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Posts Tagged ‘Red Camera’

I’ve just returned from a three week trip to the west coast of Ireland, Kerry County to be exact. Beautiful country. The weather was erratic, as I’m told it is at this time of year, including rain, snow, sun and heavy winds all changing within the hour. I was there to Line Produce a feature doc-dramedy entitled, “We’ll Always Have Dingle,”about filmmaking and film festivals in Dingle, Ireland, wrapped around recreated classic Hollywood films. Become a Dingle Doc Facebook Fan.

The project was produced and directed by Geoff Wonfor (“Beatles Anthology“) and produced by my good friend Diane Namm (“The Sacrifice” “Telemafia“) and Debbie Vandermeulen of Fusion Entertainment. The Irish crew was top notch, including DP Eugene O’Connor, AC Conor Kelly and Trevor Cunningham handling sound duties. The real surprise was the amazing assistance from a group of ten students from the Irish training program, FAS. All were enthusiastic and creative. We couldn’t have done the project without them.

For me, the highlight of the shoot was the day spent at Cuminole Beach on the Dingle Peninsula. Until recently, the peninsula was remote from modern influences and therefore, the language and traditions of the area have survived intact to a greater degree than in most of Ireland. This is evident by the local Irish news report on the production. (See it here, about nine minutes into the broadcast.) We were recreating a scene from David Lean’s 1970 film “Ryan’s Daughter” (which was originally filmed in the area). We couldn’t have asked for better weather and visibility. From the location you can see the Blasket Islands, including one that looks exactly like a giant man sleeping in the ocean. It really wasn’t difficult to understand how the Celtic myths and legends began in this part of Ireland.

Dingle is a gorgeous, small fish and farming village, rich with Celtic history and known for its pubs and friendly people. I met a bunch of American ex-pats and local artists, some to surely be life long friends. Unfortunately, because of the workload, I didn’t get to see much at the actual Dingle Film Festival, but was very impressed by the crowds of avid film lovers. It reminded me of the early days of the Sundance Film Festival.

I did get the opportunity to introduce our documentary film, “Houston We Have A Problem,” which played at the film festival. After the screening there were many discussions on the film and American energy policies at the pub. Amazing, how European audiences seem to get the film and understand the history of U.S domestic energy better then most Americans. I also sat on a panel for the RED camera. This seems to be the camera of choice for independent features in Ireland. “We’ll Always Have Dingle” was shot on the RED. I showed some RED clips that I produced through my company Unconventional Media for the EA video game, “Need for Speed:Undercover.”

After the exhausting eleven days of production, I traveled inland to Trelle, the industrial center of Kerry County. I presented a two day workshop on Line Producing/UPM and AD work for the FAS students. The students seemed real interested in the process of shooting film and television in the United States. Many comparisons were made to production in Ireland, but really, other then budgets, the differences are few. I passed around information about our OneOnOne Film Training program at the class conclusion.

My last night was spent in Cork, Ireland, a city on the southwest coast. The city reminded me of a small San Francisco, but with lots more history. I visited the birthplace of the amazing guitarist Rory Gallagher and an exhibit on Medieval life in that part of the country. At the end of the night, I ended up at a pub catering to foreigners with lots of loud Americans. At that moment, I wasn’t sure I was ready to leave and get back to all that.

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820-afidiff09_laurel_cs31This last week I’ve been in the editing bay cutting down the video we shot of the Conscious Entrepreneur Experience workshop presented by Kim Castle and W. Vito Montone of BrandU.  I previously wrote on this blog about the amazing experience, but as I look over the footage something new is resonating.  A discovery that the importance of any business is to give back and mentor the next generation.  That’s how good ideas stay fresh and grow.

I never thought about teaching, other then the occasional workshops that I lead for One on One Film Training or at the Maine Media Workshops (formerly the International Film and Video Workshops), but as I get older I’ve started to realize how much I enjoy the mentoring process.  Maybe it’s because my parents were teachers or that my children are now young adults and no longer require as much guidance, whatever the reason, I enjoy sharing the experiences that I’ve had in over twenty years in the film and television business.  Hell, it’s probably why I’m writing right now.

