Saturday, December 14, 2013

Sci-Fi Trailers and End of The Year Notes

 I am going to be closing out the year with this post. I have a trailer that I really like and I would love to do an interview with the film maker, but there is a language barrier. The trailer and the behind the scenes footage are also foreign language, but I had no problem enjoying it so I am posting it. This film reminded me of Goonies. It is low budget and I hope that this film gets completed. Working with kids can be tricky, but these kids seem like a group of little superstars.

This film falls into my series of post on sci-fi film making. So here is the trailer for “La Esfera" The Sphere, plus a few extras. On the youtube videos you can hit the subtitle button and then change captions to English.

LA ESFERA (The Sphere, 2014) - Official Teaser Trailer from La Esfera on Vimeo.


 If you liked the trailer then please take a moment to share it. Not this entire post, but share the trailer. The trailer has been out a month. It only has a hundred or so views and a movie does not get seen if no one knows about it. Now to two films that do not need any help with social media, but I am going to go big budget anyway. I love Godzilla movies. If I ever become a big time film maker I will beg to do a Japanese monster movie because I know that they can be done much better. The first trailer is a second bite of the apple for the studios at this subject. The first big budget Godzilla film was terrible in every way imaginable. This one looks pretty good.

Last up for today is the return to film making of the guys behind the Matrix trilogy. Did I say guys? Lana and Andy Wachowski have made a big budget sci-fi film titled Jupiter Ascending.


 That will be it for today and probably the year 2013. Thank you for visiting my site and remember to share The Sphere Trailer. Pin it and share it on Twitter and your Facebook. Good luck with your digital films. Film Making is not easy, but it is fun.

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Monday, December 9, 2013

Sci-fi Film Making, The Arrowhead Interview

This post will continue my series on sci-fi and low budget film making. The more I learn about how so many film makers are shoot more and more films in this genre the more I believe that someone is going to break out of the pact and we are going to see a low budget blockbuster in the same way that we witness the Blair Witch project catch fire almost fifteen years ago. Think about it this way. Producing a film that can have within it CGI that could rival that of the major studios can be done right now on a micro budget. We are at a point where the only things that are holding the low budget world back is ambition and execution.

Right now I would like to share my interview with the producer of what will be the feature length version of Arrowhead.  I would like to thank Eric for taking the time to do this interview with in the middle of a Kickstarter campaign.  The short film version of what is to come cost less than seven hundred dollars to produce.  Most Hollywood productions spend more on coffee in a day.
This is my full interview with the executive producer of the film Eric Machiela.    
You can find their crowdfunding page at this link.       

Q)  There is a growing trend in the low to micro budget film world toward shooting sci-fi features. How long have you been planning to make to shoot this film?

A) There was a time when sci-fi movies were either backyard VHS fan films or multimillion dollar blockbusters. Today the technology is so much more affordable that everyone’s able to create at a much more professional level. It makes sense that the kind of film geeks interested and crazy enough to push and play with this new technology would want to create in the same genre they loved growing up. For me the Arrowhead journey started around four years ago, but it’s really an accumulation of all the sci-fi movies and comic books I consumed as a kid. Now it’s more about making good sci-fi than it ever has been, because there’s so much competition.

Q) I forgot to ask the most obvious question. What is the film about?

A) The short answer is that it tells the story of a mercenary stranded on a desert planet, battling a mysterious creature with only a computer to keep him company. But on another level it’s about imprisonment, isolation, and what it means to be a ‘good’ person. Those are some heavy themes so we’re hoping that wrapping it all up in a colourful and exciting package will soften but at the same time reinforce them.

Q)  Back in the late seventies / early eighties Australia started a revolution in post- apocalyptic road movies. You are the second film maker from your part of the globe that is attempting a sci-fi film on a low budget. Is it hard mounting a sci-fi film there through whatever studio system exist there?

A) There is a ‘studio’ system in Australia, although it’s a government funded film commission that we’re essentially bypassing because we’re involved with a subscription television channel. So I suppose the experience of pitching to a channel, being funded by them and then having to deliver a product for them to distribute is similar to the American studio process, but it’s all gone so smoothly that I can’t really say I’ve really experienced what it’s like to navigate through any system. We’re very lucky in that regard. If I had gone with the government model, based on history I think I would have had a hard time getting a science fiction project off the ground, certainly this project because of its scope. What we’re doing is a big risk on paper, as I imagine a lot of other less fortunate projects are, so it’s no wonder a lot of people attempt getting their movies off the ground using less traditional methods. And if Arrowhead’s journey in any way resembles part of another new wave like the one Australia had in the 70s and 80s, then I’ll feel like we’ve achieved something really special.

Q) The one question that every beginning film maker seems to ask no matter the size and or scope of the production is. What camera or cameras are you planning on shooting the film with? If you had an unlimited budget would your choices be different?

A) We’re shooting Arrowhead on the RED Epic, which is what they used to shoot The Hobbit, Thor: The Dark World, Pacific Rim, and countless other amazing looking productions. If I had an unlimited budget, I’d like to say I’d use 35mm film simply because of my love of classic films shot on celluloid, and to keep that tradition alive. But in the digital realm RED is the gold standard, and the end product is arguably no different. The movie’s going to look stunning thanks to these amazing cameras.

Q) When most hear sci-fi film they think special effect. I on the other hand think sound. From Forbidden Planet to Star Wars, to Alien, to Pitch Black I remember the smooth sound of those films. How important is recording quality audio going to be?

A) Sound is just as important as image, which is easy to forget because you can’t see it. You can’t put good sound on a poster. So our sound designers, location recordist and composer are all going to be working very closely together in the same way I’ll be working closely with the production designer, cinematographer and effects artists. We’re creating a desert world that has to sound unique but also has to generate a certain aural tone. The fact that our main character is alone most of the time means that filling that silence is even more important.

Q) What do you think of the state of sci-fi films and television these day?

A) In a lot of ways there’s never been a better time for sci-fi. We’re able to go and see several mega-budgeted sci-fi films on the big screen every year, so we’re very lucky. For every E.T. there was always a Mac and Me, so even though I believe the best stuff came from that 70s/80s period, it’s not like everything back then was great. These days I think the highs aren’t as good as they used to be, but the overall quality is more consistent. I’m a little put off by all the CGI saturation in everything, and the idea that sequels have to be bigger and more explodey is starting to get on my nerves. I’m a little tired of cities being destroyed in every summer blockbuster’s third act, so I’m hoping the trend will start to shift back again. Whether now is a good time to enter the game is another question, but there’s certainly enough inspiration to draw from.

Q)  I guess that I should ask a few FX questions. Will this film feature a great deal of CGI or are you going to do a lot of practical FX?

A) We’re trying to base a lot of what happens in the movie on what skills we already have. That’s why you saw a lot of digital matte paintings (alien horizons, planets in the sky) in the short film. That’s within our skill set, so we’re embracing that again. There won’t be a lot of heavy CGI, partly because of budgetary reasons but honestly mostly because we embrace practical over digital with a strong passion. Anything that we can do in camera will be done - digital extensions will only happen if they’re completely necessary. When Kye encounters the creature, for example, it’ll be a real creation that will exist on set and that can be lit and interacted with for real. There’s not enough of this happening anymore.

Q) Are you doing the effects work yourself or are you going to outsource this work?

A) If we’re talking digital effects, we’re anticipating 80% of the work will be done within our existing team (myself, our editor and VFX artists), and 20% will be outsourced. We’re completely outsourcing our effects makeup and creature creation, because it’s something we haven’t personally done. The challenge as a director is making sure all of these diverse methods and elements come together to form a consistent whole.

Q) Part of the fun of being an indie film maker is inventing new ways to get things done. To get the most production value out of the least amount of money possible. Watching the short film version of Arrowhead Signal it is amazing to think that you managed to do that for about six hundred dollars. Were there moments of doubt that it would get done?

