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Monday, November 29, 2010

Monsters in the Woods Interviews_Paul Misko

I was pretty much going to cast Paul Misko in the role of Kris because he looked the part and was dating the actress playing Bianca. It just seemed like an easy fit. Then I met and auditioned him.  He seemed to really get the character and the humor inherent in the script.

I can't express how happy I am that I did cast him. I even expanded the role after our inital couple of days of shooting. Not only is Paul super talented. His enthusiasm and work ethic are inspiring. I expect big things outta him in the future.
Paul Misko as Kris


1.Tell me who you are and what you are doing here.

   My name is Paul Misko. I played the role of Kris, and I have no idea what the hell I am doing. 

2.Monsters in the Woods in the Woods is our 1st feature together. How wonderful was it for you to work with me?

   It was great to work with you, sir. This was my first feature as an actor, and it was a great experience. All of the cast and crew were amazing and I felt really comfortable working with you and everyone. Probably not the experience most people have on their first features with some of the stories I have heard. Haha.

3. You started out in music. Why the transition to acting?

    I have been playing music and in bands since I was 13 years old. I had some success in two of the bands, and I got to tour and do a lot of things I never would have dreamed possible. When we broke up in 2008, I decided to try something different and film and television definitely interested me. I love to be part of a creative process and acting in a lot of ways is similar to writing music. Everything has to flow naturally and timing and rhythm are very important. Being on set reminds me of tour a lot. You show up early, eat food, and wait.

4.What’s your acting method?

   I have next to no acting training. I think I have a natural inclination to it. I am far from an amazing actor and need to hone my skills of course, but I guess that what I'm saying is that I get it. It feels natural and makes sense to me, so I enjoy it a lot. It's always a challenge and I love working with people to bring a story to life in the best way possible.

5. You played opposite your real life love interest in Monsters in the Woods. How was that?

        It was great! Obviously, it makes it easy to have chemistry on screen, and it made it really convenient to rehearse. Also, the overall experience was amazing because it was like we got to go on a vacation together and really enjoy the scenery up in Big Bear. Neither of us had been up there before so it made everything really exciting for the whole trip!




6. What was the most challenging aspect of shooting Monsters in the Woods.
   
        Probably sitting in the hot tubs at the cabins drinking at night. That was extremely agonizing. ;) 



7. How would describe my hair?

       How would you describe MY hair?! 



   *sorry, we're were looking for luxurious. We'd have also accepted stunning.



8. You've recently moved into producing. Can you tell me a bit about that?

       I have been working on a tv pilot this year that I wrote called "Classy". I am directing it and acting in it as well. It is my first project as a director, and I think I enjoy it even more than acting so I will definitely be continuing down that road in the future. We are actually shooting our last scenes tomorrow for it so I am really excited! I will keep you posted on it's progress!



9. Which cast member would you pick to play opposite you in a buddy cop movie directed by David Lynch?

   Alonzo! We would make a great team! He's an awesome actor and a great dude! 

10. What are you working on next?

    Once I finish Classy, I will be hopefully continuing episodes as I pitch it to networks. I am always trying to get work as an actor as well to get as much experience as possible, but I have nothing lined up currently. I think you should direct a buddy cop movie so that can be what I am working on next! ;) haha.


Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Book was Better

With Harry Potter pretty much everywhere right now, I couldn’t help but bring up the subject of books being made into films. I am an avid reader and I tend to enjoy going to see what filmmakers can do to make a book work for the screen. In most cases, it is fairly easy to translate from page to screen, but in some cases, the book becomes just a jumping off point and the movie really doesn’t relate.

There are so many obvious choices for great books being turned into movies, it’s hard to choose just one. Whether it’s something classy and meaningful, like Gone with the Wind, or a romantic chick flick, like The Notebook, there are some fantastic screenwriters out there who can take a book and make it into a film that is just as good, if not better, than the movie. The writers have to deal with what to cut, what to change, and what to keep. In The Notebook, the ending is completely changed. (SPOIER ALERT!) Instead of Noah going on to live after Ally dies, as is what happens in the book, they both die together, making the movie close out in the possibly the most romantic way possible. In Gone with the Wind, the infamous “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn” was not as dramatic in the book. Rhett is speaking to Scarlett in a room and says it quietly, as opposed to storming out and being forceful. Yet, in both those cases, the changes made were ones that made the films better than the books, and made them memorable.

The bad adaptations are a little easier to narrow down and I have a surprise for anyone who knows me: The Wizard of Oz is the worst adaption I can think of. It might be my favorite movie of all time, but after reading the book, I realized the writers changed it so drastically that the original book and the movie can no longer be compared. In the book, The Wicked Witch of the West is only in for one chapter, Dorothy is the one doing the rescuing, the shoes are silver not red, and Glinda is the Good Witch of the South and does not give Dorothy the slippers. The biggest change is that, in the book, Oz is a real place with new friends, not a dreamland inhabited by subconscious manifestations of people Dorothy knew. The movie is still my favorite, but this is the best example of how Hollywood takes a great work of literature and changes it to be almost unrecognizable against the original work.

Overall, I don’t have a problem with books being turned into movies. I like seeing how someone else viewed a book and turned it into what I’m seeing on the screen. Some people may say that it just adds to the lack of originality in Hollywood these days, and they might be right. But, in my opinion, if you can’t be original, at least be creative, and that is what these movies show me. Hollywood may have lost it’s originality, but definitely not its creativity.

Monsters in the Woods Interviews_Gladys Otero

Over the next few weeks I’ll be conducting several mini interviews with the cast and crew of Monsters in the Woods. 1st up Gladys Otero.
Gladys as Bianca
Monsters in the Woods was my 1st experience directing Gladys. She is one of the most open and game actors I’ve ever met. She embraced everything that was asked of her with Gusto. I think that she, like her character, is a survivor and just loves living life.


