The Spaceship Teaser at Tribeca Cinemas

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Originally posted on THE SPACESHIP - Production Diary:

On Friday the 16th, the teaser for The Spaceship screened at Tribeca Cinemas in New York, before every block of the Philip K. Dick Science Fiction Film Festival. It was well received by all of the packed houses and will screen again before the closing feature, which starts at 4:00 this evening.

We’re stepping up our campaign to complete the film through volunteerism so if you’re interested in working on the project, please check out our Creative District listing at: http://creativedistrict.com/project/3438/

PKD at Tribeca Friday 01162015

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What It Means

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Happy New Year everyone.

 

So it’s like this, I got this temporary gig working over at the Walt Disney Company, which will be coming to an end later this week. It’s been quite a remarkable experience all around and I am particularly pleased to have learned that more than half of the staffers, at least in the New York division where I have been employed, have their own projects going on in the arts – some are acting in independent films and webisodes, others are writing their own short stories, novels, plays and music, and another individual has directed plays and is trying to get into the voice-over business (specifically for video games). Last week I got myself into a discussion with the latter, and a young woman who writes short stories. He had asked her why she writes, where she’s submitting her stories and she replied that she wrote only for herself with no intention of allowing anyone else to read her work. He was taken aback and didn’t quite understand this.

“Why would you write if you’re not interested in a career in writing?” he asked, “in anyone reading what you’ve written?” To which, I replied in her defense that “creation should never be done strictly because there’s potential for financial gain, because then the artist and the work becomes disingenuous.” But no matter how I put it, this concept didn’t seem to stick with him. He had been brainwashed, so to speak, by his teachers, by his parents and by the world around him, to the point where he could not see past taking any action without the forethought of what he might stand to receive from that action. I’ve met many like him before, especially in the film festival circuit – where so few do it because they burn to do it. The young writer held her ground and seemed passive of his strong reaction. It’s remarkable to me that this woman, who I suspect to be a bit younger than he, seemed to get it straight out and disagreed through and through with his opinion that “nothing should be created without reward.” But rewards for all artists and storytellers are too few and far between to be a required outcome – and if this were the reality of all of us in the arts, then no art would exist, the written word would not exist and we’d be living in an incredibly boring, insincere society.

 

When you create, do you ask yourself first, “what will it mean” and when you’ve finished your work, will you have asked yourself, “what did it mean?” Do you have the answer? Do you want the answer? Is the answer only relevant to you, or will other people find usefulness in the answer or at the very least, the pursuit of the answer? If you’re like me and find yourself in discussions with people like the individual above, then this is a wonderful way to get them thinking on a more human level, about the work they do and the time they spend creating. In writing this first article of the new year, I wonder whether we’ve managed to get through to him.

 “I love to write, but I write just for my own pleasure. There is a marvelous peace in not publishing.” -JD Salinger

“Those who are best at poetry are those who have to write it and will continue to write it no matter the result. For, if they don’t, something else will happen: murder, suicide, madness, (god) knows what. The act of writing the Word down is the act of miracle, the saving grace, the luck, the music, the going-on. It clears the space, it defines the crap, it saves your ass and some other people’s asses along with it. If fame somehow comes through all this, you must ignore it, you must continue to write as if the next line were your first line.”  – Charles Bukowski / Playing & Being the Poet from his compilation book:  Absence of the Hero ISBN 978-0-87286-531-0

Something on Fear

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Imagine a world where not a single person has access to indie film, independently published books, music or any other indie-created art. Imagine a world dominated entirely by the majors and only the majors. Imagine going to see a Maya Deren film or the latest in South Korean Cinema at the Anthology Film Archives, only to find that the organization is now run by one of the top five studios and they’re running a Spielberg marathon for the next two weeks. All this because of fear – fear instilled into artists and storytellers who have made the decision to pull their work from accessible platforms in an effort to prevent it from being “stolen” or because they fear they’ll never get paid for their efforts. Imagine a world that has no independently created art and stories because no one wants to create out of fear. People who would have otherwise changed the world with their work have stopped cold because they’ve been hammered with the sense that if you can’t make income off of it, don’t bother.