A) The biggest moment of doubt was the second day of our desert shoot, when one of our crew cars had an accident. Nobody was seriously hurt but for the next few days it was looking pretty scary, and we lost a lot of our props. So at that point I was worried we wouldn’t have a complete story, because that was our last chance to be in the desert. In the end though, it worked out better because we lost a lot of planned scenes that weren’t needed. The climax of the short film, where Kye and Reef stand together on the mountain, was shot months later at a much less spectacular location than we had planned. But aside from this we were spared a whole lizard hunting sequence that in retrospect would have involved some terrible CGI and slowed the pace down greatly. Aside from those exterior forces that we couldn’t control, there was never any doubt we could get that short film made, and it’s that same stubborn refusal to admit the crazy ambition of it all that is keeping us going with the feature.

Q)  How will this all translate into a feature length film? How much will the cast grow?

A)The cast is still very small, and it’s still the story of one man’s struggle to survive. Cast Away had several characters but it’s only Tom Hanks, Helen Hunt and Wilson that you remember. So the cast will be similar to that. We’re hoping for audiences to be able to look back at the short film after having seen the feature and say ‘I recognize those elements. I remember that scene.’ But the feature is very different - its roots are in the short but it’s greatly expanded. I think fans of the short will be surprised but still feel at home.

 Q) You are doing a crowd funding campaign for this film. How can those who are reading this interview help you to reach your goal?

A) We’ve been funded by the SF channel in Australia and our film is getting made - the current crowdfunding campaign is aimed to help our friends at Gorilla Pictures be involved. We’re in Australia but they’re friends of ours from a film school I attended in Michigan. As Executive Producers they’ve pledged a percentage of the film’s budget, as well as an overwhelmingly generous amount of equipment, resources and crew that will help us make the film bigger and better. They’re committed to helping us but if they can raise some capital to get themselves over here, it means they’ll be able to dedicate all of these assets and for a longer amount of time. If a few hundred people donated $50 then they’ll be able to help us out and offer supporters some pretty cool rewards.

Q) Does the campaign have a Facebook page?  Does the film have a website yet?

A) The movie has a website ( where you can view our short film and behind the scenes materials, and you can also follow us on Twitter and Instagram (@arrowheadmovie). But our most active community is at

Q) Will this film get made no matter what?

A) Not only will this film get made, but it is being made as we speak. Preproduction is in full swing - we’re building our sets and costumes, we’re close to finishing the casting process, and we start shooting in ten weeks! The only question at the moment is where we’ll be distributed, but we deliver to the network in late 2014 and the movie will be seen.

 Q) Some final words with the film maker. Is this going to be your genre? Are you going to specialize or are you going to shoot whatever type of film makes the most sense to you at the time. Sort of like Ridley Scott or Spielberg?

A) I’d love to make all kinds of movies, in fact after this one I probably won’t want to look at a spaceship or space suit for a long, long time. All kinds of movies interest me, but my favourites are the ones that build worlds and mythologies and create places you want to go and visit. A lot of these are science fiction, but not all of them - I love genre movies but if I’m lucky enough to make lots of movies, I’m hoping each one will challenge me in a new and exciting way.

Thanks again Eric, looking forward to seeing the finished film.  For those of you who wish to get involved you can do it by contributing to the Kickstarter campaign or by sharing the campaign page or this interview with others.  This is I believe is my eighth interview with someone involved in a crowdfunding campaign and I have monitored all of the campaigns through to the end and the ones that hit their goals all had one thing in common. Social media got them over the top. Twitter, Facebook and word of mouth got them over the top. If you cannot donate money then take the time to share.

Okay that is it for today. I have something on Found footage coming soon, but this will not stop me from finishing the series of sci-fi post. My steampunk post is not going to come until January. I am having fun with the whole steampunk universe so I am taking my time to get it right.
Good luck guys and try to enjoy the film making process.
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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Digital Film Updates and my Ebook

Digital Film Updates and my Ebook

This will be a quick post to update you guys on a few campaigns , upcoming topics and my newly released ebook.

First we are going to take a quick look at a new crowd funding campaign for the sequel to The Joker Rising. The film maker sent me the trailer a few days ago and I am sorry it took a while to get it up online.
For those of you who have not seen it, The Joker Rising is not only one of the best fan films ever made, it is one of the best micro budget films ever made. I am going to include the finished film at the end of this post. Check it out and see what you can produce with hard work and less than five thousand dollars.

This is short film that caught my attention and I hope to get and interview with the film maker for a future post.

Arrowhead: Signal from Arrowhead: The Movie on Vimeo.

It is a shameless plug time. I have published a new ebook. It is a collection of interviews about and basic lesson on digital film making. It is a great little book and would make a nice xmas present for the aspiring film maker. The title is On Low Budget Filmmaking, Digital Film Making Interviews. You can find the ebook version at Amazon and B&N right now. The paperback will be available on Amazon in December. You can buy it at amazon by clicking here.  Or clicking here.

One more bit of business if you are a sci fi fan you are aware of the fact that this week will concluded with the 50th anniversary of the series Doctor Who. I a a huge fan of the original version of the series. I have seen every episode of the first seven doctors. Doctor # 3's episode Inferno may be the best pure sci fi episode of any tv series ever done. Okay I would like to post this doctor who short done by the producer of the series, his way of prepping every fan for what is coming Saturday. Its a really good little film, if he had gotten rid of the sonic screwdriver it could have been perfect.

Okay that will be it for today. I have posted the complete version of The Joker Rising below. If any of you have a topic you would like me to cover please contact me by leaving a comment of joining me on google plus. I received the request for a steam punk post to be included in the upcoming sci fi series of post and I am working on it.

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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Clandestine, And Sci-fi Film Making

After seeing the fantastic short sci-fi film Clandestine and seeing the great behind the scene video that film maker Aron J. Anderson shot I wanted to interview him. This interview begins what will be a series of post on the subject of sci-fi film making.

So many film makers have been told that sci-fi is out of reach because you need millions of dollars to make an impressive film. Those who say it and those who believe it do not truly understand what great sci-fi involves. If you believe that the remake of Total Recall or the over blown retooling of the Star Trek Franchise is great science fiction then you need to go back to the starting point and read some of the early masters of the genre. Science fiction is about speculation about technology and how it affects our existence. If you want to see great sci-fi I would suggest a film like Forbidden Planet which has state of art effect for its day, but is about humanity and what took much tech too quickly developed can do to a race like the human race.

Okay that is my rant on science fiction. Time to get to my interview with Aron J Anderson.

Thanks to today’s technology we are seeing a revolution taking place at the low to micro budget film level. What I have notice during the last year is that film makers have begun to move away from shooting quickly comedies and found footage horror and have turned their sights on sci-fi.

Clandestine from Aron J Anderson on Vimeo.

Q)The first question I hear from indie film makers is usually what camera did you shoot it with so I have to ask about the Panasonic Gh3. It is relatively new and I have to ask how well did it perform and would you use it on future projects?

A)I have had many cameras in the last 5 years, Panasonic AG-DVX100B, Canon T2i,Canon 60d, Sony 5n, Sony VG 20, I used the Canon 5d MarkII, and Canon 7d, Panasonic GH2 (hacked), and the Gh3 is by far the quickest and most enjoyable camera I have ever used. It also has the best detail in the image then all but the Panasonic GH2 hacked (Very close). I would defiantly use the GH3 camera on my next projects.

Q)It looks like this camera handled natural light very well. I see from the behind the scenes footage that you used work lights for a few shots. Many low budget film makers consider work lights as a last resort because of of the harsh light that they produce. Did you have any problems with them?