1.Tell me who you are and what you are doing here.  

GLADY O. MAKING A BITCHASS MONSTER MOVIE

2.Monsters in the Woods in the Woods is our 1st feature together. How wonderful was it for you to work with me?  

IT WAS SO GREAT. I WILL PRAISE YOU THE CLICHE WAY CUS YOU DESERVE THAT. " The director was amazing etc etc" but I will also add HOW INCREDIBLE AND ORIGINAL AND CREATIVE YOU ARE. IT HAS BEEN SUCH A GREAT EXPERIENCE AND I WOULD DO IT ALL OVER AGAIN AND AGAIN.

3. You had to perform a good deal of the movie in Spanish. How was it working Bilingually? Did it affect your approach? 

I HAD TO BECOME A LITTLE ANTI SOCIAL WHILE SHOOTING THE SPANISH SCENES. I FOUND THAT IT HELPED ME ESTABLISH WHO BIANCA WAS. IT WAS INTERESTING BUT I HAVE TO SAY I WAS MORE RELAXED WHEN I COULD FINALLY SPEAK ENGLISH. HAHA

4.What’s your acting method?  

DEPENDS ON MY MOOD FOR THE DAY

5. You played opposite your real life love interest in Monsters in the Woods. How was that?  

IT WAS INTERESTING. KIND OF LIKE ROLE PLAYING :) I THINK WE KEEP A HEALTHY BALANCE BETWEEN WORK AND OUR PERSONAL LIVES. 

6. What's it like being blasted with and then spending most of the day drenched in blood. (You look stunning all bloody by the way).

OMBAG. IT WAD GREAT AND PAINFUL AT THE SAME TIME CUS IT GOT STICKY!! ON THE FLIP SIDE I SMELLED AMAZING HAHA   

7. Do you prefer me with or without a beard?  

A LITTLE OF BOTH 

*sorry, we were looking for with,

8. You've recently moved into producing. Can you tell me a bit about that? I

LOVE IT. BEING I THE OTHER SIDE OF THE CAMERA HAS GIVEN ME SO MANY DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVES. I DEFINITELY WANT TO KEEP PURSUING BOTH ENDS OF THE SPECTRUM. AND THEN SOME. 

9. Which cast member would definitely drink you under the table?  

IT’S A TOSS UP AMONGST LIKE 10 of us. 
 *sorry we were looking for John Mcgil.

10. What are you working on next?  

ASIDE FROM FINISHING THE PILOT IM PRODUCING IM WORKIMG ON TWO DIFFERENT WEB SERIES :). But who knows what will come of this New Year :) 



F#@! and the MPAA

So, there's been a concern amongst some of our production team about the overuse of the word "fuck" in Monsters in the Woods. That it will cause us problems with the MPAA.

I at first dismissed this as ridiculous. I even started counting fucks. Tonight me and my pal counted 65 give or take in the 1st half. (it was not fun). Double that for the 90-minute run time and you get 130. Which is well under acceptable MPPA R Rating standards.

Casino had 422
Summer of Sam 326
Born on the 4th of July 289
Pulp Fiction 252
Jarhead 251
Big Lebowski 281
*although we did beat out Glengarry Glen Ross which had only 138. Woah!
http://www.listology.com/list/most-occurrences-word-fuck

Shit you could straight double my estimate and still be under the top 3.

But it keeps coming up and then a producer brought up a more artistic concern, that the overuse of the word takes away its power when you do need it. Now this I can agree with. It’s a valid point. So I looked back over the cut with friend tonight and I have to admit, that yes, it is overused. The actors took what was in the script, which was a lot of “fucks” and added another 15%. If I had the whole production to do over, I’d have had a full time script supervisor and I’d have reigned in the improv a little more.

But I didn’t. There aren’t alternate takes and without cutting whole scenes or making really awkward cuts to existing scenes, there isn’t much that I can do about it now. And really when it comes down to it, I don’t have a problem with it. I personally use expletives that way myself, as do many people I know, and I enjoy hearing it onscreen. To me it feels authentic.

It definitely can be off-putting to some. But, it’s not to me. And I have to ask myself, even if I could, would I want to cut them down, would I want to neuter my movie, because of what some may find offensive? Because it might limit the movie commercially?

Wait a minute! One of the characters refers to another Hispanic character as a spic. Might the Hispanic community be offended? I better take that out too. Then there’s the whole Jesus action hero thing (That’s gotta offend someone). Then there’s characters committing adultery, nudity, monsters, blood, a character wearing white after Labor Day… Damn, who won’t be offended?

I made a micro-budget horror flick. It’s not a 4-quadrant Pixar movie. It’s a gritty, no holds barred splattery horror movie. That’s what I set out to make and that’s what it is.
So be it.
But, I am cutting the Michael Bay, Donald Duck stuff…
Sorry Lee, there are legalities to be considered.

Back to the Woods

“Its common practice for both studio and independent films to go back and shoot additional scenes after a production wraps. We just felt that the additional scenes would strengthen the narrative.”
- Bravo Roberts “Monsters in the Woods”

So, week after next, we’re putting the band back together to shoot some additional footage in order to strengthen our narrative. Another in a long string of “life imitates art” instances on Monsters in the Woods.