Lately, I’ve been asked to sit on some media panels and every time I’ve not only enjoyed the experience, I’ve walked away with new contacts and some bit of new information.  Last week, I was asked by the posthouse Secret Headquarters to share my experiences as a producer using the RED camera on “Need for Speed:Undercover” and the Panasonic 900 on the documentary “Houston We Have a Problem.”   Not only was the food great and the folks at Secret HQ terrific, but the other panelists Sandy Collora, Drew Brody and Mary Liz Thomson had so much to offer about their own experiences.

I had the same feeling a few weeks earlier when we premiered our documentary, “Houston We Have a Problem” on March 27th at AFI Dallas.  The film, directed by Nicole Torre of New Angle Media is about the Oil Barons, Wildcatters, and roughnecks and their long struggle to feed America’s ferocious oil appetite.  A real inside look into the energy culture and just how our country became so addicted to oil.  The good news is the city of Houston and many of the oil honchos believe we must go “Green” for a secure domestic energy future.  AFI Dallas posted an interview on Vimeo.  The film played very well with great reviews on KERA (local Dallas PBS station) and even on IMDB.  I was asked to be on a panel about documentaries and the changes with online media, joined by “Rock Prophecies” director John Chester and Pete Schuermann of “Haze;” monitored by online SpoutBlog writer Karina Longworth.  The end discussion grew sticky with what is considered fair use in docs.  Once again, I enjoyed participating and learned some new things, as well as met some great new contacts.

I was extremely disappointed that I couldn’t serve on the panel at NAB when I was asked by PixelHead Network for Promax.  They had interviewed me a few months back at a Cinema Innovators Event about  my company Unconventional Media and our commitment to New Media.  I’m not going to make it to NAB this year because of memorial plans for a recent family loss, but really would have loved to share my production  experiences with a larger crowd.

I know that there are a lot of people exploring a new career for themselves as a “Life Coach.”  I’m not interested in that and don’t see that as a fufilling role.  To be honest, I’m not convinced many of these other people (some friends) should take that role either.  However, if someone wants some guidance, I’m open to help.  Some folks don’t believe they have the time in their business to assist others.  I think they’re wrong.  There is an interview with Joe Sugarman on the upcoming BrandU DVD.  Joe created BluBlocker Sunglasses and ran JS&A (forerunner of  Sharper Image), a highly successful mail-order company in the 1980s, the largest supplier of innovative electronic products in the U.S.  He pioneered many of the sales and marketing techniques widely used today, as well as introduced household products like the calculator, cordless phones, and digital watches to the world.  He declares that the most important thing in a successful business is helping a fellow human being.  It’s not how we usually imagine business people thinking, but as my own production business grows, I’ve come to realize it is the only way to think.  I’ve always been into helping others, I thank cutting this BrandU DVD is helping me understand why.

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7thannualvesawards
Yesterday, the Visual Effects Society (VES) announced the nominees for the VES Awards and “Need for Speed:Undercover” was nominated in two categories, Outstanding Pre-Rendered Visuals in a Video Game and the one that truly reflects Unconventional Media’s work, Outstanding Real Time Visuals in a Video Game.  Directed by Joseph Hodges with cinematography by Jeff Seckendorf, Unconventional Media produced all the live action portions to the Electronic Arts release.

Much has been written about the blending of the live action and game animation (and the use of the RED camera) including Moviemaker Magazine, Moving Picture Magazine, LA Splash and American Cinematographer.

This is the 7th annual VES award ceremony recognizing outstanding visual effects in over a dozen categories of film, animation, television, commercials and video games. Comprised of more than 1,600 members in 17 countries, the Visual Effects Society is the entertainment industry’s only official trade organization representing the full breadth of visual effects practitioners including artists, technologists, model makers, educators, studio leaders, supervisors, PR/marketing specialists and producers in all areas of entertainment.

The award ceremony will take place on February 21, 2009 at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles.