A)The GH3 has pretty good dynamic range for a DSLR. The only time I use work lights is if the location we are filming in is large or there is a lot of bright back lit scenes. In the case of Clandestine we were going to use the work lights to light the actors during the fight scene because you can see that the sun was very bright outside behind the actors and I did not want to have the background blow all the way out. But our generator died and we ended up not using the work lights. So I had to use a still image of the back ground and tracked and composited it back in the scene so it wouldn't be all blown out in the back ground. So I just exposed for the actors and let the background blow out and composited it in post.

Q)Dslr cameras and sound recording are like oil and water. What did you use to record sound?

A)This was the biggest problem for me. We only had 3 months to finish this film for a contest and I couldn't find a dedicated sound guy so I had to just record audio in the GH3 and had a friend hold the boom. So I was teaching my small crew as we went. The sound recording of the GH3 is pretty good but the location we filmed in were noise and I had to use post to really clean the audio up and that is what made the audio disappointing to me. I used the Rode video mic pro on a boom.

Q)There are a lot of special FX in this short film. Who did the visual effects work and what type of software was involved?

A)I did all the FX in the film actually I did everything in the film except the music score, I did however mix the score with all the other audio FX. For 3d I used Blender, 3D studio Max to make the 3D models or manipulate ones already made by other artist. I also heavily used After Effects with Element 3d. For Making all the audio Effects I used the Zoom H1 to capture audio then I used Audacity to creat the audio FX I needed.

Q)Watching the making of video I noticed you checking story boards. When planning a film that requires a great deal of CGI how important are the story boards?

A)Story boarding is so important. I know lots of people who film with out them and they say they don't need them, but if you want to make really good films you need to storyboards specially if you do CG or other complex camera moves.

Q)From the behind the scenes footage it looks as if you work with a very small crew. Are you comfortable wearing many hats on the set? Are you most comfortable with the camera in your hands?

A)The crew That helped me were great however they were friends of mine and they don't have much experience in making films. So I had to wear all the hats. I had to learn all aspects of filmmaking because when I started out I wanted to do so much in a film, but knew no one who knew how to do it, so I had to learn it for my self. I am defiantly most comfortable with the camera in my hands because I am DP first, then everything after that.

Q)Film makers who develop a strong following tend to specialize in one particular genre. Is sci-fi your genre?

A)I think so just because I love all the gadgets and stuff. But defiantly will film other genre.

Q)The first teacher that every film maker has is the film maker that inspired him or her to pick up a camera for the first time. Who was that film maker?

A)That's a tough one for me because when I was 16 I wanted to take pictures of beautiful California while I went mountain biking. So I was self motivated to by a Minolta SLR stills camera and learn photography. It wasn't till years later when the Pastor of my church need someone to buy and work a camera to film the Sunday service. So while I was searching the internet about video cameras I came across Phillip Bloom using lens adapter to fit on camcorders to get shallow death of field. So I guess I would have to say Phillip Bloom.

Q)After watching Clandestine one gets the feeling that it is part of a larger story. Are there other short films in the future based upon these characters and situations or perhaps a feature planned?

A)Yes it is a big story and I planed on making a part two, but then I decided just to re due Clandestine the way it should be, but I need a bigger budget. So I'm going to see if I can get funded for a feature film, if not then I will just make a part two in the same low budget way I did the first one.

Clandestine Behind The Scenes from Aron J Anderson on Vimeo.

Q)Every film maker who spends any time looking at what is happening at the low budget level usually comes away with a wish or two. As in Tarantino wishes that film makers would do melodrama like they did in the 1950’s. I have a boat load of wishes. I wish that we could bring the Western back. What do you believe is missing from the film making landscape?

A)What we don't need is more alien movies. I would love to see more historical drama action movies like Last of The Samurai.

Q)What is your next project?

A)I do lots of filming for other companies for documentary and corporate work and I'm always filming personal videos of nature and the world around me but as far as short film I have Clandestine 2 and two more movies that I'm writing now neither are sci fi.

If you would like to follow Aron’s work you can visit his website by clicking here.

On Facebook by clicking here. and on twitter by clicking here..

Again I would like to thank Aron for doing this interview and you can find more examples of his work and some great DIY tutorials by him at Vimeo.

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Sunday, November 10, 2013

Digital Filmmaking, A Few Notes

Digital Filmmaking, A Few Notes

I thought that I would do a quick post on a few subject that I have been meaning to touch upon.

I am working on a pair of interviews concerning sci-fi on a micro budget. So many of us have thought that sci-fi on a feature length scale has been beyond us so that we instead do horror films. I am learning that the same technology that gives us the ability to shoot digital films on a low budget that visually can stand side by side with the studio productions also offers the opportunity to produce sci-fi. I do not believe that it is yet possible to produce a Star Wars or Alien on a micro budget because unless you are going to green screen everything down to the sets themselves you are going to spend some money. Also being a fan of practical effects when possible would inflate a budget. That said, how many of us have watched a recent big budget sci-fi film and thought that we could shoot the exact same film on 1/100 of the budget.

So I will be looking for sci-fi film makers to talk to during the coming months. Okay I have a crowdfunding campaign that I was asked to post. The filmmaker is shooting this film using a Canon T3i. I hope to get an interview with them when their campaign is over.


 I would like to also remind you guys that Angel Dust is still in the middle of a campaign and if you cannot donate money you can share the project with a friend. Embed it on your facebook page or use your twitter to share it. The Angel Dust post has been extremely popular, but so far it has not translated into support.   

  Next bit of business, the official international trailer for the now finished Canon hv20 shot feature film Throwback is ready and it looks great. When watching this trailer keep in mind that the movie was shot with a camera that can be purchased for about two hundred dollars.



 I suppose that will be it for today. I am right now in the middle of editing a an ebook featuring some of the interviews that have been published here with a lot of great new content mixed in. I hope to have it published before the end of this year. Thank you for visiting. Please take a moment to share this post and good luck with your projects.


Thursday, October 31, 2013

Kickstarting Angel Dust

Kickstarting Angel Dust

Today I have for you an interview with the film maker  Matt A. Cade. This interview will be as much about his kickstarter campaign for his next feature film Angel Dust as it will be about the problems that came up with the distribution of his previous film Underbelly.

I have written a little about distribution, but have not gotten into all of the pros and cons of doing it yourself versus finding a distributor. The  distribution guru Jon Reiss (Thinking Outside the Box Office) preaches that we should all be our first and best promoter and in the digital on demand world a distributor as well. Some others have go as far as testing a venue like Indiegogo as a way of distribution their finished movie. That is another post. This one is about Angel Dust, Underbelly and how one film maker can inspirer another.

Now my interview with Matt A. Cade.

Normally the interview would begin with questions about Angel Dust and its crowd funding campaign, but you campaign begins with a mention of your previous film.
I think the natural place to begin is with Underbelly and the problems that you had with the distributor.

Q)Many young film makers dream of finishing their film and letting a distributor take over from there. Many of us who have heard the horror stories involving distributors plan to take the DIY approach to launching our films. Could you tell us a bit about what happened with the distribution?

A) Sure. Once we wrapped post production on Underbelly it was promptly submitted to film festivals and, if memory serves me correctly, a few of the larger DVD distributors at the same time. The film was anything but cookie cutter horror, it had several musical numbers and other eccentric touches, but it still had all the staples I felt genre distributors would look for such as strong performances, violence, nudity... you get the idea. Well, I was dead wrong. Nobody was interested. No distributors, hardly any festivals, no press, NOBODY. So we just sat on it because we simply didn't have the resources or, to be honest, the interest in self distributing the film. In my eyes the respect you were given as a filmmaker in regards to making your next movie was directly associated with how your last one performed. I, personally, saw self distribution as a failure. Now a lot has changed in the last five years where perhaps that is no longer the case.

Everyone had given up on Underbelly, considered it dead, but I would still scan through Fangoria Magazine's "Chopping List" previewing new horror DVD releases every month in the hopes of discovering a new distributor who might take a look at my film. And one day there was a new company listed that was putting out quite a bit of product and I figured I'd chum the waters one last time. Amazingly, they made us an offer to release Underbelly! And it was all downhill from there.