 

A buddy of mine from the left coast has been active in promoting the piracy issue these days. He’s a filmmaker and has traveled the country to promote stricter policies concerning “content” piracy. I’ve not had much of a chance to talk to him about it but I think he gauges that I see it as an over-reaction and we don’t exactly see eye to eye on the matter. He says strict laws are a necessary evil where I am of the mind that there are not any real “necessary” evils. Necessary evil is the belief that evil is necessary, but it’s never necessary. Necessary evil is an excuse for people who refuse to accept less dramatic measures or are reading too much into a situation. NE is irrational thinking in a world where rational thinking is trumped by greed. To boot, we’re living in an age where movie, music and book fans cannot lend their copies of their “media” if they’ve purchased the products digitally – unlike physical copies which can be lent and or donated to libraries – digital copy licenses are only good for the life of the “buyer” and once he or she passes, the file has to be “deleted”. With these strict laws concerning digital distribution of media, the chances of someone discovering new films and music are less likely. Perhaps my buddy and Taylor Swift should hook up, they’d get along quite well.

 

For as long as I’ve been doing this I’ve run into artists that act like the public owes them a living and it’s completely absurd. No one should go into the arts with such an attitude because then they’re doing it for all the wrong reasons. As filmmakers, we have the opportunity to speak to audiences, in a darkened room for two hours at a time, yet so many filmmakers are only willing to wield that power provided the price is right. It’s not sensible and completely irresponsible.

“I’m just looking out for the working man” says one supporter of these absurd policies, standing hero-like as if he’s unique for standing up for working artists. Any person with a severe need for attention and place in society can become a hero. Just advocate for the working man and you’re on your way. But this is completely misguided and not thought out. America has become a listless place that functions on desperation and culture riddled with pointless entertainment that degenerates the mind into mush and inspiration into exhaustion. We need the independents and the independents need us but at what cost? I’ve certainly had my history with bootlegged content, some of which I’ve gone on to purchase legitimately and continue to support those artists to this day. Strict policies concerning the creation and distribution of art will eventually defeat people, both fans and artists. As artists move to protect their work and identity, I urge all of you to use caution in which laws and policies you support. Blindly supporting all measures is a recipe for disaster.

Film Festival Programming

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For Renegade Cinema

Film Festivals, on a rolling basis, will often disseminate media through members of the press that they’re in some way or another affiliated with, to give filmmakers some indication that their programming processes are fair and balanced. Sundance, Toronto, and a handful of others come out of the woodwork from time to time to remind filmmakers of what they’re looking for in submissions, but the information is often too broad and the few details they give are too subjective to be remotely useful. It’s clear to any educated reader that these articles, which often appear in the form of programmer interviews, are complete BS.

In the fall of 2001, while America was reeling from the 9/11 terrorist attacks, I got wind that “some film magazine was looking for interns” and that I should apply. Fresh out of film school, I ended up applying and being accepted for an internship at MovieMaker magazine, which at that time had been operating out of a dinky apartment in the old port district of Portland, Maine. My tasks were relegated to data entry and updating information on their website. I commuted two or three times a week from an island just off the coast, forty-five minutes each way.

