Friday, April 30, 2010

The Story of Ink

If you are into visionary fantasy films, you owe it to yourself to check out indie cult favorite Ink.

From their website:
An 8-year-old becomes a pawn in a metaphysical war being fought between the forces of light and darkness in this visually outrageous indie thriller.

Kidnapped by a large, strange creature known as Ink, the girl is taken through a labyrinthine world of dream states while those who love her fight to bring her back into the real world and bring salvation to her desperate father.

Ink is one of the most ambitious indie films I have seen.  With a budget of around $250,000 filmmakers Jamin and Kiowa Winans have squeezed every penny of that mini-budget and put it up on the screen.

  watch trailer 1  |  watch trailer 2 visit website  

It completely sidesteps the usual hallmarks of low-budget filmmaking by including a large cast, many locations, superb fight scenes and amazing art direction.

You're just not supposed to bite off that much with so little budget and no studio backing - but thank goodness they did.

I especially loved the look of the Incubus (or is that Incubi??) with their ever-sneering projected faces:
(do I sense a little Dave McKean perhaps?)

Amazing as it is, the film is not perfect - the first act is somewhat confusing, the dialogue is a bit stilted at times and the editing unnecessarily frenetic in places.  Sounds like a typical Hollywood film. The micro-budget does inevitably show through in some scenes, but that is only because Jamin stubbornly refuses to be held back by commonsense notions of low-budget filmmaking.  Big kudos for pushing the envelope of what can be done!

As is so often the case these days, Ink is also a story about the trevails of independent filmmaking.  I particularly enjoyed reading their blog as they journey through the ever-changing sands of today's indie film world, while traditional distribution models crumble around them.  Ink had a film festival premiere, garnered great reviews (including Aint it Cool News, LA Times and Fangoria), amazing word of mouth, was theatrically released (by Jamin and Kiowa themselves) in Denver, New York and LA, their trailer was viewed hundreds of thousands of times, the movie itself ripped and dowloaded on bit torrent more than 500,000 times, was ranked as high as #16 on imdb, and had army of dedicated and passionate fans who clamored to see the film.

It also never was picked up by a distributor.

Refusing to sign with a distributor who at best might offer a small advance and retain all rights to their baby, and who at worst might just shelve the film, never to pay back a dime, Jamin and Kiowa made the inevitable decision to distribute the movie themselves.  In today's market that meant a combination of continuing to try to find independent theater owners who would screen it for them as well as the usual DVD and digital outlets - Netflix, iTunes, Blockbuster, and Amazon.

(For a more in-depth examination of the nuts-and-bolts aspects of indie filmmaking and distribution, take a listen to their Film Courage radio interview.)

Jamin and Kiowa make the case that the festival circuit of today is no longer a place to sell a film but an opportunity to launch a media blitz that may hopefully ultimately lead to paying back one's investors through self-distribution and a ton of hard work.  If these guys can't make it work, with their incredible film, dedicated fans and tireless work ethic, then the whole model of indie filmmaking is surely broken.

Please check out their work and if you enjoy it, support them by buying directly from their store where they will receive most of the profits.  Indie filmmakers like them can only survive by the continued support of people who actually buy their art and allow the artists the financial freedom to actually do their work for you, the viewer (more on this in a future post.)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The New Golden Age of Television

Interesting blog post by Keith Balmer about the cornucopia of amazing television shows in recent years. 

He echoes what I have been feeling - anyone who says there's nothing good on tv has been living with their head in the sand for the past ten years.

This is as good as it gets folks - set your DVRs, rent 'em from Netflix, catch 'em on Hulu - do yourself a favor and bask in the sunlight of this golden era of tv: Breaking Bad, Treme, The Pacific, Justified, Modern Family, Lost, Parenthood, and soon the new season of Mad Men.

This is by no means a definitive list, there are many other great shows out there.

And then go back and catch up on The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, Rescue Me, Deadwood, Dexter, Battlestar Gallactica, Rome, Brotherhood, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Generation Kill, Weeds, True Blood, and of course, The Wire.

You'll be glad you did...

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Film is dead

First of all, I love film.

