Film Crash Series Reboots With NYC Event

Film Crash Still
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[reblogged from Renegade Cinema]

In one of the biggest festival reboots in the history of independent cinema, the Film Crash Series is returning to the indie film scene with an all new screening event to take place in Brooklyn, New York in September. Reworked as an annual film festival that will showcase original and unusual films, the programming staff will select one feature and five shorts, to screen in one evening. In addition to participating in an incredible networking opportunity, awards and prizes will be presented to select filmmakers, recognizing achievements in feature film directing, short film production, student and new media projects.

Past Tix

Founded by filmmakers Matt Harrison, Scott Saunders and Karl Nussbaum, the series was born out of the creative tempest of Manhattan’s East Village and Lower East Side during the Roaring 80′s and early 90′s. Known for creating a vibrant gathering place for a forever burgeoning independent film community, Film Crash grew and eventually broke free of its downtown roots and the event ventured abroad. Returning to NYC after many years on hiatus, I am looking forward to seeing the series shake up the indie film community as it did when it originally launched.

Filmmakers still have an opportunity to get in on the action. For submission and deadline information, please visit:  www.filmfreeway.com/festival/FilmCrash

Filmmakers and film buffs far and wide should check out Film Crash on Facebook: www.facebook.com/filmcrashfestival

[reblogged from Renegade Cinema]

 

 

Blood Sky at T. Schreiber Studios

Blood Sky at T. Schreiber Studios
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“There is an enormous amount of space for further experimentation and I’ve found myself left with the desire to see what else is possible with the material.” -Eric Norcross

Today is the first installment of what I hope will be a useful new series for many of my readers. In an effort to expand my understanding of the craft of writing, directing & acting, I have taken to including live performance as part of my studies. I’ve been reading, watching and dissecting various plays, performances of such plays and the theater world as a whole, to better understand the medium. Youtube has been a major part of this exploration, thanks to all of the friendly actors and producers who have put up videos of their productions over the past few years. I feel that by understanding theater and all the different approaches and techniques adopted by theatrical writers, directors and actors, I will greatly improve my storytelling abilities on screen. For many years I’ve required that the actors I cast in my films have some sort of theater experience and training. This policy was always meant to weed out the idiots who are trying to be movie stars from those who have an interest in the integrity of the craft.

From this point on, I’m now requiring it of myself, as a writer and director.

Tonight I had the privilege of experiencing an early performance of Blood Sky at the T. Schreiber Studios. It’s a wonderful and extremely experimental work by house playwright* Yasmine Beverly Rana. Set in rural Mississippi, the story involves the upbringing of a young girl named Joley, who is portrayed by three different actresses, all representing Joley at a different age (14, 18 and 30).

Directed by Terry Schreiber, the play features Kristin Eli Smith, Kelly Kolatac, Jimmy Alexis Cintron, Samantha Rivers Cole, Timothy Weinert, Victoria Guthrie, Brian Shaffer and David Hamzik. This season’s interpretation of the play is its second run since it premiered at The Looking Glass Theatre in 2003 (under the direction of Justine Lambert). Schreiber clearly has a lot of admiration for Rana’s work as the studio closed out their 44th season with Rana’s original play The Fallen and it’s clear in the execution of the material and his direction of his incredibly talented cast that he’s taken great care in bringing the play to life.

While this is not a play that would work well in the mainstream Broadway circuit, it certainly has a future of being interpreted and re-interpreted by some of the more “avant-garde” producers in the theater community, provided Rana is open and willing to let some of these cats give it a go. There is an enormous amount of space for further experimentation and I’ve found myself left with the desire to see what else is possible with the material. I’ve already begun making plans to see the play again at the latter half of its run and I will be following up this article with more information on how the play has developed over the past month.

The T. Schreiber Studios is about to celebrate its 45th season and I am pleased to have been able to experience some of the great things they are doing there. I urge anyone in the NYC area who has an ounce of interest in the performing arts to check out Blood Sky before it ends on April 6th. Lastly, the T. Schreiber Studios is dependent on donations to keep their theater operational. With rising costs, they need the public’s help more than ever. If you’re interested in making a donation, please visit their donation page at: http://www.tschreiber.org/the-studio/donate/2013-challenge/

Other Resources

More info at: http://www.tschreiber.org/

Purchase tickets at: http://www.tschreiber.org/productions/now-playing/

Check out the press release for Blood Sky

As usual – Looking Forward,

-E

http://www.EricNorcross.com

*May or may not be the “house playwright” – I couldn’t gauge whether the person I was talking to was joking or not. :)

Indie Film Expose: Should You Sign With SAG-AFTRA?