I had made a handful of experimental films up to that point, a couple that I thought were worth screening at a film festival but none ever got accepted into the handful of festivals I had submitted them to. There were also a number of projects I had been involved in at film school the year before, but I never really saw them as “real” films that had an ounce of value and it never occurred to me to submit any of that material. During this time the magazine was in the process of planning a film festival they were going to hold in town. The woman, whose name slips my memory, was pretty much the only person working in the office and second to her magazine duties, she had to watch film entries for the film festival. She didn’t seem qualified and often only gave good marks for films when she recognized one of the actors. I remember her commenting to a pal of hers that she had recognized William Baldwin and suddenly, “well, I guess we’re taking this one”. It was a pretty straight forward process, she’d put the tape into the VCR and go back to her computer. The film would mostly play to no audience, no programming official – no one. Sometimes without sound as this was a working office and the sound of a movie playing in the background was deemed distracting. Occasionally she’d glance over at the tube to see if anything peaked her interest. Most of the time, at least from what I witnessed, few films ever did. This was my first indication that the festival programming process was something to be questioned and researched and that filmmakers should avoid blindly paying festival submission fees without an education as to who is going to watch your film, how many times and what the decision-making process entails.

I didn’t last long – paying for the commuter ticket back and forth to my home on the rock got too expensive for me to continue providing free labor to the rag. I ended up getting a paid job at a coffee shop, which also didn’t last long. All of the coffee shops in downtown Portland tend to avoid hiring islanders (unless you were from Peaks Island) because they don’t want your shifts restricted to the incredibly limiting ferry schedule. With that, I stuck to the island, saving up my money to move to New York. A year before I moved, My friend Branden and I ended up hosting our own film screening, showing a number of locally made shorts to the community. This was in the summer of 2002 and it’s that screening I’ll always remember because it was one of the best times I’ve had while living in Maine. Whenever I volunteered at or screened with a film festival in New York or elsewhere, I always look to have that same experience. It’s much more difficult than it should be, with the current culture of the film industry and the high level of snooty personalities that this field attracts, but I think if we can all look for that amazing, community togetherness, it’s a good step to a much more honest event and a positive change in an industry that desperately needs a dose of good energy.

-Eric

Note: MovieMaker Magazine is in fact a great magazine and this article is not meant to degrade its current editorial practices or people. I am a big fan of their top festivals lists and often use those lists as a means of figuring out where to reach out first whenever I complete a new project. -E

Originally published on Renegade Cinema

Something About Writing

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Creatively, I haven’t had a lot going on this past year. Not since my feature film production went on hiatus in early May of 2013. With a stalled film production and some burned bridges, debt I hadn’t anticipated and lost friendships that it turns out were probably not real to begin with, I had taken to writing articles for various web publications that revolve around film, mainly as a means of distraction, to avoid dwelling on some of these things – my favorite articles are about classic films and the future of film as an art, business and creative outlet. As a result of these contributions, I’ve found that more and more I’m getting back into writing, in that, it excites me again. Not screenplay writing (which I do all the time and don’t really consider it “writing”), but narrative, poetry and experimental work. The kind of writing that requires the writer to command the language, at least at some elevated level above basic grammar and formatting. I have noticed that my approach has changed and I refuse to write about anything that doesn’t interest me. I had started out with news, boring factual regurgitations that offer no original thought to the cesspool of media we’re all swimming in. I might’ve thrown about an opinion here or there in a half-ass attempt to make it mine but none of that news was truly mine because I didn’t really care about any of it. A journalist absolutely, whole-heartily needs to care about the stories they’re covering, otherwise they have no right to. As the months of the past year carried on, I found myself refusing assignments that didn’t offer a creative outlet or at the very least, some mechanism to express my own ideas or concerns. Instead, I took up offers to write OP-ED’s and articles about films that I think have some level of value in our society. This has lead to some of my favorite pieces and those works have lead me to write works for me and only me. Works that aren’t assigned or requested, but created because I felt I needed to express myself or tell a story or experience, to vent and not let certain things rest. Let sleeping dogs lie? Hell no! Through this I feel I am finding my voice, little by little, not just how I write is improving, but what I write about is much more relevant to me than it ever had been before. This is exciting!

