Comments on watching and making films.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Recent Work

Second Harvest Food Bank, Middle Tennessee from Stewart Schuster on Vimeo.

This is a video I recently edited for Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee. Cinematography by Jeremy Adams.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Birdemic: Shock and Terror (w/Commentary by Rifftrax)

This was a special screening of Birdemic at the Belcourt, with the fella's from Mystery Science Theater 3000 in the house. I can tell you that, like The Room, having some kind of commentary or group that can make you laugh through this is an absolute necessity for this film. Birdemic is SO BAD that to have to watch it, by itself, is more of a punishment than anything else. What's wrong with it? EVERYTHING. It is, genuinely, one of the worst movies ever made, and I don't mean in that "So bad it's good" way either. It's just bad.

Philip Bloom's "Ponte Tower"

Ponte Tower from Philip Bloom on Vimeo.

Seven Psychopaths

It wasn't easy to buy the ticket for this one. To be honest, it didn't seem very funny, and, with it's ensemble cast, not having that funny of a trailer seems like a death sentence in my mind. However, I really enjoyed writer/director Martin McDonagh's previous feature In Bruges. Seven Psychopaths tells the story of Marty, a Hollywood screenwriter played by Colin Farrell, who is trying to write a screenplay based on a title he has already sold. He reluctantly turns to his friend, Billy, played by Sam Rockwell, for help with the script, and gets caught up in Billy's criminal enterprise of stealing peoples dogs, and then returning them for the reward. When Billy steals the wrong dog, though, Billy, his business partner Hans (Christopher Walken), and Marty get on the wrong side of the dogs owner, Charlie, played by Woody Harrelson.

While Psychopaths doesn't live up to its predecessor, it still has its funny moments. I think part of my problem with it is that it is very self aware when it comes to the writing process, and tries to be clever about it, but just ends up being obvious.


I don't really even know how to describe Samsara, director Ron Fricke's documentary slice of life on an international scale. It takes us to places we've never been, and probably will NEVER go, and does so in a way that exudes the kind of cinematic beauty that is rare because it almost necessitates not being connected to any sort of narrative. Samsara has a narrative, I suppose, in the sense that is a story about the world, both good and bad. The 70mm cinematography is colorful and larger than life, and so are the people, ceremonies, and landscapes of the film. A must see.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


I never saw Stallone's Judge Dredd film when I was a kid. I've always heard it's pretty awful, so I never really bothered with it. I had heard this one, though, was much more faithful to the source material. Seeing the previews, though, did not make me excited to jump on the band wagon for this, though, so I thought I'd take a chance to see if it would show up at my local dollar theater, and it did. For two bucks, I have to say, it wasn't bad. The plot is pretty simple - Karl Urban plays Dredd, a Judge in Mega City One, who, along with rookie Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), is dispatched to Peach Trees, a housing tower that is ruled by Ma Ma (Lena Headey). Ma Ma and her gang have turned Peach Trees into the central hub for the production of a new drug that will bring them incredible power and money. When they find out that Dredd and Anderson have captured a high ranking gang member, they lock down Peach Trees, and dispatch the remaining gang members to kill the two Judges. Dredd and Anderson have to fight their way up the tower to Ma Ma, to end her reign of terror.

Dredd is what it is. I feel like it borrows its style, heavily, from 80's classics like Terminator and Blade Runner, and, had Dredd been released back then, it might be a classic. Now, however, it feels like an homage that is a special effects showcase. That, in my experience, never makes for a good film. Not that Dredd was bad, it just didn't feel like anything special.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Searching For Sugar Man

Searching For Sugar Man is Malik Bendjelloul's fascinating documentary on the musician known only as Rodriguez. A young man who released two albums in the late sixtie's/early seventies, that went absolutely nowhere in his home country of the USA, but became smash hits (unbeknownst to Rodriguez or anyone else associated with him) in apartheid era South Africa. To give away too much more information starts to chip away at the documentary itself, so I will simply say that it's a great and uplifting documentary and I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

In The Family

Patrick Wang's In The Family is, in my mind, the most complete film I have ever seen. The film takes place in a small Tennessee town, and centers around Wang as Joey, a contractor, who lives with his partner Cody (Trevor St. John) and Cody's biological son, Chip (Sebastian Banes). When Cody is killed in an accident, an outdated will is brought to light that leaves legal guardianship of the young Chip in the hands of Cody's sister, Eileen (Kelly McAndrew) and her husband Dave (Peter Hermann). Joey spends the majority of the film trying to get Chip, whom he considers his own son, back, fighting Eileen and Dave, who, previously were hospitable to him, but are now cutting him completely out of the boys life.

The amazing thing about In The Family, is that it hits on a lot of issues that the Homosexual community is facing right now, including hospital visitation rights, property rights, benefits, etc., and does so in a way that doesn't beat it over your head or poke you in the side and go - "See! See!". It simply tells a story and gets you to empathize with the character of Joey, who is a really stand up guy and who loves Chip the way a man who made a choice to take on the mantle of being this child's father would.

I encourage people to watch this. I really do. It's probably one of the best independent movies I've seen in a long time, and I really think it is life affirming. When we move past fear and hate, and into love, we can do so much more in this world.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Midway Park - The Beginning

I sent a letter out to a handful of local filmmakers I know, asking for help to create a new project while PHX is being finished. I didn't do a very good job of chronicling PHX, at least not publicly, so I want to do a better job with this project, tentatively titled Midway Park. I'm hoping that this letter will mark the real beginning of a real project that will follow up PHX -

This past week I had a Twitter exchange with Joe Swanberg. For those of you that don't know who Joe is, he is an indie filmmaker that has made about ten features since 2005 and also a couple of shorts. He announced on Twitter that he had yet another film coming out that was going to premier at AFI Fest, to which I tweeted back to him - "How do you find the time/money to be so consistently releasing stuff?". His reply was "Treat it like your 9-5 job and put the films on credit cards. Avoid industry bullshit and wastes of time". 