As I watched the rough cut it became apparent that, while good in and of themselves, the 1st act scenes when stacked together felt a little too episodic. Too much of the narrative was happening off screen. It was making the scenes feel a little random. So I’m writing a few new scenes to give the 1st act a little more narrative cohesion and dramatic tension. Also there were a few missed character opportunities that I want to explore further. Then as long as we’re at it, a few pick up shots here and there for the 3rd act couldn’t hurt. A missed arterial spray here. A severed arm there. Whatever, no big whup.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Cutting Monsters: Week 8

Rough-cut is done and was viewed by the producers yesterday. The screening went well. Everyone is very happy with where the movie is. Once sound, music and fx are added, we all feel that we’ve created something cool. Personally, I can say without a doubt, that it’s my best work so far, but it’s not quite done yet.

So now it’s the beginning of the end. After taking the holiday off, I’ll do one more viewing of the cut (solo) to make final tech notes. Then I’ll spend one week polishing/locking the cut. I’ll be going for a locked cut and will start adding sound design. When I send the movie out I want at least the rudimentary Foley and hard sound FX work to be done. Once I send it off it be scored, I’ll work simultaneously on the actual final sound design and mix minus the score.

We’ve also decided to shoot a few small scenes to add it the 1st act in order to strengthen the dramatic tension and momentum. There are also a few small insert shots here and there to get for the 2nd and 3rd acts as well. We’ll tackle all of that in a single day of pickups, in Malibu, the week after next. So the cut should be about locked as we’re finishing pick ups. I’ll quickly insert the new material, no more than a days work and then send off the locked cut for scoring and VFX (visual fx work)

Starting Monday, I’m going to start reaching out to potential composers; our vfx guy is already locked.

The final should be cut and locked before the end of December with the final composed and mixed version done by mid January.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

What's Next?

As I race towards the finish of post on Monsters in the Woods my thoughts drift more and more to what’s next. What is next? Right now, I don’t have a clue. A lot of it depends on how Monster in the Woods is received, or more importantly how much it makes, or how much I make.

Seeing how that big question won’t be answered for a few months, I guess I should prepare of the multiple possibilities.

1. It’s received well and I get an opportunity to make something bigger. (Aces! I got several good scripts a-waiting.)
2. It’s received well and I get to make something of equal or lesser value. (Eh, I might have to come up with something.)
3. It’s received well and I’m asked to do a sequel. (I got an idea. but haven’t really put pen to paper)
4. It’s not received well and it’s back to the drawing board.


With my last three flicks I’ve been averaging one a year. I’d really like to up that in 2011, assuming that I’m still making them at a super low budget level. Of course a bigger budget allots for more time, so that would be ok too.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Director of the Week – Roget Avary

He may be a bit better known as a screenwriter. He won an Oscar for his contribution to Pulp Fiction (The Gold Watch was his story). He also co-wrote the 3d cg Beowulf and Silent Hill. His contributions to Reservoir Dogs and True Romance are often disputed. I guess he wrote the radio spots in Reservoir Dog and did re-writes on True Romance for Tony Scott, which if memory serves include most of Alabama’s Vo’s and the theatrical ending. He claims to have contributed quite a bit more to the original screenplay for True Romance and Natural Born Killers.

Avary worked with Tarantino at video archives in the late 80’s. After True Romance sold and Reservoir Dogs happened, Taranitno and Samuel Hadida exec produced Killing Zoe for Avery. Supposedly he wrote it in a week around a bank location that had been scouted for Reservoir Dogs.

Killing Zoe is a great indie flick. Produced for around 500k. Set in mostly one location. Features killer performances by Eric Stoltz, Julie Delpy, Jean-Hugues Anglade and Gary Kemp (believe it or not). The Tomandandy score is pretty cool too. The whole thing takes place in a blur. Almost real time. It’s highly rewatchable.

I was working at Blockbuster Video when it came out on VHS. It was the 1st poster that I took from there.

His next flick was Mr. Stitch. Starring Rutger Hauer and Wil Wheaton. I think it was written for the Sci-Fi Channel. It wasn’t very good, at least from what I can remember. Maybe I should give it another go.

Then came Rules of Attraction. I absolutely love this move. It’s kinetic, fast paced, viscously funny. With better than they’ve ever been before or since performances from Dawson, Jessica Biel and Kate Boseworth.

I’ve been anxiously waiting another directorial outing from him. Yes, I’m aware of Glitterati, but it’s not exactly available.

From IMDB
Footage was originally shot in October 2001 for a brief 5-minute sequence within The Rules of Attraction. Shot as a three-person cast and crew (Kip Pardue, Roger Avary, and Greg Shapiro), using two miniDV cameras, the shoot quickly blew up to 70 tapes worth of footage. Avary subsequently decided (during the trip) to buy the rights to "Glamorama" and attach Pardue to the project to reprise his role as Victor Ward. The 70 tapes of footage therefore are being re-edited into a feature-length piece, entitled "Glitterati", which will act as a sort of bridge between "Rules of Attraction" and "Glamorama".


Interesting… hopefully we’ll get a chance to see it someday.

I also hope he gets his chance to make Glamorama.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Cutting Monsters: Week 7

The rough cut is complete. I’ve laid out a 100-minute rough cut with credits.
The final will be somewhere right around 90 minutes.

The really hard work starts now. I’ve got all the story laid out, now I have to go back and make sure I’m telling in the best possible way with the footage I have to work with.

I took today off and I plan to not look at it tomorrow at all either. Then I’ll burn out a DVD of the cut and view it on Friday with a (hopefully) fresh perspective. Then do a clean up and ready a version to show to the producers. I’ll need to have that ready early next week.

I spoke this week to my special effects artist (CG) and sent him a few problematic shots. Looks like we’re going to be able to do some really cool stuff.