I had a completed YA novel a couple years ago that I shelved because I wasn’t satisfied with the prose and the lack of detail in some of the chapters. Some of the characters felt empty and I feared I’d be accused of undermining the intelligence of the young reader the book is geared towards. This has changed and I’m now in the process of editing the book, adding in all the elements it was missing and improving upon the prose with the secure knowledge that my reader is pretty fucking smart. The editing process is nowhere near completed, but the work has improved a great deal and I can finally sleep now that it’s moving forward. Additionally, I have the bones worked up for another novel – a little more personal and grown up themed. I took the script for Objects, a film I tried to fund over the summer, and have been re-working it as an “experimental narrative” – but really it’s a novel with a touch of “I don’t give a shit if you like it, I need to write it!” Looking at it in its current form, I think it works better as a literary narrative. It would have been fine as a film, but the novel form gives it some sort of incalculable value and allows me to be free with my settings and scenarios without the restriction of a crowd funded budget. Lastly, I have taken to requiring that I write at least one poem and one short narrative per week. The narrative is usually a short story or a memoir of some kind. Whether fiction or not, it’s got a beginning, middle and end. I usually turn these out on Tuesdays, and this morning I blew through both projects in under an hour, in addition to adding a chapter to the new novel. As I work through this unnatural debt and fight off the banshees and negativity of those who consider me their slave, writing keeps me alive, keeps me free and allows for the possibility of a future where I’m not dependent on film as a creative outlet. I love film, but I despise the industrialization of it. The culture of it. It’s all incredibly off-putting. Writing, is of course, mine and mine alone. What comes of it is my responsibility, my doing and it’s either good or bad because of me, not others. Most importantly, I do it for the right reasons. The execution of the work isn’t commensurate to the capacity of a paycheck ‘nor dependent on those whos dedications are. All I require when I’m doing it, like any other creative outlet, is that it makes me happy.

-Eric

Open Letter to Regal Cinemas

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This is my open letter to Regal Cinemas, who have a strong foothold in the NYC movie exhibition market with several multiplexes they operate in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Staten Island. Originally published on Renegade Cinema.

To: Regal Entertainment Group

7132 Regal Lane
Knoxville, Tennessee 37918

In light of all too many experiences at several of your Cinemas in New York City and the surrounding metropolitan area:  I am offering these words so that you may be informed – and can better manage your movie theaters and thus improve the movie going experience for New Yorkers. As you know NYC is a hotbed of filmmaking activity so it should go without saying that many of your patrons are filmmakers either studying film or associated with those behind many of the films you screen in your multiplexes. I am not sure how it is in regular America or other American cities, but here in  the Big Apple, many of us have become disenchanted by the problems that come with going out to the movies.

I have found it increasingly difficult to go to the movies and support my peers when film’s they’ve worked on are released to your theaters, specifically. From disruptive audiences to the admittance of crying babies into R rated films, it’s baffling that this is allowed to go on. Although the staff checks the auditoriums regularly, and have a sheet they sign to prove they’ve done so, not once have I witnessed anyone ever confronting an audience member who was breaking any of the rules concerning disruptive behavior in the theater. Incidents of cell phone use during these presentations are prevalent in the following locations: Union Square, Times Square, New Dorp, Battery Park & Court Street  Brooklyn. And why should your staffers confront these perpetrators when you’re not providing them training and a wage commensurate to deal with escalation? At some point I confronted the manager of the New Dorp branch, a blond woman who looked to be in her thirties and conveyed a “I’ve had it with life” sort of demeanor. She was passive, offering the “number to corporate”, as if it didn’t concern her that her staff is allowing babies into inappropriate movies. Not that I’m a stickler for ratings, but some of these cats were five years or younger. She told me it is against the law to deny anyone access to the movies, and that when it comes to crying and what not, she can’t keep them from going back in, after her staff does eventually get around to bringing them out into the main lobby. She offered me a free pass to a later show, which I declined. I had left this complaint on the back burner because tickets at that theater are a wonderful $6.00, which for NYC is a steal. A free ferry ride and a free transfer to the Staten Island railway – you can be in New Dorp within an hour from lower Manhattan for the cheapest movie tickets in New York City. At these other locations, however, it’s completely unacceptable as tickets are at peak prices – which are hardly reasonable.

