Sunday, October 31, 2010

Director of the Week - Walter Hill


1st off I want to thank my 2 regular visitors. I’ll try and get more content up for you.

Once a week (or so) I plan to spotlight a director that has inspired or is for whatever reason special to me. I’ve done most of my work in horror, so some of these may surprise you.

One of my all time favorite directors. From Hard Times and The Drive, to the knock out one two punch of Southern Comfort and the Long Riders, Hollywood hits such as 48hrs and Red Heat. Very few directors have depicted tough guy existentialism onscreen as well as Walter Hill.  Even his misfires are pretty good. Wesley Snipes give one of his better performances in Undisputed. James Spader is frigging awesome in Supernova. Jeff Bridges in Wild Bill! He’s inspired directors like John Woo and Tarantino and continues to put out quality work.

He wrote the screenplay for Sam Peckinpaw’s The Getaway in 1972. He followed up with his Directorial Debut Hard Times in 1975. It stared Charles Bronson in one of his very best roles as a down on his luck brawler in depression era New Orleans.

Right after that he directed The Driver in 1978 with Ryan O’neil and Bruce Dern. A very cool heist flick (from an era chalked full of cool heist flicks) in which none of the characters are named. They are only referred to by their jobs; The Driver, The Detective. Even with these early flicks Hill showed a master’s hand at working with actors, writing and staging action. There’s some really cool car and stunt work in it. Plus, Ryan O’neil plays one hellla tough guy.

Then in 1979, Hill directed The Warriors. Wow. This flick made a huge impact on me as a kid and sticks with me to this day. A major stepping-stone for Hill. It became a pop culture touchstone. “Warriors, come out and play!”
I don’t know any film geek that doesn’t treasure this movie.

Hill followed it up with what I feel are his two strongest pictures, The Long Riders and Southern Comfort. I could write a term paper on either of these films. I love them both. One thing that really started to become apparent at this point was Hill’s ability to pull together great ensembles. Southern Comfort featured Fred Ward, Keith Caradine, Powers Boothe, Peter Coyote. The Long Riders had David, Keith and Robert Caradine. James and Stacy Keach. Dennis and Randy Quaid. It was a movie about family and brothers. Starring brothers. It was really cool. His use of slow motion in The Long Riders is stunning.  * Southern Comfort features the coolest and most gruesome headshots (Peter Coyote getting shotgunned to the head) ever filmed.

Then in 1982 Hill made 48hrs. The movie that launched Eddie Murphy’s career and still stands as one of the best buddy action pics ever.  48 HRS is a perfect melding of action and comedy. * the sound of Nolte’s 44 still rings in my ears.

He followed up 48 Hrs with what had to be one of his weirdest pics, Streets of Fire. It’s almost a companion piece to the Warriors. Both present a surreal vision of “the streets.” But Streets of Fire feature Michael Pare!

Hill then proved his hand at Comedy with Brewster’s Millions. He then reunited with Nick Nolte and Powers Boothe for Extreme Prejudice. What a cool movie! If you haven’t seen it, shame on you! Get it now!

He went blockbuster again with Red Heat, starring James Belushi and ARNOLD! IT had it moments. The made another masterpiece with Johnny Handsome, featuring  (height of his popularity) Mickey Rourke. Ellen Barkin is smoking hot in this movie and Lance Henrickson has a great as usual turn as the heavy. It’s set in New Orleans too.

Then there’s Another 48hrs…Hey, a guy’s got to eat. 1992 he gave us Ice’s Cube and Tea in Trespass, which I really like. Great chemistry between Bills Paxton and Sadler has treasure hunters.

Geronimo, an American Legend and Wild Bill are both flawed to say the least but have some great sequences. I’ll kind of skip Last Man Standing (my least favorite Hill movie) Then there’s Supernova, which he walked off of. But you can’t help but notice his hand in the final product, especially in James Spader’s performance.

He most recently directed Undisputed. Not his finest work, but still pretty good and a reminder that we’re lucky to have him working. While he’s most noted for his action tough guy stuff, it’s the humanity he brings to these characters and their senses of honor that distinguishes his work.

*He’s also an awesome writer. His sparse descriptive prose was a major technical inspiration for my own work.
* He also was producer and writer on just about every movie in the Alien Franchise.