The film was released with no fanfare in September of 2010. I had to arrange almost all of the press interviews and podcast promos myself. Even when I could get a website to agree to review the film, the distributor wouldn't send them a screener. Worst of all, the film itself looked and sounded lousy. The color transfer and sound mix in some scenes was just laughably bad and there was nothing that could be done at that point. If I had been given an advanced copy prior to the release perhaps that could have been avoided but I had to wait on my DVD from Amazon just like everyone else. To top it off, we had agreed to a smaller percentage of first dollars earned in exchange for the distributor not having to recoup any of their costs. An insanely uneven split in their favor, just brutal, but they were the only girl at the dance so we danced. It's still a bit embarrassing to talk about but maybe it'll open some young filmmaker's eyes to what's going on out there. And I really felt that getting the film out in the marketplace via a legitimate distribution entity would make financing the next film easier. I was, of course, dead wrong again on that front.

Months upon months went by without us getting paid a single royalty check or given access to any financial reports as we were promised in our contract. The check was literally always "in the mail". Eventually they stopped taking my calls and returning my emails so we had no choice but to take legal action to get control of Underbelly back to the producers. I spent more on lawyer fees than I will ever make on that film. It was a nightmare. But a lot of folks really seem to enjoy Underbelly so there's that.

Q)Do you plan on seeking a distributor for this project or do you plan on doing it yourself?

A)Yeah, yeah I do. But I'm no longer married to the idea.

I have noticed that every film maker is referred to as a fan of this great filmmaker or that one until they have a success of their own. Brian De Palma was a fan of Hitchcock until his first hit and then he became a disciple of Hitchcock. It seems that you are a huge John Carpenter fan. One could argue that he was the reason that you picked up the camera for the first time and the reason you have returned to film making?

A)You are absolutely correct on both fronts. John Carpenter is the reason I first started writing scripts and making VHS horror films in the late 80's and he's why I didn't allow the soul draining experience that was Underbelly to extinguish my passion to direct twenty-five years later. Ask anyone, I am never more happy than when I'm watching a Carpenter film. You know it's a JC film from the first frame, the man just composes a shot and orchestrates the story like no other artist in modern cinema. The onscreen heroes he's created, or his antiheroes rather, are all outsiders just like me. I'm very comfortable, obviously, with the Carpenter disciple tag.

Q) Let’s look at Carpenter’s film career for a moment. He has done suspense, horror, scifi and action. Do you believe that one of the things that has kept him from being considered one of the masters is that he has done great work in more than one genre? This could be called the Robert Wise curse.

A)And he's the only filmmaker I know that could mix all those genres and then some together in a film like Big Trouble In Little China and make it work!

I honestly haven't a clue why he isn't mentioned in the same sentence with Scorsese, Spielberg, or Coppola. Or even many of the younger genre directors with a much smaller body of work like Tarantino or del Toro who get so many accolades. I'm not saying they don't deserve the respect they get, they absolutely do, but it's clear that Carpenter has been underappreciated his entire career. Hell, didn't Kubrick make a film in every single one of those genres that you listed? But that's somehow different because it's KUBRICK. The academics drool all over Cronenberg's filmography as well these days but, cmon, Carpenter buries the guy.

Maybe it's because he worked both in and out of the studio system and didn't let anyone behind a desk put him in a box. I really don't know.

Q)People who read this blog know that I am a huge fan of Carpenter’s version of The Thing. Everyone has seen that film. What is the best Carpenter film that no one ever seems to mention?

A)Great question. First film that pops into my head is In The Mouth Of Madness. Talk about a master class in Horror 101, that film has a little bit of everything and its executed perfectly. I was just a kid working at my local movie theater when the film was released and I'd sit in the back row and just study it over and over and over.

I always felt that The Fog and Christine were never given the credit they deserved either. Although they seem to have been getting some new appreciation over the last few years which is really cool. I think Christine contains some of his best character work ever.

Q)Before the questions about your campaign begin I should ask two questions about Underbelly. This a low budget film making site so the two questions have to be,

Q)How long did it take to shoot Underbelly?

A)Principle photography took place over 11 days. Nine days straight and then a following weekend, if I'm remembering correctly. It was ridiculous, it was maddening, but we had some fun too.

Q)What did you learn about shooting a feature length horror film from that experience?

A)I learned EVERYTHING, it was my film school. But there's a few things that stick out for sure.

Rehearsal time is invaluable. the more time you can give really talented actors to find out shit for themselves the better. Otherwise, in a rush for time, you end up cramming your ideas for the character into their heads out of necessity and that's not the ideal environment for anyone to flourish. Time, both in preproduction and on set, is your friend and as an underground filmmaker it just seems you never have enough of it.

I did a lot of everything on Underbelly and the film suffered from that. I've never been fortunate enough to just show up on set and direct but I imagine that would be an incredible experience. To simply concentrate on the storytelling components as opposed to dealing with location issues, catering nonsense, applying actor's make-up and whatnot... a man can dream, can't he?

I learned that the need for a publicist is crucial. People need to know about your film before a DVD shows up on their desk. You have to personally work those angles early and hard or, ideally, find someone who is talented and capable of getting the word out there about what you're doing. It amazes me to hear guys who've been in the indie trenches as long as me still believe they're going to strike gold at Sundance. That's their entire strategy for success, a padded envelope in the mail. Best of luck with that.

And, finally, don't shoot long dialogue exchanges in moving cars. Just fucking avoid it at all costs, make them talk anywhere else.

Q)You are right now crowd funding for your new feature film Angel Dust. What is it about?

A)In a not so distant dystopian future, a depleted ozone layer has rendered most of Earth helpless under a relentless, pulsating, unforgiving sun. The government can't be trusted, everyone is essentially on their own to survive, and some very strange sinister things are happening in the big city. A masked killer is wiping out female radio hosts (the "Ladies of the Air") one-by-one and it's up to our reluctant antihero Angel Dust, a former war hero turned underground DJ, to stop the homicidal slasher before she's his next victim.

The film is completely original in its concept and narrative but it will be a tribute to the films of John Carpenter in its execution.

Q)This is not your first feature film. Nor is it your first screenplay. Every screenwriter has a different approach to writing. How do you go about it and does it get easier once you have seen a script filmed?

A) It doesn't get easier but the final screenplay draft itself does seem to get more efficient the longer you've been in the game . I've found that every subsequent script I write is leaner and meaner because I have a better sense of what will and what won't earn its dinner in the editing room. Especially if I continue to operate in this micro-budget world, the days of me beaming down smiling at a 120 page script are over. I'm crazy but I'm not insane.

I've also found that I have a better sense of how, as a director, I'm going to prolong or pace certain scenes or moments and that will lead me to try and deliver a shorter screenplay. For instance, if I know that I'm going to insert a ton of "Carpenter Montages" to set the mood then those have to be accounted for even though they're not represented accurately on the page necessarily.

As for how I go about the writing process - coffee and music. Soundtracks, everything by Mike Patton, anything that fits the vibe of what I'm reaching for in the storytelling. I also have a very close friend named Fritz Beer who's willing to compose music for me if I can't track down what I'm hearing in my head. He creates it for me. Now that's fucking talent.

Q) I have to ask the equipment questions. What did you shoot your last movie with?
What are your planning on filming with this time? Did you keep track of the advancements in camera equipment and editing while you were away from film making?

A)We shot Underbelly on the Panasonic DVX100B with the LA7200G anamorphic lens adaptor. We might have been one of the last features to go with miniDV 24P, I don't know. It was right at that transition time when everyone was starting to go HD and it still didn't look right to me. I preferred the organic look of tape, especially for that project. Underbelly was a dirty little movie and HD was just too damn crisp and clean. It still is in a lot of ways but, obviously, it's a whole other world cinematography wise now then it was back then.

