Thursday, March 24, 2011

Director of the Week - Russ Meyer

These kids today don't now jack about exploitation filmmaking...They need to look to Russ Meyer to show em how it's done.

I was 1st introduced to the films of Russ Meyer in 2002, by a friend (we miss you rob).  He brought over Up and Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. I was totally blown away by Up. It was awesomely gratuitous and excessive in all the right ways. IT was random, crazy; brutal…features a narration by a naked nymph spouting shakesperianespue poetry explaining things that no one cares about. It just get wilder and wilder with every frame.

We followed that up with Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. Written by none other than Roger Ebert.  It’s a sequel  (in name only) to Valley of the Dolls about an all girl rock band that goes to tinsel town to make it,” only to fall victim to its decadence. The last half an hour was insane.

I sought out and watched his other work over the following weeks. Most notably Faster Pussycat Kill Kill. Meyer is mostly known for his fixation with large breast. And yes, every single flick of his I saw feature well endowed heroines. But his work was more than that. He used sex to satirize the generation’s rigid values and morality. Many times the women in his films were also strong and powerful; the whole Female Empowerment argument could be made. Whatever their artistic merits, Russ Meyer made his movie his way.

What strikes me most about Meyer today though is what a successful self-distributor he was. All through the 80’s and 90’s he made tons hocking his own movie from his own home and website. I hear even takes phone orders himself.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Film Fests: What Do I know?

Honestly not too much.

Both Monsters in the Woods and Trap will be my 1st real experiences with Film Fests. Hopefully over the coming months, I can write with a little more authority on the subject. My sold my first two features without ever entering a single festival. To be honest I did submit both, but they were both picked up before festival notification were even posted (they didn’t get in anyway.) I’ve never even actually been to a film fest. (well, I did go to a small one in Indianapolis right outta highschool. I don’t even remember the experience though (I did a lot of drugs and drinking back then)

From what I understand, regardless of your distribution plans, the biggest plus to having your movie screen in festivals is it builds not only a pedigree for your movie, but one for you as a filmmaker. Even if your flick doesn’t pick up any awards, just the festival leaves and an official selection of blah, blah, helps your movie’s distribution potential. It all give you a bit more clout as a filmmaker, makes it a bit easier to ask for money.  Even if you can’t get into the bigger festivals (and let’s face it, who can that’s not related to or sleeping with somebody that makes the calls?) being in the several little festivals can help too. And there are many reputable smaller festivals (or so I’m told)

The plan of attack for Monster in the Woods is to 1st hit up some of the bigger festivals with upcoming deadlines and then hit up as many reputable “smaller” fests as we can find and afford. When picking a fest, I search through the past years line up and look for similar movies to mine, at least in tone and genre. So of course we’re targeting horror themed festivals. But, I’d like to think that Monsters in the Woods as appeal beyond just the horror-centric festivals, so we’re submitting to others as well. I think so far, we’ve submitted Monsters to 9 fests. Including Toronto Independent, Fantastic Fest, Shriekfest, and Screamfest. There are others.

Trap seems to be a more festival friendly movie. (at least I hope so). I’m submitting it as much as I possibly can. So far I’ve submitted three festivals. The plan is to hit up one or two a month for the next 6 months.

Notifications for both movies start around June. 

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Another Saturday in the Life of A Low Budget Movie Maker

The days and months following a production wrap can be tedious. 
I really can't wait for the day when I can jump right onto a new project. I suppose the down time between each of my features has gotten shorter with each one, but still not short enough for my taste.

530 am up and adam. Off to work until 245pm. It was a hellatious day. I really felt beat at the end of it.

3pm My reel day begins. 1st up working on my director’s reel. I spent about an hour looking up other director’s reels on the net. Its good to see what others are up to.

4pm – 5pm. start completing footage from Trap; Edges of Darkness and Monsters in the Woods (don’t believe there’s anything usable from Rise of the Undead. It’s difficult looking through you work, searching for the best bytes. But, I think I found some good stuff.

I also need to work on my editor’s reel, but I’m going to save that for next week.
***when I got my new computer, I also got the full adobe creative suite along with some web building programs. I’ve decided to teach myself basic web-design. I need to be able to update sites and build up one for my resume and reel. I’m going to start on that tomorrow after Meaghan’s birthday brunch. Of course pausing for Meaghan’s birthday karaoke-Sunday night.  Who’s Meaghan? She’s my friend.