Cutting Monsters: Week 4

Trailers. Trailers. Trailers.

Got really bogged down this week with Trailers. The producers need a 2 ½ mintute sales trailer to show distributors. Also, with it being Halloween I thought it would be good to throw together a 60 sec teaser to show the public. So I did that, and it’s up on Fangoria now. I’ve spent the rest of the week working on the sales trailer and cutting a few commercials for a furniture store.

I’m really itching to start work on the feature itself, which was my intent this week, but I have to finish up the sales trailer 1st. I have most of the pieces in place. It’s just a matter of honing and polishing. I hope to be done by Monday or Tuesday.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

5 Movies I Detest

I have crazy broad tastes in movies. I love movies. I love all kinds. Drama, action, horror, Indies, chick flicks, docs, sci fi, ect…However, every once in awhile a flick comes along that I just…well, detest.

I was originally going to list 10, but just couldn’t come up with any.
Guess I’ll have to do another list titled, Movies that I felt were “a’right.”

1. Fight Club
Ok, I should qualify this. I don’t actually detest the movie itself. It’s actually a really well made flick. But it’s fans, oh the fans!, This one of the movies where overzealous douche bag fans have ruined it for me. Inception is another. I was having a discussion with one such moron in the not too distant past regarding the fact that I had not been in a fight in my adult life. A self professed fan of Fight Club (the movie of course, I doubt seriously he reads at all), this dolt, with a straight face, proceeds to ask me “How do you truly know yourself if you’ve never been in a fight.” He says it like it’s a profound question, and worse yet he really believes it to be.

2. Playing God
This obscure little action gem died a quick death in theaters in the 97.
The X-Files was big and this picture was an attempt at a quick cash in on Duchovny and the taranitoesque action flicks that were in vogue at the time. I remember the trailer being kinda cool, but the movie drove me out of the theater. It was so long ago, I don’t even remember when exactly I gave up, but it was the 2nd movie I ever walked out of.
* it featured a hilliariously homoerotic turn by Timothy Hutton as the one the least imposing heavies in cinema history. I totally forgot Angelina Jolie was in it.

3. Candyman 2
It was the 1st movie I ever walked out of. I don’t even remember anything about it, other than it was set in New Orleans and it sucked.

4. Jackass
Moral quandaries aside, it really irks me that this inane shit raked in 50 million dollars over the weekend, when there were a ton of good Indies out there struggling for any attention.

5. Terminator Salvation
I wanted to like it. I really gave it the college try. I couldn’t even make it to the Arnold cameo. Freakin awful. 

1st Monsters in the Woods Trailer

See it exclusively at Fangoria

Friday, October 29, 2010

Meet the Dudes of Monsters in the Woods

What’s a horror movie without it’s dudes?
Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.

Damn, I’m on fire.

Jayson, The Director
Glenn Plummer as Jayson

Director, Writer, Editor, DP ect…
Forced to turn his dramatic masterpiece into a horror flick in order to sell it, and he’s none too happy about it. Not based loosely or otherwise on anyone in particular.

Guy, the sound guy.

Lee Perkins as Guy

Al around cool dude. Everybody likes him. Nobody every has a bad thing to say about him. Of course he’s doomed.

Burt, An Actor
Edward Hendershott as Burt

Acting in the movie. Just spent 6 month training with Green Berets for a part in a defunct war movie. 1st to get killed.
Bold and flirtatious, likes blondes, brunettes, red heads, bald headed women…you get the picture.

Bravo, The Producer.
Blaine Cade as Bravo

A little inexperienced but very well meaning.
Not based loosely or otherwise on anyone.

Kris, the Star of the show
Paul Misko as Kris

Not the sharpest tool in the shed, but very charismatic (or so he thinks.)

That’s really all I got to say about that.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Meet the Chicks of Monsters in the Woods

What would a horror movie set in the woods be without its chicks?

Linda Bella as Ashley

Manic Depressive struggling actress. Long and lovely, she likes classical music and  walks on the beach. Her boyfriend, Burt, is playing a major role in Monsters in the Woods and has landed her a role as well. She’s smart, gorgeous and just a little off.

Claudia Perea as Ariel

Workaholic and has a very unusual occupation. She struggles not to show emotion and is hiding a relationship with a co-worker. Bold and beautiful, she likes Boggle and double barrel shotguns.