Anyway, I’m going to enjoy my night off…

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

My Very First Short Film Experience

Producing


Hello Zapruter film fans my name is John McGill, and this article is about my first short film “Kontrolled”.Coming to California a year ago from Orlando, Fl with dreams of becoming a filmmaker I immediately began applying for jobs everywhere filmmakers hung out. Eventually being hired at Starbucks where I met Jason Horton. Little did I realize how this average Joe was a Independent Filmmaker who eventually became a driving force behind my production.. I had a few drafts of the script completed and with the help from some established writer friends I was able to lock the script. The script originally fit within a low budget of $1000 dollars but do to a illness I had to take off work for a short period. After I was back to health I noticed that my movie funds were gone but my dreams where not lost , I began saving my tips week after week and during that time made a very detailed frugal budget of$200 dollars. All that mattered was to make a great film regardless of finances. After the money was collected it was off to finding the actors, crew and equipment and thanks to networking on various sets I was able to find these quickly. I assembled my cast Paris Rumford ,Lynne Conner, David Joyner , Kristina Sullivan and a good friend Curtis Nelson II. My crew consisted of Jermaine Jae , Alexandria Storm , Roger Hunt and with everyone's combine skills and talent I was able to complete the 10 pages of action and dialogue in 1 day.


Directing


Directing my first film was.......every mixed emotion of excitement and fear. It came form the thought of failing but the chance at success. The fear stayed with me until lunch came where I ate alone thinking to myself. “ what did you come to Cali for?” , “are you afraid of success?” and answering with a “no!” I pulled myself together and started working harder than ever before. I also learned why so many crew members are need and are dubbed the “army”. You truly do need help from every aspect when shooting a film because one eye will not catch it all, thankfully everything came out great with just a four man crew. The most important tool I learned also that day was to trust in my own style of directing, focusing on emotion and naturalism from the performance, kindness yet stern communication to the crew and most importantly a confidence in my ability's.


Post-production


Post for me felt like Murphy Law kicking into overdrive. Having no computer to edit I had to get help from my good friends Jason and Perdell. Only being able to edit a few hours a day it became hard balancing out my work schedule but despite that editing was coming along well, finishing a few drafts. Unfortunately to have a complete movie I would need to re-shoot some scenes. I was reluctant at first until Jason told me that “it was normal , and nothing to be ashamed off”.I started working to get the re-shoots done by contacting the actors; and although the actors were happy to re-shoot, their schedules were different. After several weeks I finally got the actors together to do the re-shoots where they nailed it like pros. Feeling ecstatic about finishing my movie and my friend letting me use his computer to use from home , I thought nothing could go wrong but It did. I lost my entire project and the backups do to a computer transferring file error. I went home feeling very down that all my hard work was gone. I called my mom late that night and she said “God does everything for a reason, and that if I put my heart into it that I can make my project better”. Her words soaked in as I asked myself two important questions “ why did you come to Cali” and “are you afraid of success?” I came to become a Filmmaker and Success was born in me. With that motivation I started on the impossible of getting two months worth of work done in one week. I was determined to finish so all I did was edit,eat and sleep. I came home every night working on my project until my eyes were glued to the screen. Editing even through my birthday and finished on Oct. 27, I gave myself the best birthday gift ever. After having a test screening to my roommates and seeing the excitement on their faces I felt like I could finally take a sigh of relief. I finished working on the trailer , which is now up on my FaceBook page and YouTube .My plans are to summit the film to festivals in hopes to gaining recognition for my work. and fans for my future films. Thanks you everyone.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A Saturday in the Life of A Low Budget Movie Maker

*It's supposed to be my day off. From both the day job and Monsters in the Woods.

7am- 830 am -

I don’t pass go. Straight to editing. Robert Rodriguez once said that he started writing the second he awoke, that he did his best creative work in that “not quite awake” state. I think the same holds for editing too.

I got through the 1st section of the massacre scene in Monster in the Woods.

830am – 9am –
Mess around on the interweb for a bit.

9am – 10am –
Make final adjustments on a furniture commercial I’m editing. I thought I was done, but it turns out the website text was out of title safe. Stupid mistake. My head just wasn’t in this one. I’m too wrapped up in Monsters. I won’t take anymore outside jobs till it’s finished.

1030 – 1130
Solo brunch at Granville. Just not feeling like any company this weekend. After production ends on one of my movies I usually go through what I can best describe as post-partum depression. I’ve just spent several months in production, living off adrenaline and stress. 2 months where nothing else matters. All the mundane daily life stuff is gone. Then productions ends and it all crashes down at once; Bills, money, relationships ect… I just feel overwhelmed. It usually takes a few weeks to a month to recover.... Whoa, that was a little too “dear diary” wasn’t it?

1130 – 1
Not quite ready to plunge back into the edit. I go see Skyline. I had heard it was a camp classic in the making and I had to see for myself.
Wow! Wow! All I have to say is Wow! It must be seen to be believed. Horrible/great movie with one of the all time worst/best endings in cinema history. A must see.

130pm – 3
Back to editing. Still working on that pesky massacre.

3pm – 4pm
Stuck in the massacre. Need to clear my head. Catch up on Sons of Anarchy. This show is getting very good.

4pm – 530
Work out and shower

530 – 6
Prepare dinner and eat. Hamburger helper. Yeah, lame, I know. Just lazy today.

6pm- 8
Back to editing. Massacre is coming together.

8pm-1030pm
Watch Girl with the Dragon Tattoo on Netflix Instant View.
Good movie. Really like the lead girl. The movie reminded me a bit of a Chinatown era Polanski flick.

1030 - ?

Fun time. But not too much fun. Gotta get up at 8am and finish up the massacre and a few scenes after before work.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Cutting Monsters: Week 6

So, I’m well past the half way point of my rough cut.

