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Archive for November, 2008

It’s close to Thanksgiving, but I’m not thankful, I’m distracted.  I’m “reworking” the budget for my script “Press>Play” from 3.5 million down to 1 million.  “Press>Play,” is an erotic journey of obsession, a drama about manipulation. Paul Beck is a video vulture, exaggerates news stories, edits images and facts to generate entertainment. Vivian DeBeche is an aspiring actress with little talent, playing out roles from old movies. A modern day couple that communicates, emotional and sexually, using a camera and Internet voyeurism as their tools.  I wrote the first draft in 1990.  At that time it was more science fiction, then slice of life.  Check out the website, PressPlayMovie.com.

When talking about new media and unconventional films, I think this project fits the bill.  So does the producer at Blue Horseshoe Productions, just not at 3.5 million, not in today’s economy, not if you’re making a non-genre independent film.  I’m sure you’ve heard the stories, they’re grim.  Seems every day there is another article in the Hollywood Reporter or Variety about the economy taking it’s toll on making independent films.  In the Sunday, November 23rd issue of the Los Angeles Times, Rachel Abramowitz writes how as funding gets scarce, filmmakers must become more creative.  Last week at the American Film Market (AFM) everyone looked dazed and disappointed.  Few people were buying.  I guess this talk of how difficult it has become to sell an indie film started with CEO of The Film Department (and former President of Miramax) Mark Gill’s now famous “the sky is falling” speech at the Los Angeles Film FestivalIndiewire still has it posted up on their website.  Basically, Gill lists Paramount folding Paramount Vantage, Warner Brothers closing Warner Independent Pictures and Picturehouse, many other smaller companies laying off employees or closing their doors as just a small sampling of the dying breath of indie film.  The glut of films and high costs of advertising are also destroying the business.  In a world with too many choices, companies can’t risk the marketing money on most movies.  Now, the credit crunch has further squeezed the independent filmmaker.  Many banks have just stopped giving money to films.

So what is someone that has a project like my feature, “Press>Play” to do.  Well, one of the things Gill believes has hurt independent movies is all the other forms of alternative entertainment that exist today, iPods to Xboxes to Tivos to YouTube videos and excellent cable television shows.  Well, isn’t that the Unconventional Media mantra.  If we can’t beat them, let’s join them.  That’s what makes a film like “Press>Play” so perfect for this day and age.  It’s a film that uses these alternatives as part of its story.  We will also use this new media to promote and distribute.  It just won’t be made in Los Angeles because there are no financial incentives like there are in most of the other States.  As I chip away at the budget, I’ve got to make a bunch of compromises, location being one of the first.  It’s depressing, but I want to see the film get made.

In the October 30 issue of indiewire, Anthony Kaufman writes about the cash crunch and the difficulty of raising funds, but some producers are still getting movies made, and new financiers have appeared.  He believes the real problem is in distribution.  There just aren’t as many places to go anymore and the distributors that do still exist are being very careful.  That’s what I was seeing at AFM.  No risk taking.  And why should they, not when it takes a huge publicity and advertising budget, sometimes more then it cost to make the movie, to get seats filled in a theater.  Certainly, the distribution strategy can’t be that your film is going to win at Sundance and then get picked up, because even some of the winners are not playing theatrically anymore.  Independent distributors are even promoting the idea that getting your feature film on the Internet is better for your film then a theatrical run.  Yikes, how can our investors make their money back?

Mark Gill believes “if you decide to make a movie budgeted under $10 million on your own tomorrow, you have a 99.9% chance of failure.”  Thankfully, Stacy Parks offers some more positive solutions through her terrific organization, Film Specific.  It is her belief that any budget over 5 million needs a name attached and studio backing, so keep the budget low and hire up and coming actors, terrific, future names.  In fact if you’re lucky, maybe they’ll be a name by the time your film is completed.  I found it interesting that she warns against shooting DV tape because of the difficulty to sell the film overseas.  An Independent film has such a slim chance of success without global sales, so this is important information.  As indicated in previous posts, I’ve become a huge proponent of the RED camera which I think may change up these odds and still keep the budget low.

Parks also warns against inflated numbers, keep the sales projections realistic.  It is very unlikely that your independent film will make millions, so don’t lie to your investors.  You just want to show that the film will make a profit.  This can be done by finding niche markets on-line and elsewhere.  If you want to do the work, you can also self distribute, which has a much better chance of higher return.  I’ve been experimenting with this idea recently with my short film, Travelin’ Trains.  Searching out the other train websites, fansites, etc and leaving a link to the website for my film.  It seems to be working.  I think Arin Crumley and Susan Buice did this brilliantly with their Slamdance feature film winner, “Four Eyed Monsters.”  They showed the film at festivals, created websites, even edited the film into webisodes for YouTube.  Their experience is really a how-to on self distribution, too bad they didn’t make much money.

So I’m now back to reworking the budget.  It’s a lot of work.  I guess Mark Gill is right, “it’s not enough to have access to the moviemaking process. Talent matters more.”  I’ve had great reactions to the screenplay, many envision a good film.  Now, if I could only get the damn thing made and seen, it will be worth the 18 years I’ve spent developing the project.

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Need for Speed:Undercover from Electronic Arts (EA) is finally available at retail stores in North America and on November 21 in Europe.  The live action in-game movies were produced by Eric Mofford and directed by Joseph Hodges for Unconventional Media.  In the game, the player is recruited by Federal Agent Chase Linh, played by Maggie Q (Mission Impossible III and Live Free or Die Hard), to go undercover and infiltrate and takedown a ruthless international crime syndicate. Posing as a wheelman, the player will be required to prove themselves by completing jobs, racing through speedways, dodging cops and chasing rivals.