We will be doing extensive camera testing once we have some financing behind us but as of right now my DP and I are really impressed with the Blackmagic cameras. And we will be shooting 2:35:1 of course.

While I did try to follow the latest and greatest camera improvements over the last few years, I probably stayed a little more up to date on the editing side of things. I don't know... I'm not a tech guy, never have been, I like leaving that to the pros who are a lot smarter than me. Let me concentrate on the frame and what's going on inside it and I'm happy.

Q) Horror films have risen to a level slightly below A level releases these days, but the quality has not kept up with the quantity. Are we missing out on a chance to make this a new golden age of horror films by not going out and making things other than haunted house and found footage films for a quick buck?

A) I'm trying, man. I'm trying. You're preaching to the choir.

Q) One of the advantages that John Carpenter had over many other film makers was that he usually managed to hit a home run in the casting department. Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasence, Adrienne Barbeau and Kurt Russell. Have you begun the casting process yet?

A)Yes, some familiar faces I've worked with before are onboard and some new talent I've met along the path are already in place. There's also a "name actor" or two that are circling the film but I need to lock in financing to get their commitment obviously. One of the cool things about this film is that I was able to write my leading role for a female for the first time ever so that's going to be amazing to watch an actress breath life into Angel Dust. I think she's the best character I've ever written.

And you're one hundred percent dead on about Carpenter and his casting. The man just knows how to find real talent, real professionals, REAL FUCKING MOVIE STARS and they make great movies together while having fun doing it. Despite whatever limitations there may have been, I've never raised my voice on set and that's a lesson I learned straight from JC. Try to have fun dammit.

Q) Are you going to be wearing all the hats on the production of Angel Dust or do you have someone who handles the producer’s side of thing?

A) That'd be awesome but, sadly, people with those special skill sets are very hard to find at this level. At this early stage I'm it as far as a day-to-day "producer" is concerned. I do have a co-producer, Jason Tuttle, who brings a really impressive technical knowledge to the table that has already proven invaluable. For example, the Kickstarter campaign would still be a murky thought in my head if it weren't for him bringing it to life. He's new to the world of independent film but he's learning fast, I see his talents expanding daily, and we make a great team.

Now, if we are successful in raising our budget we will immediately begin filling in the missing members for this production. A lot of those folks have already been designated for assignment they're just eagerly awaiting the phone call. I don't believe in people working for free.

Q) One last question. Does the project go forward with or without kickstarter funding?

A) I don't know. It takes a lot of guts and humility to mount a Kickstarter campaign like this. I've put my failures under a microscope and my dreams under a spotlight for all the world to see. Including ALL my family and friends. That's ballsy. But I'm seeking a lot of money and I think people should know exactly who they're supporting and why. Granted in the sense of shooting a film of this scope it's mere pocket change but times are tough and I know every dollar counts... So I can't answer your last question, not yet. Hopefully in a month it'll be irrelevant.

Thank you again for taking time out to do this interview Matt. Good luck with the crowd funding campaign.

Again if any of you wish to get involved with the campaign you can visit the kickstarter page by clicking here.

You can visit the facebook page by clicking here.

You can visit the website by clicking here.

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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Horror Film Writing, All About the Chase

Horror Film Writing, All About the Chase

For the longest time those who would write a horror movie have confused horror with thriller. This is not surprising since most film companies advertise thrillers as horror films. Before you sit down to write a horror film or a thriller you must keep one rule in mind.

In a horror film something is chasing the lead character.

In a thriller the lead character is chasing something.

In Halloween Michael Myers doing all of the chasing.

In Silence of The Lambs Agent Starling is doing all of the chasing.

 I understand that despite the fact that Agent Starling ends up in a classic horror film situation near the end of the film it is still a thriller and not a horror film. In almost every thriller the one who is chasing ends up being chased in act three by the villain.

In a horror film the chase does not end until the credits are about to roll if the main character survives.
The next thing you must keep in mind is that the audience has seen it all and surprising them is most likely not gonna happen so I would avoid rehashing the cool kill scene from Elm Street 4. Instead you should focuse of crafting characters who the audience can care about. All great horror films have the same thing in common. All of them, back to the earily days, from Frankenstein to the Wolfman, The Thing to Night of the Living Dead, Alien to the Descent, The Exorcist to The Sixth Sense, have strong characters in common. Even the ones that are going to die are relatable to the audience. Watch any horror movie and I promise you that the first sign of a bad one is that they are populated with characters that the writer and director do not like or even hate.

Consider these things when writing your horror film. If you would like more advice on how to write your low budget film I would suggest (shameless plug coming) getting a copy of my book On Writing a low Budget film. You can click the image on the side of the page. It is available at Amazon, B&N, iTunes and Smashwords.

Writing a quality screenplay or finding someone who can is ob one of producing a great low budget film. Your script is your blueprint and everything you do as a digital film maker will flow from it. The best cameras and finest sound equipment on earth will not save a bad script.

Consider this and try to study a few classic horror films to understand the way a good script should be structured. I would recommend reading the screenplays for the films The Exorcist (best horror script ever), The Sixth Sense, Alien and Tom Holland’s script for the original Fright Night.  Stephen King was right when he said if you want to be a good writer then you have to read a lot if you wish to write well.

That will be it for today. Take a moment to share this post and to add me to your google plus. On google plus you will get updates from my other film making sites.


Friday, October 4, 2013

Digital Filmmaking, Black Magic Time?

Digital Filmmaking, Black Magic Time?

During the last two years a great many cameras have been introduced. Part of being any kind of technician is choosing the right tool for the right job. No two of us see the world in exactly the same way so no two of use will look upon a film shoot the same way. This takes us to the choice of cameras. The type of camera that you pick for your digital feature film shoot will largely reflect how you wish the world you are going to be creating to be seen. For others of us it comes down to what will test and challenge our skills as an artist. Anyone can shoot quality footage with a Red, but only a few of us could pull it off with a Sanyo pocket camcorder or a naked smartphone.

Today’s post is not about what camera is best for your needs. It is instead going to be about one of the newer cameras to become part of the debate. At the end of this post I am going to include a overview video about the camera that was done by the legendary Phillip Bloom. The video will be the longest that I have posted here, but it flies by for those of us who cannot get enough of this type of information.

First up I would like to show you a side by side video that compares the Black Magic camera with one of the best Canon Dslr cameras.


 Next I would like to look at two short films that were shoot using this camera. I believe the best test of any camera is to see how it actually performs in action. After all this is about digital film making and not recording shots of trees and flowers.

 This next video is the reason why I hang out at Vimeo so much.

Love Squirts from Adam R Brown • YellowLinePics on Vimeo.


 During the next year there is going to be new devices added to the argument and I must say that the most important thing to keep in mind is that being a film maker is about the things you do before you start filming. Pre production is where your movie will make it or fail. You must have a quality script or nothing else you do will matter. If you do not have the most experience cast then it will be up to you to rehearse them and to nurse them when necessary through scene after scene. Film making is fun, but it is also hard work. To quote a indie film maker that I have become a fan of, Oklahoma Ward, if you are not willing to work eighteen  hours a day you are not going to make it, you are just not going to make it.

 That will be it for today. This has been a great year for me as a blogger and as a writer in general, but it has kept me from doing much actual work on a project of my own. I have been doing a lot of script editing for friends. Also I am hitting the five month mark on the pre production of my first feature where I will wear the big three hats of writer, director and producer. Until this process I never understood why it would sometimes take a year and a half to shoot a film. I would love to be able to shoot a film in ten days, maybe the next one.

Take a moment to share this post with a friend and keep believing in your project. Work towards it each day. You are a film maker. Sometimes film making is not about going out and getting the hot new camera. Sometimes film making is about spending days learning about insurance and location permits. Sometimes being a film maker finds you in a room surrounded by beautiful people all looking to you for their next or first job in front of the camera. Enjoy the ride guys. When it is good it is good like one of those happy ending Twillight Zone episodes where you are Charles Bronson and you get to start the human race all over again with a twenty five year old Elizabeth Montgomery at your side.


