Comments on watching and making films.

Friday, May 28, 2010

PHX Blog - Dear Independent Filmmaker, Go screw yourself.

Permits are something that I've always had mixed feelings about. Most of the time, I feel like they are used, simply, to make money for Film Commissions that are really only helpful to big budget productions. Today, that opinion was reinforced. In talking to the Phoenix Film Commission about shooting a scene at South Mountain (a state park), I was tasked with three things -

1.) a 100 dollar fee for the permit. This is not outrageous, and seems about on par with similar shooting permits.

2.) A Ranger must be paid to be in attendance during the shoot. They are paid 30 dollars an hour, for a minimum of 3 hours. While I think this is reasonable, for the most part, I can't help but wonder if a Ranger makes even close to 30 dollars an hour when he or she is just on the job.

But here's the kicker -

3.) A One MILLION dollar certificate of insurance must be submitted in order to get the permit. Now, hold up, don't freak out. The insurance policy doesn't COST a million dollars, it's just for a million dollars. However, this doesn't come cheap. To break it down, a scene, which we can probably shoot in less than two hours, will mostly likely require a full day of insurance. A full day of a million dollar policy could cost up to a thousand dollars. I can tell you right now, a thousand dollars for two hours of time is RIDICULOUS. Now, it will probably be less, but even a few hundred dollars for a few hours is ridiculous. What is a state park in Phoenix but some (beautiful) mountains, a lot of dirt, and some scrub? Don't get me wrong, the parks are gorgeous, but how could ANYONE do a million dollars worth of damage? What is the value of dirt and scrub bushes?

On top of that, I'm left to wonder, after all of the wild fire's in California, do the State Park's have insurance? I mean, let's be honest with each other, hundreds of people, maybe even thousands of people a month come through those parks. Do they ever check all of those people to make sure they have insurance? What if their point and shoot camera explodes and a spark from it scorches half of the park? That person, more than likely, does not have personal liability insurance that covers burning down a State or National Park. I don't know of anyone that does. What if someone is injured because of something that happens in the park? Is it not the park's liability to take care of that? And yet, I don't see an insurance certificate posted on the gate's when you drive in. You can camp there for a minor fee, have a fire for a minor fee, but you can't shoot a single scene, with three crew members, two actors, no lights or other extraneous equipment, without having a million dollars worth of insurance?

EPIC FAIL Phoenix Film Commission!

PHX Update - The Power of the Postcard

PHX Update - The power of a postcard from Stewart Schuster on Vimeo.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Barry Jenkins' "Tall Enough"

Tall Enough from Strike Anywhere on Vimeo.

PHX Blog - First and Last word (at least on my end)

Yesterday, a reporter for the Phoenix New Times blog asked me if she could write a story about PHX, after finding one of the fundraiser postcards in the Phoenix Public Market (a grocery store one of my friends happens to work in). She emailed me some questions, I sent her back as detailed a response as I could to each one. The article was written, and released later that day. You can read it here, and make up your own mind about it. I will say this, though - I am doing this project because I love Phoenix. I visited there many times over the past four years, and it is an amazing place. My only hope is that that shines through in the film. For all of you that are supporting this film, whether it is through monetary donations, giving your time or talent, or simply sending your love and support while I try to overcome the seemingly impossible odds to put together an independent film with very little resources, I thank you. From the bottom of my heart I thank you.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

DVD - The Carter

Lil Wayne is crazy. CRAZY. The Carter is a documentary about him. After watching it, you may find yourself sitting in your chair, staring forward, and wondering if someone could really live like that, and, if so, how long could they possibly survive. Dude is in his mid-twenties and it seems like he's already on the quick road to being a burnout. The Carter is a little disturbing, a little disheartening, and a lot ridiculous. Does he honestly think that not drinking alcohol is a great way to stay healthy considering all of the weed he smokes and the cough syrup he mixes in with soda and drinks? Seriously? And having sex with lots of random women? How long will it be before he catches something? Ultimately, he's living "the dream", but what it really all comes down to, is that this guy who is, supposedly, a genius, may barely make it to tomorrow unless he cleans himself up.

