Monday, July 4, 2011

Celebrating our freedoms on July 4th

I just realized that the last three DVDs I watched the few days before the 4th of July were:

Fair Game (with Naomi Watts as Valerie Plame and Sean Penn as Joe Wilson), ...

All The President's Men (with Dustin Hoffman as Carl Bernstein and Robert Redford as Bob Woodward)...

Good Night Good Luck (with George Clooney as Fred Friendly and David Strathairn as Edward R. Murrow.

All are movies where citizens expose the dastardly deeds of those in power. All are true stories. All make me angry and also happy to be an American. Freedom of Press and Freedom of Speech are two of the greatest things worth celebrating today. The freedom to make movies that our government might not want made is another thing to celebrate.

By the way. I like Fair Game, but it's not the greatest movie. Cinematically it does nothing outrageously new or memorable. It's worth watching though, for it's good direction, solid performances and a story that's will hopefully remain the most historically significant aspect of the Bush presidency (that and the economic crash). 

All the President's Men, on the other hand, is one of the best movies ever made. Amazing acting, great subtle direction, brilliant screenwriting, mind blowing cinematography. Look for the amazing double focus shots using lenses that are able to find their focus in two places at once. Also look for what I consider one of the most amazing moments of film acting of all time: at one point there is a shot of Redford on the phone, the camera goes from a medium wide to a medium tight. As you watch you are caught up in the drama and suspense of the scene and you don't realize that the scene is seven minutes long. Seven minutes! Very few scenes in film that long even work, and here's a seven minute single shot of Redford. Definitely an under appreciated film actor. The film is worth watching over and over for many reasons... not the least of which is for its legitimately incredible and important story.

Good Night and Good Luck is also a very good movie. Shot in beautiful black and white it has a great ensemble cast, lead by the always outstanding Strathairn. The music is great. My seventeen year old son was the one who pulled it out to watch it. About halfway through I sat down with him and he asked, "Is this an independent film?" I said yes, and he said, "You can always tell because they never have any music." GNGL does have very good music, but it's used like source music. It's based on a story I've known about for years and have wanted to make a movie about for years, but Clooney beat me to it. That's a good name for my autobiography: Clooney Beat Me To It.

Help me out here, what are some other great Power to the People movies we could watch around the 4th?

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Ten steps plus one for indie film producer survival

I found this list at Truly Free Film and agree with it for the most part. Not everything on this list have I been able to do, but it's good advice (followed or not).

Ten Steps (Plus One) For How To Survive The Current Indie Producer Hell

I was talking to a comrade in the field a bit back, and mapped out this survival strategy for the exceedingly tough times that producing indie film is these days. See it’s simple, right? Just do these ten things (and then a little more) and you got it made (if you don’t have to actually earn a living that is!):
1) Cut all your budgets by 60% — but recognize your fee is going down by an even greater percentage;
2) Meet all the marketing, distribution, publicity, social network, widget & app designers, web strategy, & transmedia story world builders you can possibly meet, because “producing the marketing and distribution” of all your films under $4M has become part of the producer’s job description — but recognize that is going to be a major time-suck on your schedule;
3)Aggregate viable projects under $500K to build a new media distribution apparatus, recognizing the lack of fees and time suck involved — but that the low budget is required to experiment with new platforms with unproven financial models and a multitude is necessary to learn;
4)Continue to try to get one of 10 or so available slots for prestige specialized film budget over $10M so you can actually earn a fee, but recognize the odds are really really low that yours will be the one out of 500 or so that are competing with you;
5)Do everything you can to get a studio picture and/or television series since they are the only ways to legitimize yourself in the industry’s eyes, the quickest ways to promote your brand to potential new fans, and the most likely ways to earn enough money to sustain yourself;
6)Spend some time every day building your own audience and deepen their level of commitment to you by you giving back to them regularly — so that ultimately they will follow you and help promote your work, because you aren’t going to be doing it alone;
7) Find some other way to earn money on a regular basis since the film industry will remain unstable for a very long time and we all need to pay the bills;
8) Fight for affordable health care and education because if you have to go into substantial debt to pay for what should be available to all then you will never be able to consider a career in the arts to begin with or ever again;
9) Try to give back to a younger generation who are much different than you (other than their interest in film) because if things don’t make some substantial changes soon, their won’t be a film industry for you to work in either (i.e. we’ve all done the same things for too long and the system is broken and we don’t seem to know how to fix it) and besides, maybe you will learn something;
10) Keep your overhead as low as possible forever and ever and ever, as you will need to remain very flexible in the days and months to come.
Did I get the list right? What did I leave out? I mean, other than the obvious one of having a large fortune to squander. You do know that this is a quiz, right? I mean, I did leave some things off the list just because the internet likes top ten lists best. And of course because I want to test you. But really there was one, that I thought was obvious and is really why I have an energy to do any blogging or social networking whatsoever. It’s the most crucial if Indie Film will live:
If Indie Film is going to truly survive — and once again flourish –we all have to do everything we can to organize our community, to encourage participation, to share information.
Choose the culture you want.
Get on the bus. Please.
Thank you.