Lastly, many big festivals attend some of the smaller festivals to find their content.  All the filmmakers I’ve met that have screened in festivals like Sundance, Tribeca or Cannes, did not submit their work.  Their work was discovered through other channels, either through a smaller film festival or a screening series.  In once instance a programmer invited a friend to submit with a fee waiver – and of course this individual ended up getting a screening and a recognition at the awards.  The festival shall remain nameless.

Eric M. Norcross

Top 10 Films of 2012

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Welcome To HarlemSince every other film publication is putting up their top film list of 2012, I thought I’d do the same – except with a little twist. Because Film Anthropology primarily reports on indie film, specifically films not yet distributed and still in the festival circuit, I’m going to have two lists of ten films. So really, I’m listing twenty films, but in two different categories.

The first category is top 10 films that got distribution either in a movie theater or straight to video. These are films I didn’t see in the festival circuit, but through the normal consumer channels like AMC, Regal, Netflix etc. This is basically the “mainstream favs list” so don’t feel offended by the inclusion of some ridiculous titles. If they made an impact on me or entertained me to satisfaction, that’s what counts. There are some titles I wouldn’t have expected to make the list, but turned out to be impressive movies.

Top 10 Distributed Films of 2012 (Mainstream)

10. The Avengers

09. Lincoln

08. Battleship

07. Once Upon A Time In Anatolia

06. Ted

05. Cosmopolis

04. The Dark Knight Rises

03. Cloud Atlas

02. Argo

01. Moonrise Kingdom

The next list is the top ten films from the various film festivals we’ve attended this year. This was a tough list and quite frankly, I wanted to double up some of the films next to each other just to squeeze more in.

Top 10 Films from the Festival Circuit of 2012

10. The End Of Time by Peter Mettler (Imagine Science Film Festival)

09. Homeless In The Homeland by Julia Doran (NewFilmmakers New York)

08. My Little Hollywood by Matthew Harrison (NewFilmmakers New York / NewFilmmakers Los Angeles)

07. My Life As Abraham Lincoln by Shari Berman (NewFilmmakers New York & The Art of Brooklyn)

06. How To Get To Candybar by Matt August (Manhattan Film Festival & NewFilmmakers New York)

05. Caterwaul by Ian Samuels (from the Philip K. Dick Sci-Fi Film Festival).

04. P.O.O.P. by Ben McCarthy (from the Art of Brooklyn Film Festival)

03.  Home Movies Reconsidered by Richard Kostelanetz (from the Art of Brooklyn Film Festival)

02. Man Vs. Ultraman by Mike Rader (Art of Brooklym Film Festival, NewFilmmakers New York, Installation at the Christopher Henry Gallery)

01. Welcome To Harlem by Mark Blackman (Manhattan Film Festival, NewFilmmakers New York)

Thanks for checking out my top ten list for 2012 and looking forward to seeing great indie films in 2013!

-Eric M. Norcross

David R. Ellis Dies At 60

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Photo by Shane Harvey Courtesy New Line CinemaHollywood Stuntman turned Director David R. Ellis (dir: Snakes on a Plane) died on January 7th, 2013. According to ABC News, his body was found in a hotel room in Johannesburg, South Africa. Ellis was on location in South Africa for the production of his new film KITE, which is a remake of a 1998 Japanese Anime film. It was to star Snakes on a Plane actor Samuel L. Jackson. He is survived by his wife and three children.

Ellis’ career spans more than four decades and includes credits on classic films such as Scarface, Smokey & The BanditThe Man Without A Face, Days of Thunder, Forever Young, The Addams Family, Misery, Patriot Games, Final Destination 2, Cellular and the list goes on. He is a California native and before going into film full time, he enjoyed a successful career as a Junior Pro Surfer.

Radioman at Anthology Film Archives

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Radioman with Filmmaker Eric NorcrossThe world famous Radioman made an appearance at the Anthology Film Archives this week to support a documentary film focusing on his life and career, aptly titled: RADIOMAN. The movie was followed by a Q&A with the famous NYC extra and day player, supported by a few of his friends who he has worked with on various film sets.

Radioman is a character actor, day player and movie extra that has more than 100 films under his belt, has worked for some of the most powerful directors in Hollywood including Steven Spielberg, Ben Stiller, Martin Scorsese and exchanged lines of dialog with some of the film industry’s most expensive and sought after actors, including Matt Damon, Robin Williams, Adam Sandler, Will Ferrell and the list goes on.

Radioman Doc

Radioman Doc

Radio began his career as a heckler, sitting on the sidelines of publicly accessible NYC film sets. Beloved by the crews, the filmmakers began putting him in their movies and he has since become a staple of the NYC film industry. Some directors won’t wrap their productions until he agrees to make an appearance.

The documentary has picked up awards and honorable mentions at festivals in Europe and the Middle East and will be released in theaters in March 2013. You can find the film on Facebook (under the category public figure) and more media on the screening is available on the NewFilmmakers New York Facebook page.

You can view photos from the event at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/newfilmmakersny/sets/72157632420936819/

Likewise, here’ is a highlights video from the Radioman Q&A on the NewFilmmakers YouTube Channel:

Direct Link URL: http://youtu.be/xbFM4uXqk0k