5pm – 6pm A little film fest research. Looking for Festivals for both Trap and Monsters in the Woods. Picked a few for both. Submitted Trap. Have to wait til Tuesday for Monsters. My goal is to submit 2 festivals a month for each through June or July. We’ll see how my finances hold up.
I’m going to a full post on submitting film fests and my opinions on it this week. So my 2 readers got that to look forward to.

7pm – 8pm. Have a beer. Watch last week’s episode of Justified. The show just keeps skirting being really good. IT flirts with it constantly, but hasn’t quite made it yet. But I keep watching.

9- 1030pm Burned a new Monsters in the Woods screener. Added some fixed shots and have been working on filling out the sound design. I wanted to make sure the dvd played all the way through with no troubles before sending it off to the next fest.

11pm - ???

Yeah, yeah. So I posted this at  512 on the day it supposedly chronicles. I guess that calls in to question all that as come before. Woah, like the Matrix and shit.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Will Edit for Food...

So, I’ve done a lot of different production jobs since graduating college. I even lived a few years off the production work alone with no other sources of income. But, time and again, I retreat back to a day job (coffee shop variety) while pursuing my own projects. I’ve gone back and forth like this for almost 10 years.

I’ve said time and time again, the starving artist shtick is kinda cool in your 20’s, but is a lot less so in your 30’s and probably down right sucks in your 40’s.

The past year, I’ve done almost no outside production work (save for my own movies and a few furniture commercial spots) and have lived almost solely from my day gig. I’m not ashamed of my job and I actually enjoy the work, however, I’m fast reaching a point in my life where I need more (especially financially). My student loans are at the forbearance and deferment limits (I already stretched that shit too far). I also have a rather large small business loan to pay back.  I took it out right after Katrina to buy my 1st editing system.

I’ve stretched kind of money I make slinging coffee to the max. I’ve been hesitant to seek more steady work in production or specifically as an editor (the area I’ve worked the most) because when I have worked steady as an editor, I really start to hate editing and filmmaking in general. I’m worried about burning out on the thing I love before I really get a chance to do it.

To be honest, maybe I’m just comfortable. Its easy to just go with what’s in front of you. Be it a day job or bad relationship (like how I worked that in) it’s easier to stay in a bad situation than to go and start over. It gets especially more difficult as you get older.

Anywho, I’ve put together a new resume today and am working on new director and editor reels, along with a webpage to host them. I’ve purused the job sites and plan to start seriously looking the 2nd I finish my reels, which should be Monday, barring any disasters.

So yeah, guess I’ll give editing for food a try.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Trap: What's up with that?

After Edges of Darkness finally hit the US in 2009, producer Robert Bravo and I had the opportunity to make Trap. By “opportunity” I mean we had a distributor (for legal reasons has to remain nameless) who provided us with a letter of intent to distribute, making Trap the 1st feature I ever started with guaranteed (or so I thought) distribution. Alls we had to do was make it and make it not suck.

I honestly don’t recall when I wrote Trap. It had to be sometime between the summer of 2008 and spring of 2009. It was most likely between January and March of 2009.  Edges of Darkness was finally getting out, and was actually getting some decent press. It seemed like a good time to do a follow-up.

I was determined not to repeat past mistakes:
1. Trying to hard to stretch beyond my budgets with set pieces too big in scope to pull off.
2. Rushing through the script.
3. Having too many characters.
4. Not spending enough time with the actors on set and in rehearsal.

I also wanted to do something different. I had made 2 movies prior; both were horror, both featured zombies. I decided to tackle something a little more dramatic and that took place in the “real” world. No supernatural beings or fantastical situations.

The original proposed budget for Trap of 4k. Yeah, it was small. (Trap is the cheapest ((money wise)) movie that I’ve ever shot). The script revolved around 3 main characters: An aging kidnapper, his younger partner and their teen victim. The drama was more character than action centered and it took place in one interior location. A small cabin. In the 1st draft we never leave the inside of the cabin. I finished the script and was pretty happy with it. It was definitely a step up from my previous work. We decided to go ahead with production.

I did 6 days of rehearsal with the 3 main actors, in different combinations. It was a really cool rehearsal experience for me. I think we did a lot of good work there. I had an especially good repartee with Alan Perada and Ashton Blanchard.