In elementary school I was one of those AV monitor dorks who wheeled the projection equipment into your room and threaded the film whenever your teacher needed a break and forced you to watch that boring volcano documentary again.  I started shooting with Super-8 cameras as a 12-year old and spent many a long night gluing edits together in my dark, noxious-fume-laced-room.  I later finally got my hands on real 16mm equipment as a film major at S.F State.  We Cinema students scoffed at the broadcast arts department kids and their aesthetically inferior crappy-assed video cameras that they were forced to use.  Eventually as a professional video editor, I spent many long hours trying to make video look more like film (Cinelook anybody), but it never really got there.

With its slightly stuttering 24 frames per second, motion picture film suggested another reality altogether different from our own - a place to pour our ideas, our emotions. It was the medium of visual poetry, of dreams. Video on the other hand, presented the harsh, glossy reality of the now. The faster frame rate of 30 frames per second made it appear to our eyes to be a glance not of art, but of our own mediocre everyday reality.  Video was the realm of soap operas, of news, of live events.

I wanted to live in the filmic world of metaphor - of campfire tales and big-screen dreams. I fought the film battle long and hard, but you know, what?

It's over - film is dead!  Long live digital!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Spook Hunt Scene 4 Preview

Here's a scene 4 sneak peek preview (you'll just have to wait until the whole movie is finished to see the entire scene!)

Keep in mind that the audio has not been mixed yet and some shots are still kinda dark as there has been no color grading yet.

Best to watch at night with the lights out!

Spook Hunt Scene 4 Preview from Todd Miro on Vimeo.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Spook Hunt Scene 4 notes - the perils of microbudget filmmaking

It was 1:30 am Saturday morning.  We had just finished almost five hours of shooting.  Everyone else had gone home and I was transferring and backing up all the media to hard drives.  I pulled up a couple shots to see how they looked and my heart sank to the pit of my stomach.  There was practically nothing there - no usable image at all.  There just was not enough light.

 (Yep - that's my master shot - enough to make a grown man cry)

 (...and there's Charles' close-up Charles?  Charles? anybody there?)

Writer/Director Todd Miro was really pissed off that Producer/Prop Master Todd Miro had slacked on his duties.

This last shoot for Spook Hunt really hammered home to me how much I've been juggling on this project.  I've been wearing the multiple hats of:

Post Production Coordinator
Digital Media Wrangler
Sound Recordist
Production Manager
Craft Services
Set Design
Location Manager
Script Supervisor
Prop Master
Stunt Coordinator

Not to mention, running and maintaining my post-production business, Miro Digital Arts (finishing editing and sound mixing for the latest Goldman Prize videos), and oh yeah, being a father and husband too.

Something had to give - and it finally did Friday night.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

HP presents new iPad killer - Apple please take note

From Yahoo news:
Looking at the (purported) spec sheet, the Slate appears to have a series of enticing features that are missing on the iPad. There's the camera, of course, and we're not just talking one but two: a 3MP lens in back and a front-facing VGA camera for video conferencing. We've also got a single USB 2.0 port, an SD card reader, a "conventional" SIM tray for 3G networking, and HDMI-out video capabilities (not to mention 1080p playback) via the Slate's dock connector. (Each of these key points are highlighted on the leaked marketing sheet as an "HP advantage," by the way.)

Here's the link if the embed doesn't play full screen:

As an avid Apple user, I'm underwhelmed by the iPad as it exists today.  Hopefully this warning shot by HP over Apple's bow will get them to realize how important things like a camera, a USB port and SD card reader are.   I don't really care if the HP device is vapor-ware or not if it gets Apple to iPad v2 sooner.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Comedy Movies - time to take off the kid gloves!

I just recently saw Hot Tub Time Machine...

 ...yeah, that Hot Tub Time Machine, and trying my best to ignore the wash of teal and orange, I settled in for what I hoped would be a hilarious combination of Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure meets The Hangover.  I mean, the flick's got a great setup and John Cusack going for it - this should kick some funnybone ass.

Well, the movie is... ok.

And that's the problem.

So many of these comedies start with a good premise, some gifted actors and then they kinda go soft.  They hit you with a good line here, a promising development there, and then right when you're ready for the big laugh... they let up on the gas.

Let me be frank for a moment here.  Comedy shares a lot with Horror and Porn.  It's all about timing, tension and release.

It's really not rocket science.  Please, just give me some wacky characters, an engaging plot, but most of all...