Script Girl

Ashton Blanchard as The Script Girl

Damned if I can remember her name. She’s a spitfire. Hot and hot tempered, not to be trifled with. More than a little rock and roll, she likes horizontal stripes and classic rock.
*Also a very offensive driver.

Maria, the Make-up Girl

An odd duck. Pretty and ..pretty. Her parents own the land on which the movie is shooting. She has a dark past and likes to scream and run.

Bianca, Kris’ girlfriend.
Gladys Otero as Bianca

Girlfriend of the star of the movie. Doesn’t speak English. Very darn cute, likes her boyfriend, tacos, fruit sharks and swimming. But there maybe more there than meets the eye.

For real though, anyone familiar with my previous movies or writing knows that I have a predilection for  strong and complex female characters. I play no favorites in regards to gender or race, Anyone can can be every bit as mean, nice, nasty, heroic or evil as anyone else.  This bunch of broads is no exception.

Monday, October 25, 2010

10 Movies that Changed my Life

Not a terribly original or interesting idea for a blog, but what the hell.
The movies below aren't my all time favorites, but some are. They just all had profound effects on my development as a person and moviemaker.

This is list is all movies I saw as a child, from age 6 – 22. Yeah, 22’s a little old for childhood, but I was a late bloomer and really wanted to include Reservoir dogs and the killer, which I saw around the age 22. Most of the titles I saw before the age of 16.

1. The World According to Garp.

Saw this at when I was very young. It’s the 1st straight drama I remember really liking. At an early age, I discovered that a good movie didn’t have to have action, blood or monsters, and that simple human drama could be just as powerful.

2. Aliens

Simply one of the most thrilling movie going experiences I’ve EVER had. I absolutely love this movie. I often site it has one of my all time favorites, now and then. I saw it 12 times in the theater. And even more on VHS and then DVD.

3. Evil Dead 2

The 1st “low budget” movie I that I really dug. I was very young, and didn’t really understand why this “very cheap looking movie” affected and stuck with me. But I couldn’t stop thinking about it and took great pleasure introducing friends to it.

4. Star Wars

My introduction to sequels and sagas. Blew me away. Enough said.

5. Indiana Jones

Yeah, they’re great.

6. The Exorcist

I’m sure I saw other horror flicks 1st. Friday the 13th springs to mind. But this was the 1st movie that actually scared me, other than a few jump scares in others. I saw it at age 10 and it stuck with me. Funny watching now, it plays more as a family drama than horror. But it’s still great.

7. Brainsmasher: A Love Story

Love this movie. Saw it as a teenager. Great tongue and cheek humor and Andrew Dice Clay at his finest (well…maybe Ford Fairlane beats it) A truly underrated gem from a really cool indie director.

8. The Killer

John Woo was awesome before he came to American and this has a lot of his best moments. This movie hit me hard. It’s ultra-violent and lovely all at the same time.

9. Southern Comfort

Truly a man’s man movie. Walter Hill at his finest, with a great ensemble cast. Keith Caradine, Powers Boothe, Fred Ward all at the top of their games. An ugly, violent and great movie.

10. Reservoir Dogs

I’ve talked in-depth about this before. It truly opened me up to independent and foreign cinema and started me on my path as a moviemaker.

Cutting Monsters: Week 3

Damn, 3 weeks already. How time flies. Well, I think I've actually been posting the weekly updates like every five days, so maybe it's more like 2 1/2. Eh...

1. Syncing is done. It was a huge amount of work. I got a little help from 2 assistant editors, but still did the lion’s share myself. There were about 1000 video clips, most with 3 tracks of audio apiece. But it’s done.
2. 1st trailer is done. It’s a 60 sec. teaser. I’m really itching to share it, but I’m waiting for Halloween. It’s most likely going to be hosted on a popular horror site, details soon to follow. I don’t want to break my arm patting myself on the back, but it’s pretty kick ass. I can’t wait to see people’s reactions. I'm already halfway through another teaser and have laid out an outline for a 2 1/2 minute sales trailer. I need to take a few days away from trailer cutting though to clear my mind.
3. Starting work on the actual feature today. Don’t have much time, I also have regular work and need to cut a 30 sec furniture commercial. Basically, I’m just going to set up the edit file, maybe review footage from the 1st sequence. I plan to attack said sequence tomorrow.
4. My plan is to cut the movie chronologically. I should have a rough cut in less than 2 weeks. After reviewing it with producers, I’ll move forward into the finer cuts, sound design and VFX.