The production (especially the use of the RED camera) has been covered in such magazines as American Cinematographer, MovieMaker and Moving Pictures.  Filmed at the end of May and early June, the buzz and anticipation of the game first started in August with the Teaser and the “Which Road To Take” website.  Discussions. forums and updates at such sites as NFSunlimited.net have only helped fuel the excitement.

Need for Speed Undercover has been getting strong reviews, including IGN magazine, as an action-packed story of pursuit and betrayal that takes players back to the “Need for Speed” roots with break-neck cop chases, spectacular highway battles and an expansive open-world.  The game also features its signature real-world damage and car customization for over 55 of the hottest licensed vehicles including the Mercedes-Benz SL65 AMG, Audi R8, Porsche 911 GT2 and the all-new unreleased 2009 Nissan 370Z.

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There is an interview with me on Unconventional Media and the production of “Need for Speed: Undercover” online for MovieMaker magazine.  Click on the magazine link.  We also talk about the RED camera and upcoming projects including the Paraplex in New Orleans and the feature film “Press>Play.”

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So I’m finally recovering from a crazy Halloween and post election euphoria.  I spent Halloween in New Orleans which has become almost as big an attraction for the city as Mardi Gras.  I was there to finalize my partnership with Dr. Larry Montz and Daena Smoller of the International Society for Paranormal Research (ISPR) and begin film and video productions for the upcoming new attraction, the PARAPLEX.  We got lots of great press about the visit from New Orleans Magazine and NewOrleans.com

The PARAPLEX will open in early 2009 inside a 3-story and 14,000 square foot ‘haunted mortuary’ at 4800 Canal Street, three miles from the Quarter.  The PARAPLEX will be the world’s first 24/7 Interactive Paranormal Complex combining a high-technology observatory & lab (with over 40 cameras), static and interactive exhibits, a screening room running films when not in use for workshops, classes and presentations.  Exhibits include the history of ghost sightings, history of paranormal groups in the United States including psychics and seances, a ghost simulation experience, faux hauntings exposed, and many others.  I think it’s the first of it’s kind, a scientific museum and research center on Paranormal activities.

Right now, the PARAPLEX building is being used as The Haunted Mortuary which is one of the scariest “haunted house” attractions I’ve ever seen, and I went through it in the daytime!  A mini-PARAPLEX, the PARAPLEX ANNEX is open at 718 Orleans in the French Quarter.  This is what I came to see and it was great.  The PARAPLEX ANNEX offers free admission to see cool individual items on display from huge paranormal exhibits that will be installed at the PARAPLEX.  You can even catch great video screened inside of raw real paranormal investigation footage!

The PARAPLEX Annex also offers an amazing line-up of brand new paranormal reality events and a special tour, including:

PARAPSYCHOLOGY EXPEDITIONS – The cousin to the world-famous Ghost Expeditions that created a ghost hunter / ghost hunting pop phenom around the world, and based on the works of the most progressive parapsychologists over the last 100+ years, you get to participate in real paranormal field research at and inside actively haunted properties with some baseline psi testing, equipment provided.

PSYCHIC BOOT CAMP – Based on the reality TV series ISPR and I have been developing, you not only learn and use any clairvoyant abilities you may have, but you’ll learn about and the ‘how-to’s’ of psychic criminology, remote viewing and psychometry all while using the French Quarter as boot camp.  It’s perfect for the psi-curious all the way to the practicing clairvoyant who wants to flex their psychic muscles in the field.  Conducted by accomplished and professional clairvoyants.

UFO & GHOST HUNTERS NIGHTTIME SWAMP INVESTIGATIONS
This one gets spooky!  Whether you’re more interested in what’s flying overhead or what’s roaming the ground and on the water!  The tour I was on had more then a few alligators snapping around.  After leaving the Annex in the Quarter, you explore the Honey Island Swamps at night with certified captains and actually dock at a private beach near original American Indian burial sites.

The one I’m most excited to see presented, but it wasn’t running Halloween weekend:

ANNE RICE’S VAMPIRES & OTHER SUPERNATURAL BEINGS TOUR
Direct from Anne Rice…all the cool stuff she wants you to know!  It’s a tour that can’t be duplicated elsewhere because it comes from true behind the scenes events and knowledge that only those close to Ann Rice would know, it should be a fan favorite!  Especially in conjunction with the PARAPLEX which will be running an exhibit donated by Anne Rice featuring her famous vampire characters, doll collection, and original writings.

It’s going to be very cool to be a part of this new experience in the city that doesn’t quit, New Orleans.  At this time I’m looking for any old personal films or videos that anyone may have that show paranormal activity.  If you have something you’d like me to consider playing at the PARAPLEX or want it to be reviewed by a paranormal team, send me an email.  Who knows what kind of television, new media or even video games this is all going to lead into.  Should be fun!

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A quick follow up to the previous blog about webisodes.  I just started watching a series that went up in April that I think is outstanding.  “2009 A True Story”

The story is from two different perspectives, a young woman who has just recently moved to Los Angeles and her brother, a soldier stationed at Fort Irwin.  Martial Law has been declared because of a recent attack on Congress.  The future story seems very real, especially with a John McCain presidency.  Filming devices are incorporated to give the story some interesting visuals but also to give the series a real dramatic tension.  Extremely well done on a tight budget.  This is just another example of how good writing and smart creativity can make webisodes entertaining.

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