Comments on watching and making films.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Ira Glass Talks About Producing

Ira Glass discusses the realities of producing his first feature, Mike Birbiglia's Sleepwalk With Me, in this hilarious interview -

Saturday, January 21, 2012


Steve McQueen knocks it out of the park, again, with his second feature, Shame. His first, Hunger, about IRA prisoner Bobby Sands and his hunger strike in prison was a quiet masterpiece. McQueen has re-teamed with the actor who played Sands, Michael Fassbender, and brings you the story of Brandon, a New York City high roller who's world of sex addiction is thrown into chaos when his sister, Sissy, played by Carrie Mulligan, shows up out of the blue to stay with him for a few days.

McQueen brilliantly pulls us into Brandon's world, one that is so well defined, that the slightest invasion by anyone, especially his "know no bounds" sister, throws everything in his life into complete havoc. As if his sex addiction isn't enough of a high wire when it's under control, out of control, Brandon turns into a monster before our very eyes, even going so far as to slip into a gay bar to try and deal with his needs after striking out.

Shame spares nothing, and, as such, carries an NC-17 rating, but if you are the kind of person who actually likes watching a movie for adults (and I don't mean an adult, read: pornographic, movie), then Shame is highly recommended. However, because of its graphic nature (it is considered pornographic by many), use your discretion before picking it up to watch.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Bringing together a gaggle of British stars to bring to life this best selling novel, director Tomas Alfredson still can't seem to find the sweet spot. Not even the legendary Gary Oldman can save the story of a retired MI6 agent who is pulled back into action when it is discovered that there's a mole in the organization. With roster that includes Toby Jones, Tom Hardy, Benedict Cumberbatch, John Hurt, and Colin Firth, you would think this film would be a shoe in to be amazing, and, while some people can't praise it enough, I found it to be a bit tiresome. I don't feel like Alfredson ever really developed the proper tension to keep me in the story, and I kind of wonder how others were able to do it. It never feels like there's that much at stake, and I think that is the films primary problem. Yes, there's a mole, but... Who cares? The film did have some great scenes in it, was beautifully shot, and the production design was gorgeous, but overall it just kind of fizzled for me.

Into The Abyss

Werner Herzog returns to documentary filmmaking with Into The Abyss, a relatively even handed look at two convicted felons, friends who helped each other commit a crime, one of whom is on death row. You can tell Herzog is struggling with the fact that he is trying to make a film that may, hopefully, turn people against capitol punishment, while, at the same time, obviously fighting with his feelings towards these men, especially Michael Perry, the one who is about to be executed. Into The Abyss doesn't so much ask you the questions as lead you too them. It makes it very clear that people were murdered, in cold blood, and for very little, by these two, but always stops short of saying Perry deserves the death penalty. You can tell even Herzog isn't sure. He wants to say spare this young man, let him serve a life sentence, but Perry is so despicable, Herzog just can't seem to do that.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

Tom Cruise is back for another go round as Ethan Hunt. It's hard for me to say too much about the family of MI movies (this one being the 4th), because I've only seen the first one, and that was over a decade ago (I remember not liking it that much). As for this one, it was alright. It seemed like a pretty run of the mill Hollywood action film. Supposedly Cruise did all of his own stunts for it, but, I don't really care about any of that stuff, so it doesn't really make me like it anymore. The one thing that I do want to give the MI team credit for, though, is the fact that they went a great route with shutting down the agency, and basically leaving these guys on their own with their wits and whatever else they could come up with. Other than that, I saw it once, it was alright, but I will probably never watch it again.

Matt Kazman's "Hi, I'm Philip"

Matt Kazman's "Flagpole"

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Adventures of Tintin

Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson, arguably two of the biggest filmmakers of our time, have combined to produce an animated version of the classic comics series Tintin. The film stars Jamie Bell, who voices the titular character, Tintin, who buys a wooden ship, only to become embroiled in an adventure wherein he is attempting to solve a generations old mystery. Tintin is chasing down Rackham, who has stolen a piece of information from him, a clue to the mystery. He ends up on the boat of Captain Haddock, who is being held captive on his own ship by Rackham. Haddock and Tintin team up for some Indiana Jones style action, and take us along for the ride.