Look out for the trailer online Halloween day.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Isn't the Director's Job to just Direct?

This question coming from the writer, editor, dp, UPM, ect....

It would be nice, but on many productions (especially micros) the director has to be responsible for so much more. While it’s a must for a director to concentrate solely on directing between action and cut, it can be down right detrimental to a production for the director to ignore or fight other responsibilities. On Monsters in the Woods, I very much wanted to just direct and in the beginning I made very unrealistic efforts to be left out of other production issues. Then I got pissed when out of shear necessity I was drug into them. (Although, I still say I had no business handling travel arrangements for the 30+ cast and crew when there were 3 producers on the project, but I do see the need for me to do the script breakdown and days in days out. I mean, after all, who knows the script like I do?

Also, for over 60% of the show, we had no AD. At 1st, I didn’t step up on the set and that really hurt us on a few days. I’ve said it before, but here it goes again. “In the absence of an AD, it is the director’s job to run the set.” This was a hard lesson learned. And it’s funny that it was an issue on this movie, cuz in the past I’ve always pretty much been my own AD (with the exception of Edges of Darkness). But having gone through this, I feel much better prepared for the next production.

Hopefully has projects and budgets grow, multi-production roles will diminish. I guess we’ll see. But until that day I’ll do what I’ve always done…
Jump in and make the best

Monday, October 18, 2010

Cutting Monsters: Week 2

1st off…syncing is taking a bit longer than anticipated. I’ve felt a bit under the weather and have had a few hold ups. Even with the help of my assistant editors, it’ll take us most of this week. I’m hoping to be done by Friday, but am not holding my breath till Monday. (Did that make sense at all? I meant it most likely won’t be done until Monday.)

I’ve started looking through clips for trailer material. I’m supposed to have a sales trailer done asap. A sales trailer is a 2 to 3 minute piece meant to showcase the movie’s story and high points for potential buyers. In addition to that, I want to have a slick 30 sec teaser trailer done for a Halloween premier on some premium horror website.

So not really much new to say…

While syncing the footage, one thing has really been sticking out. The sound. I just want to take a quick second to thank Ben Adams for his superior sound work. He’s given me so much good stuff to work with; I doubt we’ll have very much ADR at all. The only stuff I know we have to ADR for sure is stuff I’d tried to do without him. Which I guess just goes to show you, if you want it done right hire a proper sound guy.

If anybody’s looking for a good sound guy, look him up.

Tell next week…

What Was I Thinking? (Part One)

I’ve been involved in the film industry for many years. Over a varied and eclectic career, I’ve worked on a number of projects as an Actor, Writer, and Producer. As a Producer, the projects I’ve been involved with received financing mostly through outside sources, either through investors, banks, etc. Most recently, though, I did something I never thought I would ever do. I got involved in co-financing a movie. Now let’s get real here. I am neither wealthy, nor financially well off. What I did get was a few grand from an inheritance, and I do mean ‘few’.

While I was contemplating what to do with the extra funds, I read an article from an independent filmmaker’s blog whose subject was “Making and Releasing The Micro-Budget Indie”, and one of the respondents to the blog had this to say: “The micro-budget feature is probably most functional in the hands of an experienced producer. Those of us attempting to break in from the outside with a 10k comedy are in an uphill battle. Folks who have made a few movies, and have the requisite connects and experience, could probably make a very profitable micro-budget piece. The tech is there to make a movie look good for cheap. The two keys are to write a story that can entertain an audience without a huge SFX budget, and to have a way to get the film seen. The latter half of that equation is where experienced producers/writers have a real leg up. It would be a grand experiment to see a Hollywood veteran do a “made by hand” film and make it financially successful. That might really change some minds.”