It became clear to me this week that I need to set some time frame goals or I could go back and forth forever on this cut. A good friend, and fantastic editor, once told me that you could edit any given project from now till the end of time and never be 100% satisfied. There’s always something you can change or think you can to make the project better. However, in my opinion at a certain point, you’re just making changes.

I found myself going back over the 1st section of my rough cut several times this week. When I’m not even sure at this point exactly what scenes will stay and which will go. I’ll have a better idea about that once the whole movie is laid out. When the rough cut is complete, I can look back over the piece as a whole and make an informed decision about what stays and what goes. Right now, cleaning up the entire 1st act of the movie is a waste of time.

I’ve set the end of the month as my end date for my semi polished rough cut. I’ll spend the rest of this week and all of the next laying out the movie. Then I’ll do a rough polish of the whole thing for a screening with the producers and myself around the 1st of December. Some basic sound design. Maybe some temp music. Basic color correction.

So, this week I finally moved on outta the 1st act and found footage sections of the movie and moved into the (harder to edit because there’s actual coverage) real movie sections. It’s moving faster than anticipated. I’m getting through 5 to 10 minutes of screen time per day. At this pace, I’ll easily finish by my deadline, however, I haven’t yet reached any of the difficult sequences. I’ll start on the 1st one today.

Many of the sequences to come where shot in different locations over time. Some were reshot more than once. It’ll be interesting to see how they come together.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Director of the Week – Pre Hollywood John Woo

John Woo made some frickin’ aces movies in Hong Kong in the late 80’s and early 90’s.
The 1st time I heard his name mentioned was in an interview with Quentin Tarantino (hot off Reservoir Dogs). I’d seen trailers for Hard Target (John Woo’s American Debut) but was unimpressed. But, after hearing Tarantino go on and on about Woo, I went right out and watched Hard Target.

Let me get this outta the way, I like Hard Target quite a bit. I think it’s Van Damme’s best, prior JCVD. IT wasn’t the level of awesome I had heard Woo was capable of but it was pretty neat. The fluid, ballet like camera, slo motion, freeze frames, well-choreographed gun play. I certainly liked it enough to seek out Woo’s earlier work.

Now this was in the early 90’s and I lived in Indiana. John Woo’s Hong Kong work was not readily available. I found a pirate video store in Ohio that had bootleg VHS copies of lots of hard to find foreign movies, including John Woo. *I also discovered Ringo Lam and Tsai Hark (future directors of the week and Jean-Claude Van Damme conduits) through them.

1st up The Killer. Wow. Still my all time favorite John Woo. I was blown away. I sat mouth open in awe of this movie. 1st off, who was this Chow Yun Fat dude? He was super cool. Then there was the way Woo shoots. So fluid, I think there are maybe 3 or four living directors that move the camera as well as Woo.

I followed the Killer up with a Better Tomorrow 1 and 2. I liked both, though not as much as the Killer. But I will say that the last 20 minutes of Better Tomorrow 2 maybe the best gun battle sequence ever filmed. I can’t think of one better.

Then I saw Bullet in the Head. It’s probably his most mature piece of work, but I didn’t get the same visceral thrill from it as I did from his others.

Finally Hard Boiled, his most “American” Hong Kong feature. But it features 3 really great actions set pieces, another show stopping performance from Chow and a great single shot action sequence set on 2 floors of a hospital. *Apparently there is a masked dissolve cut somewhere in the single take, but I wouldn’t have know it if I hadn’t heard Woo mention it in the commentary.

All his American work has been inferior. I still say Hard Target, his first, was his best. Most people would argue Face Off is better and while the story and the acting may be, the action sequences weren’t nearly as “Woo.” They lacked the sense of controlled chaos that made his Hong Kong work so special. You just know they were choreographed meticulously, but they didn’t look it. They felt more immediate, almost improvised. His American work just feels, well more American and manufactured.

Anyway, I’ve yet to see Red Cliffs, his return to Hong Kong cinema. But it’s on my queue.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

One More Time With Feeling....Illegal Downloading is Stealing

Ehhh...I know, once again with the horrendous titles.

I know this topic has been done to death, and my stance is not new or profound, but it just really frustrates me how intelligent and otherwise honest folk can rationalize illegal downloading as anything other than theft.

1st off a confession. I am a hypocrite. I have in the past downloaded both songs and movies. Not many, but some. In the case of movies or tv shows it was always something that for whatever reason I couldn’t get my hands on it or at least couldn’t get my hands on it in what I deemed an acceptable time frame. (bullshit)

Then one day I was talking to someone who made a regular habit of downloading. This person steals video games, movies, songs, computer programs ect.. on a daily basis. They have thousands of dollars worth of stuff that they have no right owning. The kicker is this isn’t a poor kid. He or she lives with his or her parents or at least on their dime. He or she has no reason not to pay for it, except he or she doesn’t want too. Then it hit me, neither did I. What I had done, while not on the same level, was just as wrong. It was stealing and if I were prosecuted for it. I’d pay my penance. But what I won’t do is rationalize it and try to act like I’m just. And I’ve not downloaded a thing since.

I work with a couple of really good guys or gals. Except for the fact they steal movies and video games on a regular to semi regular basis. The 1st person I mentioned was kind of douche and none too bright anyway, but these others are otherwise good kids, that don't see what they are doing as wrong and certainly not stealing.

What happened to us?