I loved this film. It really reminded me of seeing films like Indiana Jones when I was a kid. It was a fun adventure with universal themes, and the animation and voice acting were top notch. You can't expect much else from Spielberg, I suppose. The guy is a master at what he does.

Monday, January 2, 2012

PHX Trailer

This is the trailer for my first feature film, which will, hopefully, be making festival rounds by the fall of this year...

DVD - Pearl Jam Twenty (aka PJ20)

There's not a lot to say about this doc. If you have even a mild interest in Pearl Jam, I think you'll like it. As a casual listener, I really enjoyed it. It was cool to see so much footage from their career, and hear the story of the band, as told by the members themselves.

Edward Burns and the Socialization of Indie Cinema

Article by Christina Warren

“Twitter has fundamentally changed the way I make films,” film director, actor, writer and producer Edward Burns told me. At first blush, that might seem like an audacious statement, but in an era when full productions can get funded on Kickstarter and feature-length films are shot on consumer DSLRs, that boldness gives way to practicality.

Thanks to social and digital, the independent film movement is in a sort of renaissance. Not since the rise of the “indie” movement in the 1990s — when unknown filmmakers like Kevin Smith, Richard Linklater and Robert Rodriguez rose to prominence — has there been so much disruption in the business of filmmaking.

It’s a world that Burns knows well. In 1995 Burns’s debut film, The Brothers McMullen, won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival. Shot for just $28,000, the film would gross over $10 million at the box office, becoming one of the biggest independent films of its era.

Sixteen years later, Burns is still making films without the aid of expensive crews, big studio contracts or pricey equipment.

Burns’s latest film, Newlyweds, is now available on VOD and Vudu. It comes to iTunes on Dec. 30, 2011. Although the film will have a small theatrical run in Chicago and San Francisco next month, VOD and iTunes are the delivery methods of choice.

We spoke to Burns earlier this month as he prepared for the Newlyweds film release. He talked about the changing nature of making film and the importance of social media to tie it all together.

One of the more remarkable aspects about Newlyweds is that it was shot in 12 days for $9,000. Burns laid out the budget process on Twitter and explained the process on his YouTube channel.

Burns used the Canon EOS 5D Mark II to shoot the film, along with a few stock Canon lenses. The quality of the output that filmmakers can get from prosumer DSLRs like the Mark II is stunning. Furthermore, he believes we’re only two or three generations away from having cinema-quality video sensors in our smartphones. The film director further reduced costs by using natural lighting and having cast members wear their own clothes and do their own makeup.

Burns talked about the very real implications these changes are having on young filmmakers.

“When I was in school making McMullen, I had to scrimp and save to buy film stock. You usually got poor-quality film stock or ends of other reels. That’s why movies from that era have that grimy, grungy look. A kid coming out of film school today won’t have that problem.”

Of course, lower barriers to entry also mean increased competition. Still, Burns doesn’t see this as a bad thing. “Why shouldn’t filmmaking experience the same disruption that every other industry has experienced?” he asked. “It’s happened in music and literature. Why should filmmaking be any different?”

For his last project, Nice Guy Johnny, Burns was able to crack the top six in iTunes the week it was released. “This was a film with no budget, absolutely no money for marketing — outside of traditional morning show press stuff — that appeared next to major box office hits.”

Edward Burns credits Ted Hope for convincing him to join Twitter. Hope, a prominent independent film producer in New York City, explained to Burns it was crucial that he find 500 followers to share and promote his message. Hope’s thesis — which he has since revised to include 5,000 fans — is that connecting with the people that really care about your work is the most effective way of getting things seen.

Hope was right. Since joining Twitter, Burns has found numerous opportunities to answer questions from fans, share insights about his filmmaking process and, of course, promote his projects.

Studios spend tremendous amounts of money raising awareness as to the digital and home video availability of their films. Edward Burns was able to accomplish that with Twitter.

Burns turned to the social web while working on Newlyweds as well. When it came time to get a poster for the film’s debut at the Tribeca Film Festival, Burns turned to the online community. Fans voted for their favorite submissions. The winner of the poster contest not only got to keep the rights to his artwork (he’s now selling prints and t-shirts on his own website), he also got flown in for the premiere.

When it came time find a song for the closing credits, Burns once again turned to the online community and then chose the winner from the submissions.

Although Burns hasn’t cast anyone directly using YouTube, he agrees with our assertion that online video is the new casting tape.

