Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Blade Runner the Blu-ray Way - An Inspiration

So, since I'm sending out copies of Enter the Dark to film fests and some of them will accept Blu-ray as a screening format I realized it was time to get a Blu-ray burner.  And since my old friend Steve Jobs, in all his grandiose wisdom has decreed that storage is so 20th century and all data shall live on the cloud and therefore is not supporting Blu-ray in any real way, I was forced to get a big ol' clunky external Blu-ray burner.  So now I can burn discs, but guess what?

Can't play em back.  It kinda defeats the purpose of sending them to festivals if I can't tell if my Blu-ray disc is a beautiful, pristine Hi-Def version of my film or a blue-tinged coaster.

So there must be some sort of Blu-ray software player for the Mac right?


Effing Steve Jobs and his holier than thou bull$!++, ARE YOU FREAKIN' KIDDING ME??!?!

Ok, fine - so I start looking at Blu-ray players and realize that I can just get a PS3 and be able to not only play back Blu-ray discs, but waste a lot of time goofing off with video games as well.

Sounds like a good deal to me.

So I get the PS3, and after an hour or so of tinkering to get it working right I look around for a Blu-ray disc to play.

... uh...

...And just when I'm about to give myself a full face plant for being so stupid not to have a Blu-ray disc to play I remember that cool gift I got like two Christmases ago.

That's right, the big ol' 5 disc limited edition Voight-Kampff suitcase Blade Runner sooper dooper Blu-ray extravaganza.

Now when I originally got this, I immediately watched all the DVD extra features but sadly was unable to actually watch the HD version of the movie as I lacked the vitally important Blu-ray player.

So now I've got PS3 via HDMI, pushing 1080p into my Panny Plasma - welcome to the 21st century my friend...

And oh....  It looks so good.

 I can't tell you how many crappy copies I've seen of this film - director's cuts, original cuts, alternate cuts - VHS, DVD...  and now here is the effing industrial wasteland skyline of LA - and an amazing huge frigging eyeball with massive flameballs reflected in his gaze.

And the Tyrell Corp building... wow...

Yes, that is my jaw hitting the floor and I'm remembering what it was like to watch this on the big screen the first time...  It was so beautiful and effing cool, you just had to laugh.

Thank you Ridley.

You know when you have those moments, when you see or hear something that is so frigging amazing it makes you want to stop what you are doing and make some art - total inspiration.

And then there are other times when you see something so amazing and perfect you kinda go - well, what's the point?  I could never come close to that...

Shortly before Stevie Ray Vaughn's untimely tragic death, he played a series of concerts with Jeff Beck.  My buddy Charles and I went to see them at the Oakland Coliseum.  Now, we had seen Jeff Beck play with Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page a few years earlier (for the A.R.M.S. concert), and it was clear to everyone that Beck had blown everyone else off the stage.  The dude was that good (and still is to this day).  We had also seen Stevie play a couple of times and knew what to expect from the Texas guitar-slinger, so we were looking forward to a night of major fretburning.

Stevie came out and killed it - absolutely killed it.  It was like he was directly plugged into the source, receiving signals from elsewhere and he was just a conduit for perfect artistic expression.  He was that on.  I guess Jeff Beck played that night - I don't really remember.

Now at this time, Charles and I had both been dabbling on the guitar for a few years and we knew a few things.  I myself had spent a year or so picking up Stevie Ray chops and so I was very familiar with his ferocious, yet beautiful blues-based style.  But this was different.  He went further - so much further and left me with the feeling of, "why bother - I will never, ever be that good."

After the concert Charles was jacked up, "Wow, that was frigging amazing!!  I totally want to pick up my guitar right now and play!"  I was like, "Are you kidding, I never want to play again - why bother?"

Of course I did pick up the guitar again eventually - but I'll never forget that night.

A short while after that Charles and I went to see some new guitar-geek play at the Fillmore in San Francisco.  He was some dude who was getting a lot of buzz because he had taught a couple of high-profile guitar players, and his new album had just come out which sounded like a mad blend of Van Halen, ZZ-Top and Allan Holdsworth.

His name was Joe Satriani.
I was expecting to see a typical clinic of frenetic tapping, speed-picking and feedback-laced harmonic squeals.  What I saw was another amazing performance by an artist completely tapped in.  He had this whole Hendrix vibe that was totally unexpected.  Charles and I squeezed our way to the front to get a better view.  Everyone in the audience was a guitar geek and we were all staring at his left hand - soaking in the secrets to his incredible playing.

Something in my brain clicked.  A revelation.  I understood.

Charles and I left that night totally blown away.  I was like, "That was friggin amazing!  All that stuff he was doing - I could finally SEE what was going on!  I want to go pick up my guitar right now and play!"  Charles was like, "Why bother - I'll never be that good..."

That's just the way it happens sometimes...  One man's inspiration is another man's realization that he should put away his childish dreams in the presence of such pure talent.

As I sat there and watched the opening scenes of Blade Runner in all it's Hi-Def glory, I had one of those moments.  It made me want to pick up a camera.  I want to make a great sci-fi noir movie, bathed in light and shadow.  I want it to be breathtakingly beautiful and hauntingly sad.

Will it be as good as Blade Runner?  Probably not.  But just by trying, it could be better than most of the uninspired movies produced by Hollywood.  If I could somehow tap into the source that Stevie Ray and Joe and Ridley drew from, maybe someday someone will watch one of my movies and say "Damn! I wanna make something like that", while their buddy says, "Why bother... it'll never be that good."