I’ve heard the arguments. It’s just copying, like coping tapes in the day. Or I only download it to check it out, then if I like it I buy it (that’s complete bull by the way)/ or that illegal downloading drives sales (so what if it does? The ends justify the means?) Or that only big companies are hurt by it, by downloading we’re “sticking it to the man.” (again bull) The big guys will always find a way to make their money. It’s the struggling artists that are hurt. And yeah, I’ve head the argument that it helps them. (And if I’m wrong and it does help them, that still doesn’t make it right.) I’ve also heard people say they download cuz they can’t afford to buy. (SAY WHAT! Funny thing is, I’d be willing to bet good money that a larger percent of downloader are from affluent families. *We know they at least have access to a computer and Internet.)

I’ve also heard a lot of legal rationalizations on how it’s not really theft. But all of these are just that…Rationalizations. Just because you can find a legal loophole or a positive side effect doesn’t make an unjust act just.

Taking something in any form that you would otherwise pay for is just plain wrong. It really is that simple. Everythign else is just noise.

I suppose we live in a society where everything is so readily available, that we’ve begun to feel that we’re entitled to what we want, whenever we want it, however we can get it and this sense of entitlement overrides morality.

Maybe that's it.

Or maybe I'm just wrong. It wouldn't be the 1st time.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

I'm a Sucker for a Man with a Wand

There are very few movies that I insist on seeing the moment they come out. Normally, I don’t like crowds, lines, or being in an overstuffed movie theater. However, there is one movie that I insist on seeing at midnight on the day it comes out: Harry Potter.

It’s not “going to a movie.” It’s an EVENT. There are people dressed up in crazy costumes that are sometimes a little too good. The last time I went, there was a guy who had such a great Snape costume on, he seriously creeped me out! There is a genuine buzz of excitement from everyone there that is totally contagious. No one is too cool to see it, even the people who are being dragged by their significant others. I can’t tell you how many “cool” guys I’ve seen get into line, act like they are too good for it, and by the time the line goes in, are totally geeking out with the rest of us. A conversation about the awesomeness of wizard fights will break anyone.

I’m also a sucker for any movie where people participate. Not the yell at the screen and add your own commentary thing that happens in some movies. But people are so amped up that when the first note of the theme plays, the whole crowd erupts. Then, during the big action and fight scenes, everyone is on the edge of their seats and cheering when the good guy lands a hit or gasping when the bad guy takes someone out. There are moments when the whole audience is holding its breath and then the next moment where everyone is laughing. It’s a great feeling to know that a theater jammed packed with people are all spending 2 hours experiencing something they love.

The last and most important reason I go to these early showings is that I refuse to let anyone ruin it for me. I have read all the books and know what’s going to happen, but it’s the reviews that I don’t want to hear. Everyone has a right to an opinion and that’s one of the things I love about our society. However, I do not want to have an opinion about what I am about to see before I see it. I love Harry Potter and if I hear someone say, “It was good except that the scenes with Harry and Ginny felt forced,” I’m going to walk in and have an opinion about the scenes with Harry and Ginny. (My second favorite couple, after Ron and Hermione, btw) I want to walk in, be excited to see it, and then form my own opinion afterwards, which I will usually keep to myself unless provoked.

Needless to say, I’m incredibly excited for next Thursday night. It can’t come fast enough!

Midnight Marauders

1 was 11 years old when I saw my 1st midnight movie. My older brother was on leave and he took me out to see Romero’s Dawn of the Dead. It was sooo cool. 1st off I was out of the house after dark. 2nd off I was seeing a movie that was not in it’s 1st run theatrically. It felt like I was in on something, while the rest of the world slept.

Then in high school, I saw midnight showings of Rocky Horror and the Blob, amongst others. But during and after college, midnight movie runs fell outta habit for me. I don't think I went to one in college or even when I moved to LA, that is until last year. I went with my good friend Kimmi to a midnight showing of Rocky Horror. It was an awesome time. We followed that up with a midnight premier of Twilight: New Moon (We were of course exceptionally drunk.) These were two of the most fun movie going experiences I’ve ever had (and I’ve had A LOT!) More importantly they re-awakened my love of midnight movies.

LA offers so many different midnight movie venues; it was a damn shame that I had avoided them for my 1st two years here. I’ve never lived in a city where on any given day I can catch movies (outside of there initial runs) on the big screen (and not just at midnight.)

A few months back I saw John Carpenter’s The Thing for the 1st time in 35 millimeter. It was an eye opening experience. I always liked the movie, but home video and DVD did no justice to Carpenter’s use of his widescreen frame. The suspense was way more amped. Movies are meant to be seen at the movies (or at least they used to be.) Kubrick’s The Shinning was also a completely new experience with an audience. It always had its moments of humor, but it never struck me just how darkly funny most of the movie actually is, until I watched it with a howling midnight screening audience.

Next up: Reservoir Dogs at the New Beverly. It’s one of my all time favorite movies, and I’m ashamed to admit I’ve never seen it on the big screen.

* I still really need to get out to a hollywood cemetery screening of something.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Monsters in the Woods Website is up

So we just put up the website
www.monstersinthewoods.com

Not a whole lot there right now. A new 2 minute trailer. That's about it.
We'll be adding much more content in the near future.

But for now, check out the trailer. Let me know what you think.

Double Feature – Saw 3D and Due Date (yeah, weird mix)

Had a good night at the movies, preceded by an awesome Uptown Mac and Cheese and Humus at Granville.


Definitely apples and oranges, but I enjoyed both equally for very different reasons.

Saw 3D

Pros
1. Actual suspense. The traps weren’t overly gory and the scenes were actually tense.
2. Young Indiana Jones. A welcome addition to the franchise. (Apparently recovered from the puffy face inducing malady he suffered while shooting Boondock Saints 2)
3. Decent wrap up to the mythos.
4. No overused Jigsaw flashbacks.
5. The IA detectives overuse of the word “crazy.”