We shot over three weekends. The 1st was dedicated to the opening sequences and one later sequence which all take place outside of our main locale. About a month before shooting we decided to open the movie up a bit and created a new sequence that takes place outside of the cabin. The sequence involves Walter’s (the main character) daughter. It helped to further develop him and sets up his final scenes nicely. At the same time it gives the whole movie a bit more scope.

The 2nd two weekends were shot at the cabin (int) location. Then we did one more half day up in the Malibu hills. Our actual cabin was in Downtown Hollywood.****Also one final shot was picked up nearly a year later, an insert of a gagged Tennessee (done with a body double), but more on that later.

The shoot was 6 and half days and we got everything.

I started editing in the middle of June. I finished my cut around the middle of August (sound design and all).

We then take the movie to the fore mentioned distributor. You know, the one who guaranteed they were going to release it? Well, they didn’t. Turns out they objected rather strongly to the subject matter. Kinda funny seeing as they had the script for nearly six months. Anyway, they passed. No hard feelings. I’m not bitter.

The 2nd distributor we talked to I had contact with over Edges of Darkness. They just expressed interest a little late. They took a look at Trap and “loved it” “couldn’t wait to work with me.” “couldn’t believe what we pulled off at the budget.” I’m like, “Great how much will you give me for it?” They say “well… we can’t really sell this. No name actors. Not enough blood, sex and nudity.” Then with a straight face it’s suggested that I “cut creature scenes into Trap, making it a horror movie.” Trap was drama about a middle-aged kidnapper falling in love with his teenaged victim. How on earth do creatures figure into it? For a half day, I thought about it. Coming up with some half=baked From Dusk till Dawn-esque scenario, but quickly decided against it.***this very quickly became the inspiration for “Monsters in the Woods.”

Then more complications. My producer had a connection with music great Chubby Checker and he agreed to give us the use of one of his songs. Now, this took us a few months from his word to getting something on paper. In the meantime, we had stopped shopping the movie. It was around mid-December when we finally got it on paper.

We decided to wait till the 1st of the year 2010 to start sending out screeners. About the 2nd week of January we get an email from someone connected to the Chubby Checker song. Turns out we had the duplication, but not the synchronization rights to the song. In short, we either had to pay an amount we did not have or drop the song.
We chose the latter. Now we had to find a new song.

I put a temp song in from Cudacade

Somewhere in here we explored the option of self-distribution, but without the proper funding to back it, self-distribution is not such a hot idea. So we jumped into Monsters in the Woods.

Also, in my downtime in Monsters pre-production, I tooled around a bit more with the edit. I decided a needed an insert shot of Tennesse, bound and gagged inside of the bag. The girl I was seeing at the time bared a strong resemblance to Ashton, so I put her in the bag and grabbed the shot real quick outside my apartment.

Nearly 8 months later, as I’m editing Monsters in the Woods, Alonzo Jones cuts a blues album. I ask to take a listen, cuz I’m looking for some blues tracks for Monsters (I ended up taking two). One of the tracks also fits Trap perfect!

But, I’ve got exactly zero interest from the producers of Monsters in the Woods, to push Trap. So, now Trap is done. I can’t package it with Monsters in the Woods, but am sending out screeners to distributors and film festivals. I hope to garner some attention on the festival circuit later this year and catch some distributors eyes.

It’s a good flick. I’m really happy with how it turned out, and I’m eager to share it.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Crossing the Line

So I just read an interview on aintitcoolnews with director Jonathan Liebesman that contains a quote that I feel really sums up one of worst aspects of modern action filmmaking; ignoring the rules of classic filmmaking.

Liebesman: It's tough. I asked Paul Greengrass after I saw THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM at a DGA screening. I was like, "I'm amazed. I don't know what the fuck is going on, but I somehow know everything that's going on. How do you do that?" He was mysterious about it, but the truth is that if you care about the characters, the audience will read into the geography a lot. Because a lot of this is crosscutting lines; it doesn't obey geography too well. But if you care about the objectives of the characters, you'll understand, "Okay, he's going to dodge the tracer fire and run down that alley. When is he going to do it?" You're anticipating things. If you understand what the character wants, and you hope the character achieves that stuff, I think the geography matters a little less. If you look at BOURNE, a lot of it isn't geographically correct, but you follow because you know what he needs and is trying to do in each moment. It's the audience understanding what the character wants, hoping the character gets what he wants, understanding what stands in his way, and then watching the equation unfold. The more skillful you are at setting those things up, the less the geography matters.