Ok, made sense to me. But did I really want to put my money into something like this? I didn’t have a project that fit the mold. That is until I received a call from a friend who said another friend of ours was going to make a micro-budget creature feature and he needed a “few grand” to make it happen. Weird, huh? What timing! I had known this young writer/director for a few years and had watched his career carefully. He had already made a few micro-budget horror movies, one of which had very good critical acclaim. So, I knew he had the know-how and experience to make another good horror movie. I was also familiar with his writing skills, as I had read some of his bigger budgeted scripts. He is an excellent writer. So, when he sent me the script for his creature feature, I couldn’t wait to read it. I wasn’t disappointed. It was scary, action filled, had a lot of emotion, and the dialogue was witty. “What a clever project”, I thought. And I was convinced, I wanted to be involved.

I Just Want To Invest And Then I’m Going On Vacation… What Could Go Wrong?

I think the first thing I said to both the writer/director and his young producing partner was, “I have enough to cover the costs of your five day shoot”. (Did I say five days?) Well, I was assured that the movie was already in production, was being shot ‘guerrilla’, with everyone on board (Producers, actors, and crew) all gung-ho and raring to go! All they truly needed were the finishing funds. I told them I think they have a fun project, and if the production turns out anything like the script, we would have a very marketable movie. I shook their hands, handed them their first check, and accepted the role as Executive Producer. “I think you guys have a good plan for production. It’s too bad I won’t be there for the first part of the shoot as I’m going on a long planned vacation, and since I haven’t had one for years, I can’t cancel now. So, I’m leaving you with great confidence that everything that we have discussed will come to fruition, and you shouldn’t have any problems.” I walked away confident that within a couple of weeks we would have wrapped principal photography by the time I returned from vacation. After all, what could go wrong?

See Jason Horton’s Blog:

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Micro-Budget Movies can be Drama too…

Stupid title. Ek.

Ballooning budgets, on-set drama, producer/director in-fighting, prima dona actors, these things are often associated with big budget productions. But is the drama any less significant when it’s thousands of dollars at stake as opposed to millions. Well, that’s obviously a matter of perspective, but for the most part I used to think the answer was no. I was wrong.

Monsters in the Woods is the most expensive production I’ve directed. It was not originally intended to be so. It started out has a low-end production, even by micro-budget standards, to be shot for a low wage job’s monthly salary using friends for cast and crew. Almost no one was to paid, I was either multi-taking crew positions myself or calling in favors (I’ve done plenty over the years.) And I was totally cool making this kind of movie.

Then a few things happened.

One of my friends had a personal connection to Glenn Plummer. He said he could get him in the movie and he did. Glenn was cast in the role of Jayson. While he would only be shooting a few days, it still put a substantial strain on our extremely meager budget. I also wanted to get a legit location, permits and insurance to shoot our massacre sequence. These two costs were starting to push the budget beyond what we could manage on our own. So, I reached out to a producer friend of mine and he came onboard, along with another producer. They brought with them a little more funding that would cover the location (Big Bear), insurance, permits and Glenn Plummer. The budget basically doubled. But we were still talking very low. And I was ok making that movie.

Then a few more things happened.

We get to Big Bear. We have two days to shoot out Glenn Plummer and get our major massacre sequence in the can. Things didn’t go exactly as planned. As with most productions, our 1st day was full of hiccups. We got started a few hours late. The 1st scenes took much longer to shoot than expected. Then we had some major drama between a few actors (which I can’t really get into). By the time we got to our second and last day, we were more than a half-day behind. Luckily we came back strong in the 2nd day, finished all of Glenn’s stuff and were ready to shoot our massacre sequence.

Then something else happened…

Our monsters weren’t ready. The crew helping out with FX had to exodus early the 2nd morning (personal reasons.) This left a one man FX make-up crew to do 3 full monsters. We were already behind and it just wasn’t doable. When it came time to shoot the sequence we had less than one full monster. The massacre sequence (one of the main reason we were shooting on location in the 1st place) could not be shot.

These two days in Big Bear were the bulk of our budget and we only got done half what we needed to. Well, Glenn was shot out. The massacre could most likely be done somewhere cheaper, probably guerilla. We were going to soldier on. And I was still ok making that movie.

Then something else happened…

I reviewed the footage we shot in Big Bear. It was awesome. Glenn Plummer and the rest of cast were incredible. They were clicking and gelling better than I could have ever imagined. I think the script is pretty damn good, but they were taking it to a whole other level. If done right, this could be a really good movie. Of course, done right = more money. So I first asked the producers for more cash to hire a proper fix company. They agreed and we hired Tom Devlin’s 1313 FX (in retrospect this turned out to be one of wisest decisions.) It was also decided to upgrade cameras from the JVC with which we had shot the entire 1st act behind the scenes perspective stuff to a CANNON 7D for all the “real movie” stuff of which we had shot almost none. And I was really ok with making that movie.