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The amazing musical artist, once again known as, Prince has recently been quoted as saying, “the Gatekeepers must change.”  This was in reference to his frustration with the major labels and the creation of his own record label and his three upcoming, yes three, releases.  The man is prolific.  He’s got a new interactive website, www.lotusflow3r.com, that has some of his new music and soon will carry videos and idea blogs.  It really isn’t that different then what any musician can create on a MySpace site.  He and many musicians have found the Internet to be the best home for their personal creative visions.

There was an article a few days ago in the LA Times by Randy Lewis about music Industry A&R guys.  Don Gierson, a music label veteran that teaches A&R classes at the Musicians Institute in Los Angeles, believes that it is critical now to understand and learn how to anticipate trends and harness new technologies to better serve the artists.  Jeff Blue, another seasoned pro and teacher there is quoted as saying the music industry is “evolving – and devolving-and more and more artists have to be their own record label.”  The article goes on to state that the harsh reality today is that few record companies have the time, money or interest to nurture acts anymore.  As I posted in a recent blog, we all have to be our own distributors.

We’re hearing the same thing in the film and television industry.  A new webisode series, FilmFellas, showcases influential and emerging new filmmakers discussing the challenges of the new independent film scene.  The full screen HD tells the story, it looks fantastic (I’m guessing the RED), a viewing pleasure.  We’re not going to be looking at compressed video much longer on YouTube.

The FilmFella guys and the A&R guys at the Musicians Institute are mentoring us all in how the Internet is changing entertainment.  I try to do this with this blog and the courses I teach at the Maine Media Workshops and with Jeff Seckendorf at One on One Film Training.  As the studios and record labels get bought up by congloms like Time Warner, News Corp., Disney, Viacom and Sony, we’re all discovering that we don’t need them anymore.

Well, okay we still need them financially, but hopefully not for long.  It still seems like the only way to make any money for your Internet projects is through sponsorships and advertising banners.  In these economic times, that money is not readily available.  Look at www.Hulu.com.  It’s television on the Web, with advertising.  It’s a great source for finding a television show or episode we may have missed, but at this point, no one is making any money from the convenience.  Which brings me to the potential SAG strike.  Because of all my actor friends, I promised myself I would stay out of that mess, but as I see traditional production slow down with the talk of another strike, I feel I must speak out.

I’m pro-union, a proud DGA member and certainly believe there are issues that need better resolution in the current contracts.  One of the biggest is how money is to be disseminated to the creative parties when projects are produced for the Internet.  The problem is, at this point in time, the Internet is a creative playground, but few are making any money including the big studios.  I think the WGA and DGA and even AFTRA were wise to table Internet discussions until the next contract meetings.  SAG should do the same.

Now is not the time to strike.  Too many other non-actors in this business will be affected, including Unconventional Media.  Few have recovered economically from the Writer’s strike.  SAG needs to work out their divisions within their own union first.  It’s getting ugly, according to the January 12th, Hollywood Reporter, SAG board member Frances Fisher (Mother in “Titanic“) distributed an email suggesting that SAG members use their upcoming SAG Award ballots to punish nominated actors — including Alec Baldwin, Steve Carell and Sally Field — who have advocated abandoning the strike-authorization vote.  Making it political, not about acting performance – for the SAG Awards.  Come on!  That’s just one example, it’s really become civil war.  Unify first please, before you put everyone out of work.

SAG needs to work with all of the other union members to get through these tough economic times instead of making them tougher.  Don’t sink the ship, Mama!  Go to www.nosagstrike.com for more information or go to the SAG website for SAG’s MembershipFirst side on authorizing the strike.

I agree that the Gatekeepers must change, let’s just be responsible and know what those changes really are going to be first.  As Tina Fey warned on The Golden Globe Awards last night, “there’s this thing called the Internet…”  It’s still in development.  I don’t believe you should set the rules before you know if the actual experiment worked.

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nfs_maggie_in_hotel_2Nice Article on the Need for Speed: Undercover in LA Splash magazine.

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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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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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