Wow! Did he actually just use character development as an argument for lazy filmmaking? If we care about the characters we won't care if the geography makes sense? Isn't the way characters relate to each other and their environment (geographically speaking) important for us to buy these events? Isn't the confusion that created as a result of ignoring this geography a hinderance to us "caring about the characters?" 

Granted, I’ve not seen Battle: LA yet, and plan to soon. But I have seen Greengrass’ Borne Movies and yeah, they work in spite of the crappy shooting style, but imagine how much more effective these movies might have been with a little less frenetic editing and shooting. But, I suppose there’s an argument to be made as to why they work better because of it. I just don’t see it.

I don’t know. Maybe I’m just getting old. I’m sounding a lot like a curmudgeon. “Damn these kids, their shaky cams and fast editing!”

Monday, March 7, 2011

So I'm a Redundant Blogger....What!?

I just know I've posted almost this same blog before, but it here I go again. Cuz that's how I roll?

One of my hugest pet peeves is actors that don’t support their work.  I know several actors, some from my past works, some from others, who do absolutely nothing…I mean nothing to support the projects that they are in. Not so much as a single post on their Facebooks, twitters, ect... It also happens that these same actors haven’t worked much or at all since the projects I knew them on. Maybe they’re not proud of the work, or their performance or whatever. But its part of the job to support the work, like it or not. You sign on to a project, you see it through.  I’ve had to grit my teeth, smile and say not mean things about projects I worked on that are complete shit. But I do it. Damn, this turned into a bitter sounding rant.

Now of course there are a ton of indies that take a long time to get released. Some take years. People move on, or they simply don’t know how to promote themselves or the stuff they’re in. To these folks I say…IF YOU WANT TO MAKE IT. YOU BETTER LEARN.

Anyway, I’m not here to tear anyone down, instead I’ll build someone up.

 Lee Perkins is damn fine actor. He’s also a real cool guy who really knows how to network and promote himself. He doesn’t wait for the director, producer or studio to do the work. He finishes his work, and then he does his very best to support it. He had basically a cameo in Edges of Darkness, but he supported the shit outta it. More so than ANYONE else involved in that production, save for me and Annemarie. ****and I honestly don’t think Lee liked the movie very much. But that’s what’s so cool about him. He doesn’t judge the work. He just supports it as he sees fit. And the sheer volume of work he’s been offered is at least in part a testament to that, and to a larger extent because he’s a really good actor.

1st off it’s awesome to have him in your movie, cuz he’s good. But his work doesn’t stop there. Over the years, besides the promotion he’s done for my movies, he’s also given me great advice and pointed me in the right direction more than once. 

Sunday, March 6, 2011

EDGES OF DARKNESS: We were wrapped before that Mel Gibson joint was even announced.

Edges of Darkness was my 2nd feature as a writer/director. 

A lot of stuff happened in the few years between Rise of the Undead and Edges of Darkness. After ROTU was released I spent another year in New Orleans working on my writing skills(I finished 4 new screenplays that year). In January 2006 I relocated to Los Angeles in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

I spent most of 2006 shooting and editing projects for other low-budget productions, and completed another 4 screenplays. That summer I met Stephen Kayo, a fledgling producer who was looking to develop new projects. We worked for a few months on my script Moving Day, but the proposed budget was a little out of our grasp. Instead we decided to develop a lower budgeted horror project. It was originally intended to be an anthology, 3 separate tales of terror set against the backdrop of a zombie apocalypse. And I had killer title. “Edges of Darkness.” Each story would be written and directed by a different director. I quickly wrote mine. My roommate and best friend Blaine Cade was slated to do the 2nd (we worked on Rise of the Undead together) and Lola Wallace was going to do the 3rd. Lola and I had previously worked together on her feature debut “Legend of the Sandsquatch.” Lola and Blaine finished their scripts. Stephen and I started pre-production.  Principle photography was set to start in January of 2007.

A week or two after Lola finished her script she got the opportunity to direct her 2nd feature and had to drop out of Edges. Stephen and I decided that I should write another segment to fill the void. With less than a month before production was slated to start, I finished the 3rd story and we sought out a new 3rd director. We did find someone, but  our creative difference were irreconcilable. About two weeks before production, tt was decided that I would direct the new segment. It was also around this time that Stephen started expressing concern about the anthological (is that a word?) nature of the project. He wanted to explore the idea of intercutting the stories into a single narrative. Since they all took place in the same apartment complex and shared many thematic elements, I thought it could work. Stephen also started expressing some concern over having 2 different directors. He was heavily leaning towards having me be the sole director. Blaine was a good friend and had written a cool story, I saw no reason at the time to replace him.