Monday, September 16, 2013

Kickstarting a One Day Feature Film Shoot

Kickstarting a One Day Feature Film Shoot

The question of how long does it take to shoot a feature film has come up many times during the last year or so at this blog. Today I would like to introduce you to a project that is to be shot in one day.

The name of the film is The Movie Zombie. (The Movie Zombie is a found footage comedy project where two filmmakers strike out with a hundred dollars in their pockets and shoot a feature... in one day. Part horror film, part mockumentary, The Movie Zombie defies the conventional wisdom that you need big bucks to make a feature. Leaving production value at the door and focusing just on pure entertainment, The Movie Zombie is one found footage film that will be so terrible it will be hilariously good times. )

Reading that description led to me asking for and to get an interview with the film maker
Michael T. Snyder. Michael is full time video production specialist and photographer for a
Pittsburgh based consumer electronics company. You can visit his blog Machinations into Madness by clicking here.   Or his personal blog by clicking here.

Okay let’s get to the interview.

The first question is of course what is The Movie Zombie about?

-The story behind The Movie Zombie is pretty basic. It plays on a lot of cliches found behind zombie and found footage films. The movie opens with four people driving down the road where their car breaks down, they find shelter in a cabin in the woods, then they are slowly picked off as the zombie element introduces itself. However we also introduce the behind the scenes right along with the film's narrative. So this film offers many layers to it. The zombie angle, the film making angle along with the filmmakers who are trying to complete this film in one day, because well they think they are awesome enough to do it. We take liberties with breaking the immersion behind the plot. In the beginning the filmmakers say "what you're about to watch is absolutely true", you know, like what every other found footage film out there says. However throughout the film the audience sees the crew. -

The movie inside a movie thing has been done, but rarely as a comedy and I do not believe that it has ever been done in the found footage genre. What is the inspiration for this project?

-To really appreciate and understand why we are producing the Movie Zombie, it's important to know who I am and the journey as a filmmaker I've taken. In all of the productions I produced myself, I always had a stern eye towards the best possible looking film. I mean, who wouldn't want their finished product looking the best it could? However the trade off to that is it's expensive not to mention exhausting. I always wanted to produce my own feature. I think as a filmmaker, that is something we all want to do. I've never done it so far as I knew I couldn't quite pull off the sort of film I would be proud of. However that all changed when me and my film school buddy Donnie Kenney thought of the "Movie Zombie". This project really is about going back to basics. I have many great memories in film school and just taking a camera and going on a shoot. of course those videos were terrible, but it didn't matter. We were having fun and creating something we wanted to laugh at. The Movie Zombie allows us to do that. We leave production value at the door for sake of just pure fun while making the film. In a way, we poke fun at ourselves as filmmakers. -

During the past four months I have being using my free time to work on an ebook about making found footage films. This means that I have seen over a hundred of these films this year alone. I made the mistake of watch Rec and Rec 2 first (great little horror films) and then it was quickly down hill from there, Apollo 18 anyone heard of it? Do you go into this genre with a love of genre or a wish that someday something will come along new and original?

-As a general rule of thumb, I hate found footage films. I hate how they are presented as true, but clearly they are fake. I watched Paranormal Activity with a friend of mine. He kept asking me "is this real?" Over and over I told him "no, it's not real". There are only a few found footage films that I've actually enjoyed; Chronicle for the multi-camera angles they use throughout the film, and the Quarantine movies. Apollo 18 was OK, but I don't really remember anything from it. So that must say something about how I enjoyed it.-

-I feel sorry you've had to subject yourself to so many found footage films. Hopefully the Movie Zombie isn't the one that does you in.-

Two film makers, one hundred dollars and one day; it will be that way on film, but are you going to actually attempt a shooting schedule that insane?

-Yes, we really are going to shoot the whole thing in one day. From sun up till midnight - that is our filming schedule.-

Again, for everyone reading this. You are going to make this happen in one shooting day? This will be feature length?

-Our shooting schedule is one day. That's it. You could say it's our gimmick to try and get people to watch our abomination. But really, it's just a fun day of shooting film. Since this is a comedy, we can get away with low production values. We will be shooting only in one take per scene, then moving on to the next scene. It's sort of like an orchestrated play. -

Many look at comedy and think that it can be made up as you go along, but it is usually as scripted in the same way as action sequences. What percentage is going to be scripted and how much is going to be improv?

-My film buddy Donnie Kenney and myself went to a McDonalds a few weeks ago. There we spent five hours developing the outline for the feature on note cards. We don't have a script. We really don't know what to expect on shoot day. For instance, we don't know how many actors will show up. So we will need to be flexible enough to shoot on the fly, just like back in our film school days. So really, most of this movie will be improved. Our pitch video was completely improved along with a lot of comedy that we've done in the past. We just outline the scene, then let Hell break loose.-

Being the director of the film and the star of the film has been done as far back as Buster Keaton, but rarely in this genre. Will this be your first time acting and who will be playing the other film maker in the film?

-I love to act, but I'm terrible at it. When you watch our pitch video for the Movie Zombie, I'm "Silent Screws". I've acted a lot in previous film projects, mostly all from college. Biggest challenge I have with acting is that I feel that everyone is judging me, so that makes me nervous. I've gotten better at it, but I certainly don't submit to casting calls. The actor playing the other filmmaker is Donnie Kenney. Unlike me, he IS an actor, so he'll feel right at home in front of the camera. He knows about film production so he will be right up there with me producing this monster. -

Dslr cameras have their place in the film making world, but for an one day feature film shoot I would think camcorder based upon battery life and ease of use. What camera are you going to be using to shoot this film?

-I will be using a Canon 60D mounted on a shoulder rig. I have a pistol grip with a AA battery adapter so I'm not concerned with battery life. I also got lots of SD cards so I'm not worried about memory. Really, we are going to moving pretty quickly through this thing, so there's no time for nature shots. I really love shooting with DSLRs. They are a pretty cheap means of capturing a scene and their colors are typically amazing. If we had the budget, I would really love to look into the Black Magic Cinema camera. From what I've seen from that camera, it's pretty sexy. -

How many other films have you worked on?

-I've been working on film for the past six years. In that time I have worked over 15 shorts films, either my own or someone elses. I've also worked on four features including "Unstoppable" with Denzel Washington, "Dark Knight Rises" with Christian Bale, "Out of the Furnace" with Christian Bale, and the indie movie "Enter the Zombie".-

I understand that you went to film school. Can you learn to be a quality film maker without it? Also did you learn more in school or working on a film set?

-I realized halfway through school that I was merely putting in time to get a piece of paper saying I graduated. I thought about quitting, but to be honest, if someone is looking for a full time job in production, most companies want that piece of paper. Now most of what I learned, I learned on set. Theory is all fine and all or even school projects, but when your on a legit set and you find yourself an hour behind schedule, you learn to think on your feet. Since a lot of these usually work with the director, or I'm the director myself, there is one thing that no director should ever say on set... "I don't know". There was only ever one time I thought about walking off set. That was when the director had no idea what they were doing and was just shooting every idea that came to them "for coverage". -

-I see film school as a means for people to go to school to pay for professional grade classes to learn a new hobby.-

Since I am interviewing a director I have to ask who is your favorite director? Also is there a director that you find yourself learning new things from every time you see there work?

-I really like Quinton Tarantino's style. Tarantino really is the only director that I ever went to the movies to see what he was doing. I'm bit of a introverted indie filmmaker. I do what I like, versus trying to mimic what other people have done. -

Bonus question coming. You were working on a post apocalyptic film at one time. This is a genre that needs to be revitalized. I hope that it will be next year with the release of the new Mad Max film. Do you have a must see movie in that genre? I have two, Damnation Alley and Metalstorm The Destruction of Jared-Syn (I saw it in 3d, in a 600 seat theater with 3 other people on its second day in theaters.) I forgot the anime Highschool of the Dead.