Last week, I attempted to attend the new release of TUSK at the Regal in Union Square. I was taken aback by the loss prevention tactics employed by the staff there, which includes bag searches and pat downs of patrons with cargo pants, of which I was able to avoid thanks to an influx of teenagers who had distracted the woman engaged in the searches. When I approached the ticket taker, he refused to grant me admittance (this was 20 mins before the show). He told me I had to wait ten minutes. I informed him that I needed to use the rest room and then wanted to wait in line at the concession stand, which would take the allotted amount of time he wanted me to wait. This did not concern him and his attitude towards me was patronizing and somewhat “bureaucratic”. I immediately headed down to the ticket window to get a refund on my ticket and the ticket seller demanded to know why. I’ve never been required to give an explanation to refund a movie ticket before, not ever. After informing her that I was uncomfortable with the environment and the attitude of the ticket taker, she got an attitude and told me that I had to wait for a manger. I got the impression that she didn’t really care why I wanted a refund, but that she just wanted to get a rise out of me. I waited a good fifteen minutes before I was issued a refund and to add insult, they refused to give me a receipt. I guess I’ll have to monitor my account to check on the status of the credit, which she told me would take a good four to five business days.

With my complaints, dear Regal people, I come bearing solutions. Take ‘em or leave ‘em but your actions depend on whether or not you can keep you footing in the NYC market. As far as phone usage, a simple answer to this problem would be to convert every single auditorium into a Faraday cage, which would prohibit signals from entering and exiting the theater. All movie theaters should be like this. Society has done well with no cell phones in movie theaters since the beginning of film exhibition, and we all did rather well for ourselves didn’t we? As a life long movie goer with many friends who are like me, I take my movie viewing experience seriously. For me, I require a certain amount of time before the show to acclimate myself to the theater environment in order to better immerse myself into the story. This is common for many of us who see movies as much more than disposable entertainment and I urge Regal to take people like us into consideration when establishing a required timeline of when it is okay to arrive for a show. Lastly, the most off-putting and disconcerting part of all of this is the United Nations level security procedures you have implemented in your Manhattan locations. Pat downs and bag check at the movies: is overkill.

Heading out to the movies on a Friday night should not consist of taxing policies and procedures, patronizing employees ‘nor disruptive audiences who lack eti-what? Etiquette! …especially at fifteen dollars a head. It’s ridiculous. It’s offensive. Had been my film, I would have pulled it from your chain altogether. All you’re doing with this lackadaisical micro-managing bureaucratic approach is discouraging dedicated movie goers from attending your shows.

Eric Norcross

http://www.EricNorcross.com

 

Note: in light of this publication I have stumbled across multiple open letters to Regal Cinemas, some better than others, but all with valid complaints. Here are links:

Brooklyn/NYC Moms: “while I should have left the theater uplifted by a very special movie, I left it annoyed by a system that is designed to suck every last penny out of its customers, virtually assuring that those who can watch movies in some other way will.  If profits don’t climb this year the way you want them to, if ticket sales are the same or less than last year, don’t blame the economy, don’t blame DVDs and downloads, and don’t blame the quality of the movies.  Blame your own greedy selves.”

Matt Cashion: “You know that movies end late, you know that the mall closes early, and you know that people will need to use the bathroom after drinking your gargantuan soft drinks.  Keep your bathrooms open, people.”

Snobbing: “In closing, I ask not only Regal and IMAX, but any theater chain or exhibitor to get your act together. If digital is the way to go, then be prepared for things to go wrong. Work together in the off-chance that your equipment goes belly up. I don’t know if the Regal Exchange or the IMAX theater lost any patrons permanently, but I know that I’m not likely to go back to that specific theater. There are others out there that are more passionate about their craft to let an issue like this get out of hand.”