Stephen secured us a warehouse location. Inside, we would build our main apartment set. Stephen was headed up the construction, building most of it on his own with the help of a few friends. He also fully funded the feature on his own, with what I assume were personal funds. I was busy making alterations to the script in order to combine the 3 stories. Our plan was to shoot the bulk of the movie over 3 weekends. Shooting one segment per week with half-day pickups for exteriors and any other locations.

The 1st week we shot my first story, OVERBITE. It was the vampire couple and the young girl. Shoot went well. We got through all of our pages and were feeling very good about what he had captured. Stephen again expressed concern about Blaine directing, but backed off when I assured him Blaine would be fine. ****I must admit here, that I very much wanted to take over directing duties. I was starting to feel that this movie had the potential to be a big hit, an indie-darling, and I was hesitant to share the credit. But, I pushed these feelings aside and kept Blaine on.
The 2nd weekend of shooting was Blaine’s story. At the end of the 1st day we were drastically behind schedule and both Stephen and I weren’t exactly thrilled with some of the creative choices being made. The decision was made jointly by Stephen and I, that I would replace Blaine as director for the duration of the shoot and re-film crucial scenes that had already been shot. In retrospect, I see now that my reasons were selfish and ego driven. I wanted to be THE DIRECTOR. 

No matter what, the movie would still be flawed, but I believe now if we had just left Blaine be and let him complete his story his way it would have been better. But as it stands, I took over his production. The only things we left completely alone were the fx shots. 

Then the 3rd week was the anti-Christ story. Things went smoothly and we wrapped principle production of Edges of Darkness in the final week of January 2007.

I had spent all of 2006 working as a freelance editor and dp. I had no day job at the time. I gave up a bunch of work to complete Edges and by the time production wrapped, I was flat broke. I decided instead of going back to editing, I would work a day job. It just seemed too much to edit for others while editing my own feature. And at the time, I was convinced that “Edges of Darkness” was going to be my “Reservoir Dogs.” This movie was going to make me. ***yeah, it didn’t.

Post on it took FOREVER. First off the stories weren’t really written to go together, it took me months to figure out ways to combine these stories. Plus, I had to sling coffee 30+ hours a week to pay rent. I think I finished my 1st cut around May or June 2007. Stephen was showing signs of fatigue. He just didn’t seem to that into it anymore. I think now, he was the only one seeing the movie for what it was. I was still thinking it was going to be BIG.

We spent all that summer and fall working on the score. We went through 3 composers before finally landing Pakk. Stephen shopped the movie, but didn’t get the results he was looking for. Somewhere between finishing the score and me selling the movie to Shoreline, Stephen checked out. It was also somewhere in there that I began to really see the movie for what it was. It was not my big ticket. I submitted unsuccessfully to a few major film fests. One of which had sought me out. Then I started looking for distributors.

Shoreline Entertainment had come looking for me. I had done some pre-press for the movie. I guess they thought the movie looked like it could sell. Their acquisitions guy contacted me and we set up a meeting. I talked to a few other filmmakers that had sold their films to Shoreline and while they may not have gotten the best deals financially the company had a reputation of supporting filmmakers. “Edges of Darkness” was signed over to them in Early 2008.

I delivered the movie in March and April of 2008 and they started selling foreign territories right away. In late 2008 early 2009, Anchor Bay picked up the movie and released it June 6, 2009 (nearly 2 years after production).
I had already started prep on my next flick “Trap.”

 “Edges of Darkness” may not have turned out exactly how I had wanted, but it did pave the way for my subsequent movies. It also (not necessarily for me) made a lot of money. Given its budget, it was very successful.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

From Conception to Screen: Rise of the Undead

The path a movie takes from conception to distribution is rarely the same. “Rise of the Undead” (my 1st movie) was conceived in January of 2003. Shannon Hubbell and I were finishing up our senior years at the University of New Orleans and wanted to tackle our 1st feature. Neither of us was too interested in doing a short and Panasonic had just released the DVX 100 the previous year. It was the 1st prosumer camcorder to shoot 24p. We were convinced we could pull off the production and with this new camera have something that didn't look like cheap video. So we set about writing a script and planned to co-produce and direct the feature together, along with our other friend Brandon Maughon.