DVD - Anvil! The Story of Anvil

Dreams and passion can be a hard thing to balance with real life. When you're young, it's so much easier to take off and do your thing, at least for a little while. At some point, though, you either have to take flight, or accept the fact that you're dreams are grounded. This exactly what happened to the "almost-were" members of the 80's metal band Anvil, and the documentary Anvil: The Story of Anvil, is like a painful reminiscence of opportunities lost, but it's also a great story about the human spirits ability to endure when someone is passionate about something.

The story goes something like this - Back in the 70's, during the cold winters of Canada, two friends, Robb and Steve, decided they would create a rock band, and vowed to rock forever. Anvil was born, and the band toured relentlessly, becoming known by thousands along with other bands like Metallica, Megadeath, Judas Priest, and other denizens of Heavy Metal. Fast forward thirty some-odd years, and the members of Anvil are working day jobs in Canada, and playing the occasional gig, while their other contemporaries are millionaire rock stars. Steve and Robb, after realizing that people DO remember them from back in the day (with the help of a lot of name dropping by people like Slash and Lars Ulrich), decide they want to take the band back out on the road, and record a new record.

Anvil:The Story of Anvil shows the good, the bad, and the ugly of being friends, being in a band, and being older men with responsibilities. All of these things combine to add an unbearable weight on both the band, and everyone associated with them. But, I think what is amazing about this story is the resilience these guys show about their dream. As an artist, the one thing you crave the most is the recognition of others, and, although they get it from some of their peers, they are so incredibly unknown by the general public, it's almost laughable, but they keep pushing forward. They really do live up to that promise of rocking forever, no matter what. Anvil is inspirational in its tale of people not willing to give up, but its also a very real tale of the consequences of such dedication.

Monday, May 3, 2010

PHX Blog - Kickstarter is officially launched!

The Kickstarter is officially going for PHX. You can see the page here. Please consider checking it out, and if you believe in independent film, please donate to the project. This film is as independent as it gets. No studios, no producers, no middle men. Just a script, some actors, and a very small but dedicated crew who believes in what we're doing.

Also, if you're on any social networking sites (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), please consider spreading the word about this project to the people that follow you, are friends with you, etc. You never know when someone might see a project they are interested in, and decide to donate.

Thanks in advance for your support.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

PHX Blog - How Telecine destroyed my chance of shooting film

My number one goal in my "professional" filmmaking career has been to shoot everything I could on film. Let's be honest with each other, film will not always be around. It has another ten to twenty years before the monster that is digital will probably swallow it up. Don't get me wrong, I would like to see film around for, at least, the rest of my lifetime, if not beyond. There is something truly magical about it, and that is why I desperately wanted to shoot PHX on film, more specifically Super 8 Ektachrome 100D and Vision 2 200T. So why couldn't I? Well, with the budget I have, affording the film was no problem. The developing wasn't really an issue either, as it would be about the same cost. What killed it? Telecine.

For those of you that are somewhat unfamiliar with what Telecine is, it's actually quite simple. A Telecine machine scans each frame of film, and converts it to a digital video signal to be put onto tape or hard drive in order to edit on a computer. Most telecines are now HD capable, but there are very few that are capable of doing Super 8 in HD. After having called this handful of places and talking to folks at each one, and getting transfer rates and attempting to talk people down (quite unsuccessfully), I realized that the dream of doing this project, with the money available, was over.

The breakdown was simple - The industry standard rate for Super 8 transfer seems to be 3:1, which means for every hour of film you have, you are charged for three hours of Telecine. Now, most places that run standard definition (SD) Telecine's, will give you a 1.5:1 transfer, especially if they just throw it up on the machine and let it go (no color correction at all), but I couldn't get any of the places I called to give me a break, except one - Frame Discreet, in Canada. Unfortunately, though, the break they ultimately were willing to give me was still a little too expensive for the budget. Can you imagine if my only choice was some of these other guys? Figure, roughly, eight hours of footage, at 3:1, and a rate of 300 dollars an hour. Got your number? Needless to say, that's more than the whole budget of my film.

It was a tough decision to make, but, in the end, I had to go HD. We just don't have enough money, or time to go back and reshoot anything that might get messed up, to shoot on film. It's unfortunate, and I hate it, but, it's what's best for the project. Maybe if this one does good, we can do film for the next one.