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Enter the Dark news roundup

- Another festival! Enter the Dark is an official selection of the Thriller! Chiller! film festival in Grand Rapids, MI.

- Interview with Dead Harvey: 
It's a great short, engaging until the end and the twist ending really will catch you off guard.

 - Brutal as Hell review:
… a fun little fright flick that effectively showcases Miro’s filmmaking and editing abilities.

- HorrorNews.net review:
Enter the Dark is a clever, scary, fun piece that delivers with a punch and a cool ending.

- All Things Horror review:
… Enter the Dark proves once again a good ghost story simply needs to put emphasis on the story and not flashy effects or big budgets in order to provide some fun and scares.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Commune - a Netflix Success Story... sort of

Welcome to the exciting new world of indie film distribution - where everything is possible but nothing is real.  Where millions of people worldwide can view your cinematic vision, but very few will actually pay for it.  You can get lots of attention, your name splattered all over google search results, your efforts discussed on multiple websites - a sort of psuedo-celebrity, while you continually struggle to pay your bills and figure out how you can possibly justify the expense of making your next movie.

And that's if you're lucky...

The Commune, a fearless, original, and thought-provoking film made by my friend, Elisabeth Fies, and one that I edited and helped to produce was recently fortunate to be picked up by Netflix.  This, in and of itself is a huge accomplishment.  Most indie movies will never get this far. It took over a year of herculean effort by Lis and many others to get this done.  We first had to sign on with IndieFlix to act as our digital distributor.  They posted a page on their website that offers our movie as a DVD or a digital stream.  They also act as a liaison between us and Netflix, iTunes, Amazon and others.  If you submit your award-winning indie film to Netflix directly, too bad, they will just ignore it.  You have to go through a distributor - Netflix doesn't want to have to deal with hoards of indie filmmakers and their (mostly unmarketable) pet projects.  I can't say that I blame them.

So, IndieFlix makes their pitch to Netflix on your behalf and hopefully, if you're lucky, Netflix will say yes - well... sort of.  What happens is, if you're lucky enough to get chosen, Netflix sets up a dummy page on their site for your movie.  It lists the name, director, artwork, synopsis, etc - just like any other movie.  The only difference is that is will say "Availability Date Unknown".  You'll see this a lot on Netflix.

This is a kind of distribution purgatory.  You're in - but you're not.   You see, Netflix wants you to prove that there are enough interested folks out there just dying to see your movie before they will actually buy it from you.  You have to write-up your marketing strategy.  You have to show all your great reviews and how many people have "liked" you on your facebook page.  Most importantly you have to urge, plead and beg everyone you know (and everyone they know) to go to that Netflix page and put your movie in their queue.  And it would also be really cool if they could rate it (at least 3 stars - 4 is better).  And oh yeah, could you post a review as well.  And while you're there, please mark other people's reviews as "helpful".  Sounds like a lot of hoops to jump through?  It is.

And how many people must put your film in their queue before Netflix will buy it?

Beats me...

I never actually knew.  They would never give us a clear figure.  I can tell you that we were in the hundreds for months and nothing happened.  Until about a month ago when we hit some milestone, or we just came up on their list of available movies to purchase - I don't know, but we got that magic email that WE WERE IN!!!  They were going to buy from us, not their usual request of 50 DVDs, but an almost unheard of (for a little-known indie flick) 200 DVDs!  This was incredible.  This meant that all of our friends and fans had done a tremendous job of mercilessly banging on that Netflix page like a raving mob of fans rushing the gates at a Led Zeppelin concert.  A huge win for all of us.  This meant that anyone who wanted to see our film could now easily bop on over to Netflix, put that baby in their queue, and wait for the mailman to deliver our little bundle of cult-thriller joy right into their mailbox.

What a world we live in!

What is that you say?  How much money did we actually make in our Netflix deal?  Well...  that's where reality kinda smacks you in the face.  Let's just say that after IndieFlix gets their cut (they are acting as our distributor, so of course they get their take), Elisabeth was paid back just about enough to cover the costs of her original order of 1000 DVDs that she had replicated, printed and shrink-wrapped -  200 of which eventually found their way to Netflix.  So you could say that she got 800 DVDs for free.

As for return on investment of her production costs of actually making the movie...  Uh...

Here's where you can actually help.  Yes, you can go over to Netflix and put The Commune in your queue.  Eventually we will get some money from the amount of people who actually rent or stream it.  If you are even more interested in the movie however, an even better way to support indie filmmaking would be to go to our site www.thecommunemovie.com and buy a DVD from Lis directly. That s%@! is pure profit for her at this point and would start to make a dent in her considerable debt.

And that would mean that she could actually go out and make her next movie, providing even more though-provoking entertainment for us all.

And what a world that would be!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Lovecraft quote of the month

... I felt the strangling tendrils of a cancerous horror  whose roots reached into illimitable pasts and fathomless abysms of the night that broods beyond time.
- The Lurking Fear

C'mon, you gotta love it.  Who else would have the audacity to actually put that to paper.


Friday, September 3, 2010

Enter the Dark reviews!

The reviews come pouring in:

Planet of Terror
… wonderfully shot and acted and the twist ending was masterfully pulled off by filmmaker Todd Miro. It's definitely worth your time if you get a chance to see it.

Rogue Cinema
…a frightening little slice of haunted house cinema that easily stands on its own for a good old fashioned scare.

The Jaded Viewer
…I admit I got a little freaked out.

more to come...