Our completed script, then titled “Shelter: A Monster Movie” came in at 65 pages. Its pretty common knowledge that one page of script translates to approximately one minute of screen time. The proposed run time for a feature is 90 minutes. But we went ahead with production anyway; figuring that it was a horror flick and the suspense beats would stretch the runtime. 

****the final edit came in around 80 mins, this included an extremely overlong opening credit sequence and an insanely, crazy-long closing crawl with so many crew credits (way more than half are fake) it rivals The Lord of the Rings special editions. (I actually copied many of the positions from Fellowship of the Rings)
There's probably only 65 to 70 minutes of actual movie.

The script was written with the super low budget in mind. It all took place in one location; a warehouse of some sort that would stand in for a government complex where 7 strangers would seek refuge from an ongoing apocalypse. We were still students at UNO and our initial plan was to shoot in the PAC (performing arts complex.) It was a huge three-story complex, which would make a lovely government complex and would add much production value to our little movie. We contacted the head of the film dept and he gave us a go ahead. We couldn't really afford to create a good monster, so I had a brainstorm. The creature in the movie would suck all the light out of the room whenever it appeared. I thought it was extremely clever at the time, and I did have some cool ideas from lighting bits and pieces of the action with cellphones, but in the mad rush of production these ideas never came to fruition. 

We begun casting with a few actors we knew. Christian Recile, Whitney Getz and Kyle Jemison were friends. We cast them both before auditions. Brandon Maughon was also cast as Jim. It was around this time that Shannon and I decided that the two of us should direct without Brandon. It was felt that he’d be too busy acting. Of course to be honest, we just didn’t want to split the credit. But Brandon was super cool about the whole thing and was content just acting and producing. The plan was Shannon would be in charge of the visuals and I would work with the actors.

I then approached Leonard Zanders about playing the role of Judge, I had seen him on stage in a UNO production of Glen Gary Glen Ross. He accepted the role.
Then we had auditions for the remaining few roles.  I can’t remember exactly where we posted but the turnouts were less than stellar. I think we had 5 roles to fill and 6 actors showed up. We had our cast.

I filled out the rest of our crew with friend and acquaintances from UNO.
Then about 2 weeks before production the head of the film dept got cold feet about us shooting in the PAC. We had to find a new place. A buddy of ours was in a band. They practiced in this 5-story self-storage facility. It was an old hotel that had been converted. The top 3 floors were rented out to bands for practice. IT was an awesome location. The bottom floors looked more industrial. The top floors looked desolate and the halls we’re capped with barred doors that looked really cool.
I talked the building manager into letting us shoot there at night. The storage place closed at 9pm. We’d have the run of the building from 9pm till 6am. The only catch was the noise from practicing bands. So we planned the shoot for weekdays. Most bands practiced on the weekends. This provided the Shelter production with one of its toughest problems.

“We’d get these great takes going, super charged eight cylinders, all pistons pumping, and then I ‘d start picking up some Billy Joel cover band in my head phones. I mean, I like Billy Joel and all, but come on man, Uptown Girl?"
Blaine Cade / Boom Operator

We had only two days to shoot the zombie sequence. These were perhaps the two most stressful days of my life. The sequence was broken up into two major scenes, with both crowd shots, and crosscutting action. We had the entire cast and crew, plus close to a hundred extras in full zombie make-up to deal with on both of the days. We had about an hour to get them all into make up, and two hours to get all the crowd shots. Then we had just less than five hours to finish the rest of the scene, because we had to be out of the location by dawn. I still don’t know how we did it.

The movie was wrapped after 5 days of principal photography.  We had one other half-day of pickups aprox. One month later. 
Once we wrapped production we actually found ourselves without an editing system to finish the movie. We started working on a friend’s system, but it became apparent after a few weeks that it wasn’t going to work out.

In December 2003, Shannon got a computer around Christmas. We then started work editing. It was his and my first time editing an entire feature. By February we were about 70% done. Then disaster! The motherboard crashed and we lost all of our edit files. We hadn’t backed up to an external! Yeah, duh! All the work was lost. After about a week of crying we started over, re-digitizing and editing. We finished the edit around May of 2004. Then we started looking for a composer. Four months and 3 composers later we locked post on “Shelter: A Monster Movie.” It was Sept. 2004.

