Monday, January 31, 2011

Bleedfest needs your help!

My good friends Elisabeth and Brenda Fies could use a little help:

HELP! We have less than 1 week to meet our financial goal. We need to meet our goal to SAVE BleedFest from folding. We're doing what we said we would by bringing you badass genre films directed, produced and written by women... in addition to honoring a badass awesome man each month. Do you need something else from us in order to assist us in our cause? Thank you in Advance for being a BleedFest HERO!

Check out all the great things Lis and Brenda are doing with their monthly indie film fest Bleedfest.

We are passionate about raising the visibility of indie genre movies by female filmmakers.

BleedFest Values: Empowerment, Partnership, Fun, Self-Expression

BleedFest fetes the women who love writing, producing, directing, and watching badass genre movies: horror, thriller, action, sci-fi, western, exploitation, B-movie, and erotica. We also screen a few male filmmakers who
have empowering and edgy female protagonists; their work screens out of competition and receives our "Partnership Award". Our mission is to spotlight these bold films and their fearless makers, and prove to the world that the derogatory term "chick flick" needs to be retired.

Sound good?  Then bounce on over to IndieGoGo and spread a little love their way to help keep the festival alive!

Many thanks!

Inside a color grading session

Stu Maschwitz, the amazing DV Rebel himself, has posted an incredibly illuminating vimeo clip of a recent color grading session, using his Colorista II plugin for After Effects and Final Cut.

Now the skeptic may say, "Hey, this is just one big demo to pitch his software", and while this may indeed be true, it overlooks the fact that Stu presents an amazing wealth of information on all things color.  And it happens to be free.  You not only get to see the toolset in action, but more importantly, Stu's thought process as he is grading.  And that is indeed priceless.

07 - Color Correcting Food with Magic Bullet Colorista II from Red Giant Software on Vimeo.

Just please folks, all I ask is that you promise me you will use this knowledge for good...

Not Orange and Teal!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Red State: Kevin Smith Discovers 21st Century Indie Filmmaking

As many of you may know, Kevin Smith recently completed his latest film, Red State, which he made for a reported $4 million outside of the studio system.  The film premiered at Sundance, after which Smith made a big to-do about auctioning off the distribution rights for his home-made horror flick right there - right then to the highest bidder.

If you are interested, check out the clips of Smith's often funny (and of course expletive drenched) rant from Sundance here:

and part 2 here:

Of course, the whole thing was really a big setup for Smith to proclaim a big F_You to the current distribution model and announce that he was going maintain ownership of his movie and self-distribute through a road-show style series of bookings at various venues throughout the country.  In filmmaking terminology, this is known as "four-walling" - traditionally a last-option tactic for a desperate filmmaker looking to get some exposure, or at best a way for an unsigned movie to try to find an audience.

The funniest thing to me is that Smith has basically come to the same conclusions that most indie filmmakers have today:  own your content, build your fanbase and self-distribute.  Welcome to 21st  century indie filmmaking, Kevin.

The problem is that someone like Smith has a tremendous advantage over someone just starting out in that he already is a known name brand and has a huge fan base that ironically was generated my the same marketing machine that he rails out against in his diatribe.  So, when he says things like, "We're going to distribute without any advertising costs.", he can get away with that because he already has 1.7 million rabid followers on Twitter.  And where did they come from?  From all the films he's made over the past 20 years.  And how did folks come to see those films?  From the same bloated, unimaginative marketing machine he now says is unneccessary.  And you know what?  He's right.

For him he's right.  Or say, Eli Roth.  Or the Cohen Brothers. Or any other writer/director who already has a fan-base he/she can sell to directly.  For the rest of us poor scrubs looking to work our way up - good luck.

So, the model for any indie filmmaker trying to make it today seems to be something like this:

- Build your skills.  Write and direct a number of shorts.  Figure out what works and what doesn't on a small-scale that won't wipe out your life savings.  If you're good enough to get into some festivals and have some favorable reviews, keep going.  If not, hey you can always make videos of kittens and boobies for YouTube.

- Build your fanbase.  Utilize Facebook, blogs, twitter, YouTube, etc to find and engage folks who seem to like your work.