-I love post apocalyptic movies. My top three must sees would be "Mad Max", "Book of Eli", and "the Road". Post apocalyptic films really let a filmmaker tell a story set in a alternate modern time. As you mentioned, I was working on a post apocalyptic film. I really felt that we were onto something there. At some point down the road, I really want to revisit that broken United States in my dreams. Perhaps on screen, perhaps in a graphic novel. I feel it's a story worth telling and sharing with others. -

Thank you Michael for taking the time to do this interview. If anyone would like to get involved there is still time to contribute to the crowdfunding campaign by clicking here clicking here and visiting the Kickstarter page or by sharing the link.

That will be it for today. I am still looking for trailers for my trailers page so if anyone out there has a good one or has seen a good one let me know by leaving a comment.  

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Digital Filmmaking, Social Media Marketing

The second biggest part of being a indie film maker is learning to market yourself and your work. This comes second only to the actual making of your film.

Yes, I understand that there are still studios and distributors out there, but the competition for both gets stiffer each years. Your best bet is to become good at this part of the job or find someone who is willing to help you.

 The good news in this regard is that you can learn to do this over time. Even if you are an introvert and a maverick like me there is hope.

It amazes me to this day that there are still so many digital film makers who do not take advantage of the free options that exist for them to market themselves and their work. Allow me to go over a few that are obvious.

Facebook and Myspace (yeah, myspace is making a comeback) are two great places to build a page around your production and to develop a following.

Google plus is a great way to keep in touch with other film makers and followers. You can set up weekly or monthly Google hangout meeting for those that you wish to interact with.

Twitter is a place where you can keep those interested in your project constantly updated on what is happening day by day.

Pinterest is a great place to share stills from your project and is perhaps the most overlooked place to market your work.

If you want to build a website dedicated to your project you do not have to purchase a domain and host, although if the film is going to be a part of your life for years you might want to consider doing this. A wordpress site can be impressive both to visitors and those you wish to do business with. If you do not know how to build your own website from scratch you are in luck, that is one of the skills that I market. If you want to learn how to construct a wordpress site from start to finish you can click here and visit a page will a few video instructional.

If on the other hand you want to construct a site for free you can go to blogspot and build a blooger website like this one. It is totally free to use and easy to set up.

There are so many other social sites out there like typepad and Tumblr that you can use to reach people.

Once you have set up a series of social media accounts then the next thing to do is to connect them under one umbrella. The reason that you will want to do this is so that if you post at one site it is syndicated to all of them. This saves you a lot of time and effort.

The two sites that can help you with this is Rebelmouse. You can see a quick tutorial video about it below. The video is narrated by the great indie film maker David P. Baker.

 Since David is promoting his film Screen, I thought that I would post his six minute preview.
"SCREEN" HORROR FILM ( 1st SIX MINS) from David Baker on Vimeo.

 The second site is Onlywire. I like onlywire and have used it not only to connect my social media, but to get backlinks for this blog. Backlinks are important if you are interested in improving the page ranking of your main website. It has gotten this blog to page one in multiple google keyword searches. Quick tutorials on onlywire.


 Remember that Onlywire gives you a real free trial for one month. I would suggest, if you are on a budget, to use their free trial during a big promotional or fund raising month.

 Promote Your Blog 

 The lesson I want to leave you with today is to use ever tool possible to promote yourself and your work. You do not get a do over in life. This is it and you got one shot at getting it right so give it your all. Spread the word about your project if you have to stand on a street corner handing out flyers. If you do not have a budget for promotion then social media is your best tool. You can expand your reach by tens of thousands of people if you master this part of the game. Hollywood does not have all the answers. The truth is that many micro budget film makers are already ahead of them in this part of the advertising and promotes game. Through social media we will become an industry that will someday compete head to head with the major studios. If you want to be a success at this business and what I mean by success is making enough money to finance the next project and keeping the lights on and the pets feed then you are going to have learn more about this area of the business. It will not be harder than learning about blocking and lighting. It will be far easier than learning how to edit.

Good luck with your project and please take a moment to help me with my social media. Stumble us on stumbleupon, add me to your googleplus and share this post with a friend by using my share button. That is social media in action.

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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Me + You, Interview Part 2

Me + You, Interview Part 2

The is the second part of my interview with Iyin Landre, the film maker behind Me + & You.
If you would like to help with her Kick starter campaign you can do so by  clicking here .

Q8. You wrote the script. There are a lot of ways to write a script. Some start from a outline or even a narrative story and then craft the script. Others just sit in front of a blank screen and do not stop writing until the rough draft is done. How do you approach the screen writing process and how long did this script take to write?

A8: I actually finished writing my first draft as a result of taking a screenwriting class. The first week we went in with a logline – mine was, “An American girl travels to Brazil and some f**ked up sh*t happens.” After that, I wrote 10 pages a week and in a couple of months I finished the script. I would say that my writing style is to have a basic outline in terms of major story arcs, but I usually just write according to how I feel the scenes should flow.

Q9: Hollywood prides itself on diversity. Film makers looking at the industry town from the outside would point out that they may achieve diversity in the form of cast and or crews at times, in thought and content it is still a industry built upon types and type casting. There are films that will never get made, stories that will never be considered and actors never hired because they do not fit the world view of what they believe will sell.

For the first time since Jackie Chan did Rush Hour (and his part in that film fit perfectly with the type casting that the Industry does) a major studio summer release had an asian actress, Rinko Kikuchi, as the co-lead and that movie was Pacific Rim. A film directed and produced by one of the world’s greatest film makers, Guillermo del Toro, who has never officially worked inside the Hollywood system so he did not get the memo saying that casting choices like that are not done around here.
You are an Asian actress in Hollywood, would someone from your background ever had been considered for the lead in a film like your's even if it was specified in the script?

A9: I think if I were an already established actress with some clout, then yes, my name maybe would’ve been thrown in the mix. But since I’m not, the possibility of me being cast in my own film was probably slim to none. But to be frank, there just aren’t many Asian or Asian-American actors playing lead roles in films outside of Asia. I remember reading an article where Lucy Liu (our most notable actress) said that she’s not approached to play the lead in romantic comedies because people don’t see her in those roles, like they do Julia Roberts or Sandra Bullock for example. In my opinion, I think we need more Asian-American filmmakers, more people behind the scenes writing, directing, producing films in order to see change. You can’t just complain of seeing stereotypical portrayals in the media and not do anything about it – because to instill change, you actually have to go out there and create new images, stories to replace the old ones.

Q10: If the parts are not being written or casting directors are not willing to consider all types as being equal options for any given role is it going to be up to actors to create roles for themselves?

A10: I can’t speak for other actors, but for me it’s always been the case. I wanted to do more than play the Asian masseuse with an awful pan-Asian accent, or even play the doctor or lawyer – I wanted to be play dark gritty characters with depth, complexity, characters that dove head first into danger, action. And seeing as how I was rarely called in for roles that excited me to that length, I realized I had to write them myself, for myself.

Q11: Have you decided on the camera and the equipment that will be used on this production? Have you settled upon a DP?

A11: Have been looking into cameras that will fit my budget – may do the Red Scarlet, and also have a Black Magic 4K or Mark III in tow for scenes in the favela, for better motion and movement. Have not decided on a DP, will most likely crew up in Brazil this way I can save on production/travel costs. But the style of cinematography I’m looking for is a cross between City of God/Y Tu Mama TambiĆ©n/Elite Squad – fluid motion mostly steadicammed or hand-held.

Q12: How much of the movie will be shot here and how much in Brazil?

A12: All of it will be shot in Brazil!