During the composing period I had begun sending screeners to film festivals. I continued after the score was done. I submitted to an average of 2 fests a month through January 2005. We got in nowhere.
 Then in March 2005, I submitted the screener to half a dozen distributors. 2 never got back to me. 2 turned it down. 2 made offers!  That same month we delivered “Shelter: A Monster Movie” to York Entertainment that same month. They changed the title to “Rise of the Undead” to play up the zombie angle and released the movie in May 2005, right after my birthday.

I had this to say about then.

“What can I say about Shelter?  It is a monster movie.  It is also a throw back to the more ambiguous horror films of the 70’s.  Today in most horror movies, in most movies period, everything is completely spelled out. Filmmakers treat audiences like idiots.  We didn’t want to do that. We wanted to leave things open to interpretation.  But, at the same time, we wanted to make a kick-ass, fun horror flick.  In that, I hope we succeeded.”

Jason Horton Co-Director

That was my director’s statement from the film festival production notes.  It was an idiom I took even further in Edges of Darkness, and is something I’ve pulled back from a bit in later projects.

Rise of the Undead has actually sold pretty well for York. It’s available in many countries including the US. It received mixed reviews, eh who am I kidding they were pretty much universally bad. If you look hard you’ll find a couple of positive press reviews.
It’s still available on Netflix, and Amazon.

***Some of the timeline maybe a bit off, I’m writing from memory. I know for sure we shot in summer 2003 and it was released in May 2005. The inbetween is up for debate. But I think it’s all pretty close.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

What's Doing with Monsters in the Woods???

Well, short answer is it’s currently being submitted to Film Festivals. Notifications as to where it gets in start around March and April. In the meantime, there will be very little to update.

Initially the plan was to turn the movie around very quickly and sell to a smaller distributor. However, both the producers and I feel that the finished product could go much further and reach a much wider audience. Therefore we’re taking the time to run the film festival circuit in order to explore all possible avenues of distribution. As well as, using the extra time to fine tune the visual fx and score.

 In the past, I’ve sold my movies straight out to smaller distributors or sales agents. I think its time for a change and Monsters in the Woods will facilitate that change. I’ve never really submitted or attended film festivals with one of my own movies, and am looking forward to the experience. We are submitting to bigger fests as well as more specific horror fests.

I’ll post updates on it from time to time to let everyone know how it’s going.

Gone but Not Forgotten: Farscape

or reason 102 to be thankful for Netflix Instant.

Back in 2002 due in the midst of the its 3rd season a good friend of mine suggested I check out Farscape. I like sci-fi, so I  gave it go. I watched one episode. Farscape is definitely not a show to jump in the middle of. I was instantly lost and overwhelmed. There were many characters, few were human and the tone seemed all over the place. But I respected this friend’s opinion a lot, so I started over with season 1. I’m very glad I did.

At first glance Farscape is a riff on Buck Rogers. Both feature Astronaut lost in space. Both are fish outta water stories. And on a surface level, Ben Browder’s John Creighton is a little Gil Gerardian. But Farscape is a much more creative and morally complex. It’s a show where characters allegiances and true motives are constantly in question. It’s a show where the characters actions have real repercussions and consequences. Above all, it’s a wildly entertaining sci-fi, comedy, action, romance romp with performances spanning from solid to sublime.

The entire series is available on Netflix Instant and I’ve recently rewateched it from the get.

Season 1
The weakest of the series.  A few too many stand alones. But the solid action, assured humor and great chemistry between Creighton and Ayren Son is immediately apparent.
Season 2
Like Angel and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Farscape really starts to find its footing in the 2nd season. It’s especially neat to watch Browder’s performance as Creighton descends into madness.
Season 3
By season three Farascape was firing on all cylinders. It effortless switches between serious melodrama, broad comedy, breathless action and heady sci-fi sometimes in the same episodes.
Season 4
Beginning of the end. The 1st 2/3’s of the season rocks, but the last arc seems really rushed. They were trying hard to wrap the series up after sci-fi cancelled it. The cliffhanger ending was pretty cool, but had sci-fi not given them the mini-series wrap up, it would have been upsetting to say the least.

The Peacekeeper Wars
A fitting wrap up, but still suffers from the mad rush to wrap up all the loose ends. The show really could have used one more season to wrap things up proper, but at least we got this.