Watching Newlyweds, I would never have expected that its production budget was only $9,000. The film is endearing, funny and real, a story about a newlywed couple whose “honeymoon” stage comes to an abrupt end thanks to some unexpected drama from both sides of the family.

It’s very Woody Allen-esque, reminiscent of Husbands and Wives and Hannah and Her Sisters in its understanding of relationships.

After watching Newlyweds, I was struck by how difficult it is to find a good relationship film — be it comedy or drama — in the theater. Even harder to find are those smaller ensemble films. Once a staple in cinema, these types of stories are often pushed to the sidelines in lieu of franchise films, family comedies and big-budget action films.

Thankfully, in the era of iPads, connected HDTVs and more widespread indie distribution, filmmakers are still able to tell these types of stories.

A Letter From Ti West

Shop Lifters of the Media-World Unite

Dear Internet,

This Friday (Dec 30th) my film THE INNKEEPERS will be released on VOD an entire month before it's released in theaters (Feb 3rd). This means it will likely hit the Internet torrent sites within 24 hours and seed thousands of downloads in the coming days.

WHY I THINK YOU SHOULD PAY FOR INDEPENDENT MOVIES. It's not the money. Personally I don't care about the money. As sad as it is to admit it's very unlikely I will make a dime off of the release of the film. My previous film, "The House of the Devil," had a similar release and was very successful - That was in 2009, and to this day I have made ZERO dollars off of its success. I do not own the films, and by the time any profits would trickle down to little old me (writer/director/editor/producer) they would all have been mysteriously soaked up into vague expenses, random fees and outrageous overages. This is the nature of the business and I have come to accept it. As long as I don't own my films - something I give up in exchange for someone with much deeper pockets affording me the budgets to make them - this is how it goes. It's a trade off and I'm fine with it. I don't really care. What I do care about, however, is your support. I care very much about that.

Every time you purchase something you are making a statement. You are creating physical evidence that something has value. If something has a high value, then it becomes in high demand. So if you make a concerted effort to support lesser-known, interesting and esoteric things (Art?) then you are helping make those lesser-known things more popular. I'm sure we can all agree that there are incredible movies made every year that never get the attention they deserve - That's not the movies' fault. That is our collective fault for not being proactive enough to GO OUT OF OUR WAY to support them.

So yes, I want you to go out of your way and pay for my movie. Not because I'm greedy, but because if the movie makes money (whomever for) that's tangible evidence of a paying audience out there for movies like mine. For independent films. For something different. Not just bland remakes/sequels or live action versions of comic books/cartoons/boardgames. This is a powerful time for the consumer. With a small platform release like ours (VOD/Theatrical), it's been made incredibly easy for you to support the film...You don't even have to get out of bed.

I do personally benefit from you paying for my film. So do my friends and collaborators. Maybe not in a direct, financial way; but in the gaining of support from consumer/fans whose collective interest convinces rich people to keep giving us budgets (hopefully bigger ones) for the types of movies we make. These investors only do this based on the accountable value of a movie. Not the content. Hopefully everyone knows that by now, but maybe there are still a few ideological people out there reading this who think movies get financed because they are simply great stories worth being told no matter what their commercial appeal. Unfortunately, with very few exceptions...They don't.

How about this: If you went into a store and there were two similar products - one made by hand by someone local who you knew (perhaps a small business in the USA?) and the other just churned out by a machine (perhaps not in the USA?) - wouldn't you pay a tiny bit more for the one made by the person you knew? Especially if you knew it was actually benefitting that person? Wouldn't that be better than supporting the machine-made, impersonal, uninspired version? Wouldn't you want to support them?

Where we choose to spend our money should reflect what matters to us and what we want to support. If independent film matters to you, then do me a solid and pay for the film instead of downloading it. It's not a huge financial commitment, but it has a huge financial impact. I am not a corporation, I am not independently wealthy, I don't come from a family of the industry...I'm just a regular dude who made a movie and wants to keep on making them. I can't do that without your help, and it would be very much appreciated.

Lastly, if you live in a city where the film is being released theatrically, please go see it in the theater. It took over a year to meticulously craft the film with the intent of it being seen projected on 35mm on a big screen with loud surround sound. This was all done for your benefit. It is meant to be seen in a theater - It is after all...A movie.