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French stage and early film actress Sarah Bernhardt as Hamlet, ca. early 1880sOften times when I’m talking with first or second time indie film directors, a question I often get is whether or not they should go SAG on their next project.  To become a union signatory as an independent filmmaker is a tough choice, mainly because there are so many questions that, it seems, so many other filmmakers have different answers for.  To top it all off there are also an enormous amount of “what ifs” that come along with becoming a union signatory, especially of the actor’s union: SAG-AFTRA.  After decades and decades of horror stories, it’s no wonder the decision to hire union actors continues to weigh heavily on each new generation of independent filmmakers.  In an effort to quell the noise that comes with asking such a question, I think it’s important that filmmakers have access to all the various experiences that their peers have had over the years – but especially more recently, since the merging of SAG and AFTRA; because its the question of becoming a signatory of this new organization, SAG-AFTRA, that now matters.  But it isn’t just all experiences, there is a specific type of experience: that of the truly independent filmmaker – the person like you and me who doesn’t necessarily have the clerical resources that the big studios have, or the union itself for that matter.  It’s OUR experiences that matters the most because it’s how they dealt with us that can best give a filmmaker insight into how they themselves might be dealt with.

My First Encounter

In 2008 when I founded my production company Norcross Media in New York, the goal was to specialize in YouTube videos for clients in addition to producing short and experimental films for my own entertainment.  My LLC became a signatory of the union so that I could shoot one the first short films to be produced under the NM name.  The actor I had in mind had recently joined the union and at the time was a good friend so I made an effort to do it “by the books”. Unfortunately my dealings with them were utterly scary and it had occurred to me that I really wasn’t ready to be dealing with a bunch of lawyers (which is essentially what they all are in that office) when I myself didn’t have lawyer.  So I elected to cancel my signatory status.  They punished me, of course, by forcing me into a three month hiatus from engaging in any production work under the NM name.  I obliged (officially :oP) and moved on to create many short films as a non-signatory.  I even continued working with the same actor (unofficially :oP).  Some of the projects did well, as far as online hits go, all of the works you’ve probably never heard of and through it all I started to acquire client projects and things were off to a pretty good start and remained so for quite a few years.  Eventually Norcross Media, with no thanks to the union, began producing commercials and PSA’s that found their way to broadcast on local and national television as well as theatrical.  My work was everywhere (and still is).  Last year one of my PSA’s ran on those little TV screens inside the NYC taxi cabs – that was a pretty cool project, if not unique.

My Second Encounter

Cut to last fall, when I began putting together the cast for one of my latest film projects.  I had been talking with a certain actor of note for some time about taking on a supporting role in the film.  We will call him Actor 1,  and I will go as far to say that I had considered him a trustworthy friend and I thought that his genre-cred was something this film desperately needed.  He had the fan base to help generate the first wave of what we hoped would be a kick-ass following.  Actor 1 was updated every week with the production status and sent new revisions of the script every month or as it pertained to his character.  He constantly sent me positive feedback and urged me to continue moving forward.  As January rolled around I sent him the semi-final shooting script and asked him to re-read it in full and to give me a commitment ASAP.  It was understood by the both of us that a commitment was needed, mainly because he is a union actor and we would have to produce the film under the SAG-AFTRA umbrella if he were to be involved. He read the script and told me to move forward with the union paperwork.  I talked with one of my producers on the project, who insisted that I Immediately begin the paperwork for signing our little movie to SAG’s Ultra-Low Budget contract.  My fellow producer helped me to understand it and it all seemed well and good – in fact the ULB contract seemed much more concise than the new media/internet video contract I had with them back in 2008.  The only restriction with this agreement was that it didn’t include home video, rental or internet – it is strictly for theatrical.  But that is okay, I thought, because we could always upgrade the contract later when we sign a distribution agreement for home video/rental.

The Betrayal

Flash forward to a week before production – paperwork has been submitted to SAG-AFTRA, I’ve personally e-signed all the forms and now have all of my attention on the creative part of the production. I get an e-mail from Actor 1 informing me that he’s backing out.  He’s no longer interested.  I was peeved (the understatement of the year) – in fact, I’ll just leave it at that:  I was PEEVED.  I called our SAG-AFTRA contact to ask them if it was too late to back out and the woman who had been assigned to our production was on vacation.  We were six days from the first day of principle photography and our union rep is away on vacation.  My fellow producer suggested we move ahead anyway and in her own usual way, seemed cool about it – made me feel like it was okay.  “We’ll deal with it when it’s time to deal with it”.  She also reminded me that we had to beat the spring before the big bloom came (to maintain the gloomy look of the film).  Whatever, we’ll deal with the paperwork shit later, after all, we had our signatory ID number and they gave us our contracts for the talents to sign – we must be on the right track! In an emergency re-casting we picked up Actor 2 – not notable at all but right for the role in that he was fucking crazy as a circus seal.  We signed him the same day that he auditioned.  We had him fill out the ULB contract and now I wish I had kept an eye on what he was writing because my lack of attention will come to bite me in the ass a little later.