- Develop your brand.  This is kinda huge in the long-run.  When I hear Kevin Smith is making a new film - I already know what I'm in for.  That doesn't mean all his films are the same, but that he has a certain worldview, a certain style that shows through in all his movies.  If you are all over the map in the type of movies you make (especially in the beginning) it will be harder to grow and maintain a fanbase.  After you're established, you can branch out more.

- Take your big shot.  Now it's time to step up and make a feature.  If you can, find financial backing through traditional investors, or crowd-sourcing sites like IndieGoGo and Kickstarter. Keep production costs low by leveraging digital technology - shoot on HDSLRs, or Red. You know your craft, you've built your fanbase and established your brand - now, put everything together into a great script THAT SOMEONE CAN ACTUALLY MARKET.  This is not the time for introspective, experimental filmmaking - unless you already have a fortune and can afford to live off a trust fund.  This is a project that will make or break you, so it better be something your existing fanbase as well as others will want to see.

- Make your deal.  Here is where I disagree with Kevin.  For someone just coming up in the ranks, if you are lucky enough to have a distributor approach you and actually want to drop $20 million to promote your film - EFF YEAH, you should take that deal.  Sure, you will sign your film away and will probably never see any profits, but the trade-off is well worth it because now that bloated, unimaginative marketing machine will spread your name (and brand) far and wide in ways that you could never do yourself.

Now, what happens if no distributor ever offers you a big deal (which will be the case for most everyone)?  Well, in that case, you will need to self-distribute through IndieFlix, Netflix, etc. and scrape by, hoping that you can slowly build your brand and fanbase to a point where you can eventually make money doing this.

- Make your next film.   Hopefully, that first feature was successful and since your name brand has hit the big stage, you can now maintain ownership of your movies and their distribution.  Utilize your fanbase as evangelists to market your next film for you.  EFF the traditional marketing and distribution models.  Keep costs low, own everything and develop a one-to-one or one-to-many model to get your movies directly to your fans.  You are now Kevin Smith.  Go and buy a hockey stick.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Golden Globes - quick hits

Some off-hand observations from an evening of Hollywood glitter and self congratulation.

First off, when you bring Ricky Gervais back a second time you really should know what you're getting yourself into.  Have a little thicker skin folks - these are jokes, 'mkay?

That being said, I doubt we'll see him next year.

His best line of the evening wasn't even directed to anyone in particular and was said right at the end, so many may have missed it:

"And finally, thank you to God for making me an atheist."

And now to my awards:

The Toughest Category goes to:

Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series Drama (and longest category title)
Steve Buscemi
Bryan Cranston
Michael C. Hall
Jon Hamm
Hugh Laurie
Wow, now that's a loaded category.  Any one of them could have easily taken the award and although I would have preferred Cranston, I was happy to see Buscemi bring it home.

The Who Knew He Owned a Tux award goes to:
Trent Reznor

Nice job rockin' the thin tie-look. 

The Most Inspirational award goes to: 
 Glee star Chris Colfer and his heartfelt speech:
"But mostly importantly [a thank you] to all the amazing kids that watch our show and that our show celebrates and are constantly told 'no' [by] people and environments and bullies at school, that they can't be who they are or can't have what they want because of who they are... Screw that, kids."

The Best Presenter award is awarded to:
Robert Downey - Hilarious, witty, bawdy and perfect timing as always.  Perhaps we just saw next year's presenter???

(Runners up - Steve Carell and Tina Fey)

The So Last Year's News award goes to:

Mad Men.  Sorry folks, no love this year - although I still love ya.

The Best Acceptance Speech award goes to:

(Tie)  David Fincher and Steve Buscemi.  Concise, well-thought, funny and to the point.  Well done, lads.

The OMG, is She Actually Wearing That award goes to:

January Jones... who knew?? 
Sorry, I guess that should be How is She Actually Wearing That...

(two-sided tape)

The Wish I Knew What He Said award goes to:
Paul Giamatti.  He got bleeped right away - then kept the censor's fingers trembling the rest of the way.  God, how I love that guy!

The Creepy-as-all-Hell-Laugh award goes to:
Natalie Portman, right after she delivered the line, "He totally wants to sleep with me...", she let out this weird snickering cackle, which made her punch-line very creepy indeed.