Q13: Since you are an actor by trade I think that the film makers out there would like to
know what is it that actors expect from them? There are going to be productions where there is no pay or the pay will have to be deferred. Where the film maker is just starting out and all that they have is a good script and a borrowed Dslr camera. Should they approach who they believe to be the best possible actor or actress available or should they lower their expectations?

A13: Yes I say always approach who you want first. I read an article where Hugh Jackman did some student shorts not too long ago. As an actor, I expect the director to know what he/she wants, to have a very clear vision but also be able to collaborate and listen to those around him/her. But I think most of all, it’s to foster a safe environment for the actors, where you gently shape their creative expression into how you see fit for the story.

Q14: When starting work on a new project what are the things that are going to impress an actor and what sends signals that the film maker is not up to the job?

A14: I would say wishy-washiness and lack of preparation. If the film maker isn’t sure of what he/she wants, or doesn’t have a plan when we get on set – it makes me doubt the final product.

Q15: Okay back to the subject of your project. You have set a goal of seventy five thousand dollars. If you do not reach your goal the first time around will you press forward? Will this move get made no matter what?

A15: Yes we are making this film no matter what. With Brazil set to host the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016, timing will be an important factor to the degree of “heat” on our movie – so we’re plowing full steam ahead.

Q16: It is said that you know that you are doing what you were meant to do when you feel a kind of freedom that goes beyond words. That the thing that you are doing is effortless. When you were in a foreign land, surrounded by people who spoke a language that you did not understand yet, shooting scene for your trailer, did you find that kind of effortless freedom?

A16: I hadn’t thought of the word freedom to describe what I felt, but I think that’s a very astute description. Because there were so many unknowns – the city, the language, the culture, not having a cast or crew – I really had to believe in what I was doing or else I had absolutely nothing. And in starting from zero and building from the ground up, I had to slough off any pretensions, any fluff and ask myself whether or not I could do it at all. I think in being so single-minded, it helped me to realize that I was doing exactly what I was meant to do.

Again, thank you for doing this interview Iyin. I wish you the best of luck with your campaign and the production of the film. I look forward to posting the trailer for the finish film.

Okay guys I am going to be taking a few days off from posting. I have a ebook to edit. I think that the up coming posts will be about using your own social media to help market you work. The other post will be on the topic of how many independent film makers narrowly define being indie as having to fit into certain categories. By far the most success indie film maker of the last eight years is not mention much or show much respect by the larger indie universe. Think about who I could be talking about, I bet that no one guesses right.

That is it for today guy, thank you for visiting and please take a moment to share this post with a friend and to stumble us on stumbleupon.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

From Trailer to Feature, Me + You, Interview Part 1

From Trailer to Feature, Me + You, Interview Part 1

There are a lot of ways to approach raising money for your first feature film.
Crowd funding has become one of the most popular ways. Most of the films that I have spotlighted here and film makers that I have interviewed have gone through the crowd funding process during at least one level of production.

One of the more popular ways for digital film makers to begin the crowd funding process has been to shoot a quick trailer to show what they have in mind and to show off their qualifications to get the movie made. The campaign for the movie “Me + You” for me at least stood out amongst many others that had chosen this path. The actress/film maker, Iyin Landre, dropped everything and headed off to the country where her film is set, Brazil, to shoot the trailer. The idea of traveling to a location where we do not speech the language to pull together a crew and to work with people that we have never met before would be more steps than most of us would be willing to take when working on our first feature.

If you want to know more about what was involved and to get involved in her Kickstarter campaign you can do so by clicking here.  This year I have highlighted about half a dozen crowd funding campaigns and the cool part was that each of them had different financial goals and for different aspects of the film making process. Some were for post, some for general production and some for the entire production. The ones that have reached their goals did not do it all from first hand involvement. The person who visits and reads about the campaign is not usually the one who donates. The money usually comes from shares. Your involvement does not have to be cash. Post a campaign on your facebook. Share it on twitter and Google Plus. However many people that you are directly connected to you can times that by ten through the reach of your social media. If you like a campaign then take a moment to hit that share button.

Okay let's look at part one of my interview with Iyin Landre.

First I would like to thank Iyin Landre for agreeing to do this interview about her film Me + You, and the Kickstarter campaign for it.

Thanks for reaching out Rodney, great to have people like you blogging about independent film.

Q1: The first question has to be what is “Me + You” about?

A1: It’s a thriller about an American girl who travels to Brazil and falls in love with a drug dealer from the favelas.

Q2: Many low budget film makers have gone the route of shooting a great trailer for their project in hopes of raising money for the production itself. You went a step further by going on location to Brazil to shoot the footage for your trailer. Where did the inspiration for that come from?

A2: Honestly, a few friends of mine suggested that I just shoot it in LA, but I knew in my heart there was no way I could “fake” Brazil. I had been saving some airline miles for years, and after I finished writing the first draft, I realized that the only way I was going to get funding was if people saw what the movie looked like, felt like. So I decided to cash in my miles and fly down there for a month.

Q3: Did you have your shoot mapped out before you left or did you figure it all out after you arrived in Brazil?

A3: I had written a 5 page script for the trailer itself, but I really didn’t map anything out. A friend of mine passed on two email contacts, and with that I decided to just take a leap of faith and fly down there, hoping that cast, crew, everything would sort itself out. However, I remember arriving at 4:30AM in Rio and looking out the taxi window, thinking to myself -- what the hell was I doing in Brazil by myself? But every time that
anxiety swelled, I just focused on the end result—an amazing trailer that will raise funding for the feature.

Q4: I understand that you have shot a few short films, do you believe that is good prep for a feature or do you find feature film making to be a completely different universe?

A4: I think that it was decent prep. I believe with each short, I became a better storyteller, whether through the writing process, or the directing process or the editing process. At the same time, I realize I have never been to film school, but I don’t believe that everyone has to. Everyone’s path is different, and the only thing I can do is go with my gut. And right now, it’s telling me to shoot this feature.

Q5: I am going to ask you a few hat questions now. You are going to be wearing multiple hats on this production; producer, director, writer and actress. As the producer are you prepared for the times when you may have to tell the director that cuts and compromises will have to be made during the production? Every low to micro budget film producer will answer every single question the same way. “There is no money for that. Find a work around.” After about ten days of production most producers are asking is there any way that coffee grounds can be recycled. As you prep to go into full production mode do you find yourself going over ever possible way to squeeze more production value out of each and every dollar?

A5: Good thing Brazil has amazing coffee! Yes, the producer in me is already squeezing every dollar from production. And to my surprise, because of the Kickstarter campaign, we’ve already had a number of Brazilians reach out to me saying that they’d love to be a part of the film in some way, offering their services for free because they love the project.

Q6: This question goes to the young lady wearing the director’s hat. When you put on the directors hat for the first time did it feel like it was something that you should have been doing all along or was it like putting on the sorting hat from Harry Potter?

Did it take a while to get use to it?

A6: Well, the first time I directed was a short film I made in 2009, called “Homo.” With all the Prop 8 protests against gay marriage in California at the time, I wondered what if the tables were turned – what if two heterosexual lovers fall in love in a homosexual world, only to be torn apart by society? With that film, I would say I didn’t know the first thing about directing, about composition, angles, how to direct actors, anything really. But after that I took a directing class at UCLA Extension, and though still limited, it gave me a skill set, streamlined my ideas and helped me to find my directing style. And since then, I’ve directed more short films, music videos, etc. But I have to mention that I will not be directing “Me + You.” As much as I’d love to, I think it would be too overwhelming for my first feature, to both star and direct.

Q7: Who are your favorite directors?

A7: Darren Aronofsky for sure. I would say that he was my film school. I’ve been tweeting him, so if you read this Darren, call me! Also Danny Boyle with “Trainspotting,” Guillermo del Toro with “Pan’s Labyrinth,” and Asghar Farhadi who also wore many hats in “A Separation.”

The second half of this interview will be publish tomorrow. If you would like to visit the film’s website you can do so by clicking here.

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