Then a few more things took place…

I didn’t realize it at the time, but the upgrade from the 720p JVC to the 1080p H264 Cannon was going to strain my older editing system past it limits. Not only were we going to have to spend money on the camera and FX, but also now I need a new editing computer has well. The budget kept rising.

Now the producers are getting miffed. What started out as a minimal investment was becoming much more substantial, especially by micro-budget standards. In addition to reshooting the big bear stuff, now there was additional post costs. The budget had pretty much tripled. I had pitched a movie to be done at a certain budget and now it was 3x’s that. I was still cool making that movie.

Then more shit went down…

I had never shot on the 7D before and am pretty much the DP on the movie. I needed at least a day before shooting to familiarize myself with the camera, especially in the lower light of our cave set. I was supposed to get the camera the day before we shot in order to do this. The owner of the camera had a shoot pop up and I could get it until the night before the shoot, late. I had no time to work with the camera in the dark cave setting beforehand. It cost us. We shot over the next 2 nights in our dark cave set. While not unusable, the footage turned out less than stellar. It wasn’t bad, but it certainly didn’t match the superior performances by the actors. I asked for more days to reshoot the scenes. The producers were not happy, but I was fine with making this movie.

Then something else happened...
A new investor turns up, brought in by yours truly, who wanted to put a substantial amount into the movie. This investment would cover a new computer for editing. The 3 days of reshooting or a new cannon of our own. I suggest that we use it for this.

Then all hell breaks loose. I get angry emails and calls from producers, saying I’m outta control, spending too much money, mishandling money, that purchasing a new camera is unreasonable. I was told how “easy it was to spend other people’s money.” Ect.. I don’t know, maybe they were right. I don’t know anymore. I did promise to deliver a certain product at a certain price, in this task I failed. The final budget was just under 4x’s the original. Now, the movie we’ve got in the can is more than 4x’superior to the one that was originally intended, but I don’t know how much that counts for. In the end the new investment was put towards the computer and the reshoots. We continued to rent the camera, went back to Big Bear for three days, got the massacre and a bunch of new fx shots. We finished out production and I’m ok with making this movie.

Then something else happened…

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Cutting Monsters: Week 1

Editing Week 1

So once a week I'm going to throw up an editing update on Monsters in the Woods. It'll be mostly pretty dry and technical, but there maybe a few fun bits here and there, so stick with me.

1. Every bit of footage has now been logged. There are 532 Full Rez clips shot on the cannon 7D at 1080p. Then there are another 171 clips shot on the JVC HMU shot at 720p
(for those that don't know. The 1st act of the movie shot from the 1st person perspective of a behind the scenes camera operator. Hence the different frame sizes and camera's.)
(I'm still unsure whether I'm going to mix formats or blow up the 720. For now, I'm going to cut each format separately and decide later)

2. After much deliberation I've decided to cut in standard def or SD. I don't want to risk the strain on my cpu and harddrives of editing a full HD feature over the course of several months. Sure it will require a couple of extra steps. But we really don't have the budget to replace any burnt out harddrives or cpu repair. After the cut is locked, I plan to take the SD clips offline and transcode the clips into PRO RES HQ, then reconnect. Of course I'll have to then modify sequence settings and whatnot as well, but it's not that big a deal. I've already tested the method on half a dozen edited clips.
Half the movie has already been transcoded to DV. I'll start the 2nd half tonight before work. I'll be ready to start audio syncing and cutting after shooting on Thursday. For the trailer, I'll just sync the footage we're using. But after that, we're going to have to sync the rest of the footage before starting the actual edit.

3. Met with my new assistant editor, a really nice fellow. Starting this weekend, he's going to start going through footage to pull any usable bits of Behind the Scenes footage from our actual footage or start pulling and syncing trailer footage. I guess we'll see.
4. Before Monday I hope to have all the footage for the trailer picked and synced. Before next Friday, I hope to have a trailer.

That's the plan for now, updates as they are warranted.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Between Action and Cut, Nothing Else Exists...