PHX has been under the knife, so to speak, for the last year, but it is coming VERY close to being finished. Unfortunately, though, there isn't much I can do, as the jobs that are left to be done are for other people (the final cut needs to be finished, the sound mixed, the color graded, etc), so, in the mean time, instead of sitting on my hands, I have decided to take one of the more simple ideas that has been kicking around in my head for a long time, and make it.

The last two years, for me, have been absent of a lot of joy, first because of the general experience I had making PHX, and second, because of the fact that I felt pressured by outside forces (mainly my parents) to not make anything until PHX was finished. The only problem with that is, PHX is out of my hands. As I said before, the  work that needs to be done on it is now in the realm of other individuals, whose talents are best suited for the job at hand. So I need to busy myself doing the things that I can best do, which is making something.

Midway Park is the name of this new project. It is the story of a soon to be college graduate, who returns to his small town after three and a half years away, to find that someone with a grudge is making it their mission to take revenge on him. It is inspired by the classic western High Noon, and is a story about how, sometimes, doing the right thing can, potentially, cost you your life. I have just finished the outline of it, and will now begin to work on translating that outline to a script.

In order to bring this from the pages of my notebook to the screen, though, I'm going to need help, and that is why I'm emailing you today. This is not me asking for money. This is me asking for your help. As many of you know, it takes a lot of manpower to put something like this together, and I am hoping to not make a lot of the same mistakes I did onPHX. Here are some of my more immediate needs, if you can help, or know anyone that can - 

Producer - I need a Producer. I didn't have one on PHX, and it would have saved me an INFINITE amount of hassle. If you, or anyone you know would like to step in and help to pull together the logistics end of this project, I need that help.

Script - I am going to begin translating the outline I have been working on into a script. One thing that has always been helpful to me is to have people who can read the script, and give me feedback. Is it realistic? Does it seem natural? Do the scenes make sense? Are they necessary? I have a reason to write down everything I do, but that doesn't mean it works. Having some additional eyes on it is always good.

Actors - I'm going to need actors, and, to be honest with you, I don't know anyone who acts in Nashville that is of the age that I'm looking for. The main characters are all in their early twenties, so, these are mainly kids that aren't even out of college yet. If you know of any actors that age, or know of any acting groups that have people that age, let me know. I would REALLY like to start looking into this as soon as possible, as I would like more time to work with the actors than I had on PHX.

Locations - Location-wise, things are pretty simple, but there's kind of a caveat. I want to shoot everything in East Nashville/Madison, so that it genuinely looks like a small town. Any locations that would be outside of this area (in real life), have to look like they belong in this area. That being said, we're looking at two houses, one a bit larger, preferably older, that the main characters family resides in. The other being something smaller, something that could be passed off as a "newer" couples home, in other words a first or starter home. We're also looking for a dorm room, the exterior of a University (which we could probably just steal from Vanderbilt or Lipscomb), a Police station, a Gun store, and a baseball field (preferably connected to a larger park or school). Their may be additional locations to follow, depending on how the script goes.

That's it for right now. I want to keep this train going. I don't want to walk into a festival with PHX and have someone ask me "What's next?" and my response is scratching my head. If I can walk into that situation and say "Well, we're about to shoot (or have already shot) another film" it's going to be huge. One thing I've learned from Joe is this - You have to keep that ball rolling. Don't stop. Always be moving towards the next project. That's what I'm trying to do, but, as all of you know, no one makes a film by themselves (well, some people do, but they're not very good). If you can help in any way, shape, or form, I would really appreciate it, and you know I am here to help you, as well.

We went to school to make stuff. Let's make stuff.

Saturday, October 6, 2012


In 2004, an unknown writer/director named Shane Carruth made a film about time travel named Primer. I was one of the, I can only imagine, few people who saw this film in the theater. I was thoroughly blown away. I have probably seen it, literally, a dozen times since, and it still never ceases to amaze me. I never thought anyone would release another time travel movie, at least not this soon, that would meet or surpass it, but Rian Johnson has done just that, with his new film Looper.

Looper tells the story of Joe (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt), an assassin who kills targets that are sent back in time from the future. The logic is, in the future, everyone is so easily trackable, that it is impossible to kill someone without the police knowing it, and being able to easily identify the killer. Therefore, the mob sends the target back in time, where they can no longer be tracked, and has someone like Joe kill them in the past. When Joe's next target is his future self (played by Bruce Willis), though, things become much more complicated.

I don't want to say too much, as I feel like this film could be easily spoiled. I will say, though, that I loved it. Not surprising, though, as Johnson's previous films have all been fantastic. Johnson's dystopian "present", which is our future, feels like something that could genuinely happen thirty or so years from now. Gordon-Levitt and Willis's back and forth is great. They are, genuinely, cut from the same cloth as characters, and you can see the youthful impetuousness in Joe and the aged wisdom (and desperation) in Willis.

To be honest, the make up prosthetics that Gordon-Levitt wears always bugged me in the trailers, but, as I was watching the film, I definitely got used to it.

Clement Beauvais and Arthur de Kersauson's "Long Live The Kings"

LONG LIVE THE KINGS - Short film documentary - from SAGS on Vimeo.