Production Peak

Flash forward to the end of April – we’re four days from the end of principle photography and it has been a hellish shoot – on my day off I’m at the bank processing payroll when our SAG-AFTRA rep calls to inform me that they’ve received word that some of our actors have called in to report that they’ve been reporting to our set.  Ah, yeah, we’re shooting! She leaves the following message in a voice mail: “yeah, we haven’t actually received some paperwork from your production so unless I hear from you by the end of the day today, we’re calling all of your actors and ordering them to not show up. You’ll still be required to pay them for each lost day until this matter is settled.”  I went ballistic – I called her back, got her voice mail.  I left a message.  It wasn’t pretty.  It was so bad in fact that my producer had to deal with it because I couldn’t handle myself dealing with these heartless, bureaucratic slime balls.  She had all the paperwork into the union by the end of the day and we were fine… until one of our actors, Actor 3, complained that their check was late. Actor 3 was a day player who had shot his one scene on the first day of principle photography.  This was a guy I thought was on our side, he seemed so pro-indie, understood what we were going through as indie film producers and was, up until this point, a true sport.  This simple action of reporting us to his union gave me the feeling of betrayal… it hurt. Badly.  He actually had the audacity to text me and ask me how things are going with the production.  I hadn’t realized at that point that he was the one who had called into SAG so I confided in him.  Little did I know that he was laughing at me from the other end of the line.

We responded by informing our union rep that we didn’t have administrative support to keep up on a day to day basis and were cutting checks on the next off-day (which was quite literally happening that day).  The rep was very suspicious… sure, why shouldn’t she be?  “YES, We’re getting that money out right NOW.”  Well, it didn’t matter, the actor received his check within a week from his complaint and all went fine… until he started calling around to the other actors and eventually some of the crew to push them to file complaints against us.  “Is your check late? Report them to the union, don’t let these evil producers get away with…” blah blah blah – basically our best isn’t good enough mentality: money talks, fuck you pay me, no excuses, fuck you pay me, more excuses? Fuck you pay me…  If they’d bothered to actually listen to me, while also having a heart, they would actually understand what was happening.  It still baffles me to this day that this one day player had made a valiant effort to shut our production down because his lousy hundred bucks was a few days “late”.  Out of a cast of 40 people he only got one bite – Actor 2, the crazy as fuck beans replacement who took the roll originally earmarked for Actor 1 during our emergency recasting had called into SAG to complain that he should be paid for certain days that he did not work because he had been “guaranteed” those days. We tried to argue it but SAG wouldn’t hear it – with all the cock-ups we’ve made, why should they believe us over someone who understands the system a lot better?  Why should they believe a couple of ignorant producers over an actor who has figured out how to weasel out every cent from these ridiculous contracts?  Yeah, we paid the fucker for days he didn’t even work and eventually paid him for overtime he didn’t earn because his union decided he was more important than the very people who were employing him. Oh and because we didn’t supervise him when he was filling out the ULB contract and the bastard wrote in a number in the “guaranteed days” section, without asking me whether or not I was willing to pay him for a gauranteed number of days. Why ask when the answers will obviously be “NO!”?

In Retrospect

So what is my suggestion?  Let me put it this way:  I decided to never go union again – at least, not if I’m legally responsible for the financials of the picture.  The union and the people they “protect” aren’t worth the headache.  Unless you’re producing a studio picture with other people’s money (meaning corporate money, not friend or family money), avoid SAG-AFTRA at ALL COSTS.  They do not exist for the truly independent filmmaker – they want money productions and essentially punish producers for not having enough of it. They’re not good people and here’s the worst part (which they didn’t disclose to me until it was too late) – all the union actors have to sign a new agreement to modify the contract should we get distribution beyond theatrical.  With all the bad blood between us and Actors 2 and 3, I doubt they’ll play ball which means we may have the best indie sci-fi film that will never be seen.  Not a fun scenario, esp. considered the amount of money paid out to all these people and the organization itself.

It’s more likely though we’ll run the festival circuit and if we’re lucky get theatrical, leak the film to fans to generate a demand and then hire an entertainment lawyer to deal with the bullshit. I figure we’re looking at a good ten years before the film is actually available, especially since I’m now on my own with it.  At this point SAG-AFTRA has yet to list this particular film as a union film in their database, regardless of the massive amounts of money we’ve sent them and their actors. All the paperwork is complete, all the pay has been issued, all the deposits have been made and the pension contribution too.  You figure these guys could at least make the effort to gives us the stamp of fucking approval!