Not sure if someone already coined this phrase, but for now I’m going to claim it. It’s not all that profound or original. It’s really just a fairly awkward rewording of the moment is what matters or living in the moment.

Whichever you prefer, it’s especially important on movie sets, where distractions, pressure and chaos abound. It’s so easy when shooting to lose focus on the scene. It’s easy for actors, directors and crew. As a director, I’ve found myself from time to time losing that focus and not giving 100% of my attention to the scene because I’m concerned about making the day, the next set up or some other onset drama.

Not paying attention is the worst crime a director can commit. If you’re not 110% focused on everything between action and cut and nothing else, you are going to miss things, things that will cost you. You can end up losing the trust of both your actors and crew and worse yet, the movie is going to suffer. Now everyone on low budget productions has to wear multiple hats and it’s the director’s job to deal with distractions, chaos and drama, but only after cut is called.

In order to create a good scene, a director needs to be engaged in it. He has to have Zen-like focus. If you lose it, you lose the actors and then the scene. I’ve had more drama and distractions on Monsters in the Woods then all my past productions combined, but I think for the most part I kept that focus. But not 100% of the time. This is something that I’ll work harder on and conquer during my next production

Monday, October 11, 2010

What’s My Motivation?

Last night I saw the Social Network, a movie where the main character's chief motivation was gaining the attention of a former lover. In the movie this guy built a billion dollar empire all for a girl. It got me thinking about my own motivations for seeking a career in movies.

So why do I want to make movies for a living?

The simple answer is that I love them. Outside of family, friends, food and sex, movies are only thing that has consistently brought me pleasure in my life. Sure I’ve had other activities that I’ve enjoyed but nothing comes close to cinema. But why try and make them and make money at it. I like food. I can cook a bit. I could have went to culinary school, became a chef. At one time, I wanted to teach English. I like kids. But I’ve always come back to my “dream” to write and direct feature films. Why?

Money? Money isn’t that big a deal for me. Just like anyone else, sure I’d like to have plenty of it. But it’s not really a big motivator. If I have enough for my own place, car and a small nest egg, I’m fine. I don’t need or crave big fancy shit. I just don’t want to live paycheck to paycheck.

Fame? Maybe. I do have a narcissistic personality and I do crave attention and respect. That is probably a big part of it. I can’t say I’ve never rehearsed a future interview with a big magazine or award speech, but I don’t know that it’s the main thing either.

Artistic Expression? That is a big motivator. I’ve found recently, as my work becomes more personal that I have that need to get things out. I always heard filmmakers, writers; artists talk about a burning need to get a piece of work out. I never really understood that until very recently. Now it’s a major motivator. I have 3 or 4 scripts that I just “have” to make.

A Girl? Well…. There are one or two that might recognize themselves in my next couple of pieces. I’d be lying if I said some of it wasn’t out of a similar spite that the character in The Social Network felt. But while that might have originally motivated me, it’s now become more about working out those issues within myself.

When it comes down to it, at an early age, before I even considered or knew what making movies was all about, I knew that I was not meant for normalcy. I was never meant to work a regular 9 to 5. I was different. I fell in love with movies, first as a movie watcher then later as a moviemaker. Now I really don’t have any other choice. Sure I could take my degree and go get a job-type-job but I’d never be happy. I’d never find the joy in anything else that I find in making movies.

So making movies it is.

Friday, October 1, 2010

If You Don't Do it Right the First Time...

Monsters in the Woods is the 1st movie I’ve ever directed where I’ve had to reshoot scenes. This coming week we are reshooting a number of scenes. We’re reshooting the opening sequence because of casting changes. Then in the evening we’re redoing some of the cave sequences because of some technical issues with the camera. (i.e. I didn’t quite know what I was doing the 1st time) It was the 1st time I had actually used the camera at night.

It will be strange to watch the same lines come out of different actors mouths. Then in the same night try to recreate some of the magic the same cast created a weeks earlier.

It’s weird. I know it’s a regular part of Hollywood moviemaking, but for a micro-budget production like this, it’s well…weird. This whole production has taxed me in ways I couldn’t have imagined at the start. It has stretched me mentally and physically further than I thought I could ever go, and from the footage I’ve reviewed, I’d say it was worth it. That said, I’ll be grateful once production is wrapped and I can retreat to the safety of my editing suite and start to make the movie again.