The Most Gratuitous Cutaway award goes to:
Brad & Angelina.  Besides being the butt of many of Gervais' zingers, there really was no reason to be seeing them every third cutaway.  Except of course that they are... Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.
Also, Jack Nicholson wasn't there.

The Hey, Could we Actually Hear From Someone Who Deserves It award goes to:
Lisa Cholodenko, the Writer/Director of award-winning The Kids are Alright had to stand mute as the producer yapped on and on and took all the glory.  Now, I know the award is officially given to the producer, but cripes, it is her movie, at least let her say something.

The Looking Like a Wax Figure award goes to:
Sadly, Sandra Bullock, who usually comes off so effortlessly beautiful and charming looked sad and a little waxen. Ouch.

And, finally the Biggest Winner award goes to:
The Social Network won for Best Director, Best Drama, Best Screenplay and Best Original Score.
Nice job to Mr. Fincher - he looks to be a lock for Oscar Night as well.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Devil - review with Horror Society

Well, after a year of blogging, I've decided to expand my radius a bit.  I'm now excited to announce that in addition to my usual ramblings here,  I will now be writing for one of the best horror sites out there - Horror Society!

So, check out my first review for Devil:

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Black Pit of Mental Illness... er Swan

Phew, let me take a breath for a sec.

That is one claustrophobic movie!

Endless smothering close-ups and from-behind tracking shots (Aronofsky loves these shots and used them to great effect in The Wrestler as well) and mirrors and reflections and non-stop black and white art direction and a feeling of inevitably falling off the edge and oh the anguish.

Let's see, how many mental illnesses did you catch?  I saw some bulemia, cutting, boundry issues with ma, a little OCD perhaps, some good ol' sexual repression and a huge whopping dose of psychosis and schizophrenia.  I sense a drinking game in the making!

It's kinda exhausting to have to see through someone's eyes when they're at complete frayed ends.

The last movie that was this psychically taxing was The Machinist.  What, you never saw The Machinist  You mean you never saw Christian Bale's attempt at bulemic method acting?
Anywho, that's another story for another day - suffice it to say that I hope both Bale and Portman got to go on nice long vacations in the warm sun and drink themselves silly and stuff themselves with chimichangas or somethin' after having finished these taxing movies.

As for The Black Swan, it is indeed a masterful ride, and between this movie and The Wrestler, Aronofsky proves he's got the chops to go from a heartfelt verité character study to a tightly controlled thriller.  And Natalie Portman is a shoe-in for an Oscar nod as she carries the entire burden of the film on her oh-so-fragile shoulders.


My only qualms with the movie are with its screenplay.  It's fairly obvious from the getgo that Portman's character has some real mental issues and therefore the viewer never really walks that tightrope of "is it reality, or is it in her head" that is so crucial to films like this.  Check out Rosemary's Baby or Jacob's Ladder if you want to see it done right.  I also would have like to have seen the movie be much braver and push even further into surreal territory a la Lost Highway or Mulholland Drive.  Or perhaps the relationship between Portman and her mother could have exploded into further revelations and madness.  To me, it just seemed like the movie was a one-note melody.

Ooof - anyway... time to cleanse the palate with something light and breezy.  Oh, I don't know, something like...
 Oh yeah - much better.  No mental anguish there...

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Miro Digital Arts - Shameless Plug Time

Well, now that the new year has rolled around it's time to roll up the sleeves and actually get back to work.  And speaking of work - I recently took a little time to spruce up the website for my editing business.

As you may know, while I quite enjoy rambling on this blog, and making short films, those things in no way actually pay the bills.  My real work is as an editor, and to be honest, work has slowed these past few years - hence the need to update the website and actually start (gasp) marketing myself.

So, here's my blatant marketing pitch:

When you have a moment, please check out my new website.  There you will see some of the work I do, and some of the projects I have recently completed.  I believe the work speaks for itself - documentary work that has aired on PBS's American Masters; corporate work for major companies such as Cisco, Old Navy and Skype; and independent films that have garnered multiple awards and have screened at festivals worldwide.

So if you, or anyone you know needs help editing a video, or has questions on how to finish their documentary, or how to get their indie film on Netflix, please drop by my website:

Ok - now back to your regularly scheduled rambling...