KEEP IN MIND

If you decide not to heed my warning and go union anyway, beware of a certain group of actors who have made their careers off taking advantage of new indie producers who are ignorant of the SAG-AFTRA contracts, or union laws in general.  Do NOT let them fill out their own paperwork unsupervised and watch them like hawks when they sign in and out on set each day.  It was our trusting of some of these actors that forced us into a position where we had to pay money we didn’t actually have the budget for.

Other things to keep in mind: aside from paying your actors, you’ll also need to report to the union… constantly. You’ll need to pay in a deposit, which is several hundred to several thousands of dollars in addition to contributing a substantial amount to the union’s pension fund.  You’re looking at a few thousand dollars of money you’ll never see again. The union rep we were dealing with did not disclose this to us until we were signed on and I’m telling you: a lot more money is involved that they don’t openly tell you about until you’ve signed your film… it’s all fine print bullshit and it is a huge part of the reason as to why this particular film has stalled in the post-production stage. SAG-AFTRA’s dishonesty and lack of appreciation for what we do (or at least, are trying to do) is the reason we’ve been scrambling for more money that we didn’t think we’d need.  Because they’re crooks and not designed to work with truly independent filmmakers.

Conclusion

Shooting union doesn’t necessarily make you a professional, in fact, it made me the most unprofessional I’ve ever been on a film shoot – mainly because of their manipulative craziness. In final, all I can suggest is this: if you don’t have the budget to hire a union crew, then it’s likely you don’t have the resources to hire union actors.  In the grand scheme of indie filmmaking, you really don’t need either.

-Eric Norcross 11/20/13

Una Noche

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una-noche_592x299The other day I found myself walking by the IFC Theater in New York City where I saw some men and women putting up advertisements for a film screening of Una Noche.  One of the women handed me a post-card promoting the film.  As I walked toward the marquee to get a look at some of the other upcoming features, I noticed a young couple observing the Una Noche poster and commenting on the festival laurels.  “Winner of the Tribeca Film Festival?” the young man said as his girlfriend snarled, “fuck that” he said, “what makes them think I want to see the movie now?” the young man continued to bitch as he and his girlfriend walked away, laughing mockingly.

I spent many hours since then thinking about whether or not to write about this.  It wasn’t by any measure an odd or different experience.  I’ve seen many people boycott a film for some of the stupidest reasons one could think of.  What is of interest to me is that the “winner” laurels, which the filmmakers clearly see as an achievement, actually pushed someone away, rather than attract them to the film.  Has the film festival awards culture become such an institution that award winning filmmakers lose value with the locals here?  If this is so, it’s a fascinating, if not a phenomenal development in how film culture is changing.  I’m not sure how I feel about this.  I want to be angry about it, but at the same time have found solace and relief.  There’s something about this action that has me realizing that maybe powerful organizations like this don’t have the upper hand all the time.  But what does that say about the achievements filmmakers have won in the past?  How much do they actually matter, aside from reminding the individual artist that their work is of value to someone…. somewhere?  Uh… maybe I shouldn’t let it weigh on me too much.

Here is a little bit more about the film, for those of you who actually wish to judge the work on its own merits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2184331/combined

-E

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

Behind The Scenes – LIPSTICK LIES Featurette

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Hey everyone,

A new featurette for my upcoming film LIPSTICK LIES has finally been released. It is embedded below and here’s a direct URL:  http://youtu.be/KjGRgzQnd5g  The film premieres at the Anthology Film Archives on October 3, 2012 at 7pm. Please stop by and checks us out!

Also, here’s a short excerpt of the film:

Manhattan Film Festival | 2012

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Hey all! The crew of Norcross Media was present at this year’s Manhattan Film Festival to support our film Caroline of Virginia. Below are some of the photos that were taken during the course of the week and on the day of the screening. While the festival is still going on and we’ll continue to attend and view the films, the bulk of the imagery has been shot.

Lauren Meley, Kristina Harris, Eric Norcross & Jan Major

Lauren Meley, Kristina Harris, Eric Norcross & Jan Major

Lauren Dickinson, Alice Waters , Lauren Meley, Mike Bukosky

Lauren Dickinson, Alice Waters , Lauren Meley, Mike Bukosky

The MFF Lounge at the Producer's Club Theater

The MFF Lounge at the Producer’s Club Theater

The MFF Lounge at the Producer's Club Theater

The MFF Lounge at the Producer’s Club Theater