Cons

1. Very little Jigsaw. He was almost not in the movie at all.


What can I say? Some of the entries have been down right terrible, but overall I like this franchise. It’s been mentioned before in various places, but Saw has paid more attention to it’s own mythos and structure than any other horror franchise in history. Over the course of the series it’s folded back on itself like a Tarantino movie without making any huge plot holes. While I’m not a big fan of the “torture” segments, I do get a kick out of the narrative.

Due Date

Pros
1. The cast. Awesome chemistry and banter between the leads.
2. A kid getting gut punched.
3. Masturbating Dog
4. Car wreck.


Cons
1. Not much of a plot, but who cares.


Great fun. Most likely the best comedy I’ve seen this year.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Critical Response?

I have three movies out there available to the public and have gotten tons of pro and fan critical response. People ask me a lot how I take negative criticism. My answer? Very well. Whether folk like or hate my work, the only response that really bugs me is no response. Someone much wiser than I once said, “The worst criticism is indifference.” ( I don’t know if anyone actually said that, they may have, but I think I just made it up?)
That, in a nutshell, is how I feel.

Sure, from time to time, I take some of the negative criticisms personal. For example, a couple of reviews and message board posts have called out Edges of Darkness as racist. This is ridicules. It does feature a character who outwardly appears to be racist, but it is revealed later that is not the case. It also features a Sam Jackson-esque turn by Alonzo Jones. The intent, and I think it’s pretty clear, was to satirize the types of characters he plays. It was more characature than character. But there were also some actual nuance to the performance. Anyway, I digress…

I actually get a kick outta most of the straight venomous attacks. It actually makes me happy to see my work eliciting such a strong response. But it’s not all negative. Most of the real critical reaction has been pretty damn favorable, and that makes me feel good too.

When you make a micro-budget movie, there are going to be plenty of technical flaws. Then if you take creative risks on top of that and they don’t 100% pay off, they will be mistaken as well…mistakes. For example, in all my work I employ an almost awkward since of humor. It’s often mistaken as unintentional. It’s not. If the production values of the work were higher, I think less people would make that mistake. I guess we’ll see as my budgets and production values grow.

Cutting Monsters: Week 5

The time has finally come, editing on the actual movie. It’s moving much faster than I had anticipated. During the 1st day (only a few hours of editing before I had to go to work) I laid out the entire before credit sequence, which in rough-cut form is clocking in around 15 minutes (Ouch! Gotta trim that down).

I really thought it was going to take longer to put the sequence together. Next to the massacre climax, it’s the most complicated stuff in the movie, coverage wise. However, it took a matter of minutes to sort through the best takes and through them down.

It will take some time to smooth the sequence out though. It features footage from 2 behind the scenes cameras (shot with the same cam, but I have to differentiate the cams looks so it is clear that they are different cams with different operators). Also I’ve decided to intercut some “faux” movie footage into the scene, which can also be tricky.

I expect to have the 1st 30 minutes or 1st act of the movie in rough form by the end of the weekend. I expect this “found footage” section to be a lot easier to layout than the rest of the movie, but I think it will be harder to smooth out, due to the viewfinder overlays, transitions and camera operators’ voice-overs.

Shit, I still need to cast a female voice for the 2nd Camera operator. I’ll do that this week.

Friday, November 5, 2010

My New Favorite Netflix Review of Edges of Darkness

"Film Grrrl screened the execrable Darkness because FG has friend in it. Golly, the terrible things young actresses do to try to add to their CV and get some exposure! (Baby, please stop crying... Film Grrrl is here and she understands.) With feeble technicals, no plot and piteous acting, Darkness must go down as one of the most truly dreadful flicks ever -- horror or otherwise. Part of the make it cheap and fast, and hope for a Miracle on DVD school of cinema, Darkness is actually an insult to its cast -- not just its viewers. In the end, Film Grrrl was cheering for the zombies, who at least know how to shut up."

By the by, out of 30,000 plus rating. EOD is currently sporting a 1.9 on Netflix.

Director of the Week – Albert Pyun

I 1st became aware of Albert Pyun after watching Nemesis (pretty much the closest thing to a pure 90 minute action scene ever.) Sure it wasn’t terribly original; part Terminator, part Mad Max, part Robocop, but it had and energy and style all it’s own. Although it was done on an extremely meager budget, Pyun stretched it as far as anyone could. After that I went back over his filmography and realized he had directed a bunch of really cool little genre movies like the infamous Sword and the Sorcerer (starring ‘Matt Huston’ himself Lee Horsley), Radioactive Dreams, Cyborg (yeah the Van Damme) and Dollman (Tim Thomerson is damn cool).

Right after Nemesis he directed Brainsmasher: A Love Story with Andrew Dice Clay and Teri Hatcher. I think it’s his finest piece of work. Since Brainsmasher in 92, he’s directed about 2 movies a year, including Mean Guns with Christopher Lambert and Ice T (it’s almost as cool as Brainsmaser). His work in between ranges from decent to awful. He’s not the world’s best moviemaker, but he continuous to work and his movies, while not always successful, take creative risks. He is my very definition of a successful moviemaker.

* Abelar: Tales of an Ancient Empire a sequel to The Sword and The Sorcerer is in post production almost 30 years after the original. (ok I guess it's technically a "pseudo-sequel" Whatever that means)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

What I Did While Waiting for the Monsters in the Woods Sales Trailer to Compress

Watched Book of Eli

Pros
1. Denzel feeding cat to a mouse
2. Rich Monochrome Cinematography. Nice Fluid dollies.
3. Scruffy Denzel. Crazy scars (chicks dig them or so I’m told.)
4. “Put that hand on me again and you won’t get it back.” (He didn’t)
5. Badass single shot, silhouette fight.
6. Ray Stevenson
Cons

1. Ray Stevenson subjected to 2nd banana john woo villain role with a lame death.
2. Repetitive action beats.
3. Big time ANTICLIMAX.



I’m not all that bright, so I’m not sure if the whole Bible deal was heavy handed or clever. I guess I’ve never seen it used in this context before, so yay for that.
I also like how Eli’s blindness wasn’t over obvious and wasn’t dwelled upon too bad at the end.

All in all, I liked it.
Very cheesy ending though.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

No You're a Jackass!

I am not a movie buff. I am not a filmmaker. I’m not involved in any way, shape, or form with the movie industry except this: I’m an avid consumer.

I really have no rhyme or reason for wanting to see the movies I want to see. The main actor is hot. The book was really good (or bad). The director went to high school with my dad and I, therefore, have to support this second-degree connection, even though said director probably wouldn’t remember my dad. On the flip side, if I don’t want to see a movie, there probably is some equally illogical reason for it. I don’t like the way that actress talks. That director is a jerk in his interviews. That book was really good (or bad). However, every once in a while, I have good, solid, semi-logical reasons for or against seeing a certain movie.


Case in point: Jackass 3D.

I would like to say that I am not a snob. I have seen some of the worst movies ever made (Raise Your Voice with Hilary Duff. Yes, I PAID to see it…I’m not proud). I have, also, watched the show and, better yet, enjoyed it! Yet, Jackass 3D is one that I just cannot get behind.
First of all, I refuse to pay to see something that is on TV or YouTube, both of which I don’t have to (directly) pay for. I can turn on the TV any night after midnight and find some airing of Jackass where the same guys are doing similar stunts. Yes, watching a guy get kicked in the nuts is hilarious, but it’s not worth $12 (plus an additional $4-$5 for 3D). I can also go online and watch most of the same stunts being done by non-professionals, which, while much more dangerous, is also much more exciting since the likelihood of the amateur idiots having health insurance is slim. I like to call it the modern answer to survival of the fittest.

Secondly, why on earth do I want to see someone get kicked in balls in 3D? It’s called real life, people. If I want to see someone get kicked in the balls in 3D, I’ll walk up to one of my guy friends and kick him in the balls. And I won’t even have to put on the embarrassingly unattractive glasses.


Finally, there is the crowd. I am not talking about the individuals that go see it, but the audience as a whole. When you put a theater full of people into a dark room for 90 minutes, making them watch dangerous and stupid stunts, they come out affected. They are going to want to run into each other, punch the walls, or attempt to jump down 3 flights of stairs, all of which I heard happened at my very own AMC. It’s a combination of the power of suggestion and the feeling all of us have inside of invincibility. When you see real guys doing these (allegedly) real stunts and coming out unscathed, you are bound to think, “I can do that too!” Add that to the 100 or more people feeling the exact same way, and you have the chaos, annoyance, and all around lunacy that gets reported whenever these movies come to theaters. While I might appreciate the hilarity of someone being smacked in the face with a huge hand, I don’t need to see what will happen to a crowd of young men who decide that it would funny to see what happens if they try it.


In the end, my reasoning might not be as logical as I like to think. But, the best thing about mainstream movies today is that they are usually gone within 3 weeks, only to be briefly heard from again.

Monday, November 1, 2010

5 of My Favorite Chick Flicks

5 of My Favorite Chick Flicks

Anyone who knows me, knows I love me some chick flicks. Here are a few ones that are special to me, as usual in no particular order.

  1. Jerry Maguire                                                                                                                                 Insert your own “You had me at…” joke here. I’ve seen this several times and it never fails to elicit a tear or two. I’m always down for a Cameron Crowe fest.
      2.  Untamed Heart
 Haven’t seen it since I was like 15, but it totally gutted me then. I was in love with Marissa Tomei        
and thought Christian Slater was the bossest.

3. Terminator
Say what? Chick flick? Say what you will, but Terminator is, at its core, a romance (and a pretty sappy one at that.) A few quotes from the movie:  “I traveled through time for you Sarah.”  “He gave me a picture of you once. I was never sure why. I memorized every curve, every line.” “We only knew each other for a brief time, but in those few hours, we loved a lifetime.” “You’re terminated fucker!” Oh well, 3 outta 4 ain’t bad.
*excuse the paraphrases. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen it and I’m too lazy to actually look the quotes up.

4. Somewhere in Time.




This early 80’s romance starred Christopher Reeve amd Jane Seymour. Like Terminator it also involved time travel, theme perhaps? I 10 or 11 when I 1st saw it on home video. I only watched it cuz it had Superman in it, but ended up loving it.








  1. Going the Distance.
Too early to really say how it will stick, but I really enjoyed this movie. My favorite romcom of the year for sure.

Kevin Smith's Red-statement

I'm not the world's biggest Kevin Smith fan, but I have to admit my interest in Red State has been peeked. I  even more respect the work ethic...

He said this on his blog Halloween night.
"We finished shooting late Wednesday night, but I’ve been cutting the flick every free moment over the 25 days of production. So at our wrap party last night (for the flick we wrapped 2 days ago, mind you) we also watched the flick we just completed. And I’m not talking about some bullshit assembly, either: this puppy is fine-cut, complete with credits and some pre-mixing: 92 mins without credits, 98 mins with a end credit sequence that’s not to be believed."


Color me impressed. Here I am four weeks into post and have only cut a few trailers. I've barely scratched the surface of my edit.


*although I'm curious to see the kind of set where a director has "free time" and enough free time to edit at that.


He also released a teaser poster.




Plus it stars John Goodman.