Friday, February 26, 2010

Speculative Fiction

I've always loved the idea of playing around with conventions. With a show like Firefly, and later the movie Serenity, the twist was that it was a space Western. Memorable characters went a long way towards making the show(s) so memorable to me, but a great deal of the charm lay in the meshing of two familiar tropes. It wasn't the first time something like this was done, particularly the space cowboys theme, but it is a good example of freshening up genres that have been reduced to familiar, tired cliches.

I've been trying to figure out a twist on this that we could shoot, a weird meshing of genres that could be produced on no-budget. It's tricky, especially when one of the genres would usually be something that would involve special effects, an area we have no knowledge in and are regrettably unprepared to approach. So what if we took a genre stereotype and inserted him into a regular story set in a regular world?

Say a vicious gunslinger with a twist who is quick on the draw, loves a good drink, and is always ready for a tumble with women of ill virtue. A character who was...

Photo by: Patrick Gilbert

I think that could actually work. This might be my first meshing of molds, but at the very least, it's definitely another idea to pollute my mind...

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Secret Confession...

So, I have actually been very busy with all the stuff previously mentioned, especially the plotting how to capture decent footage in Cuba on a budget... It's been great and distracting and wonderful (and is probably the secret/subtle cause of my wrye neck) and it is going to have to end soon.

It's time for us to get back to work, or me at least. I've had a great winter writing wise. Let's do a little tally:

One Last Time
Untitled Ghost Script
Some Things Are...

Three shorts ready to shoot and one treatment ready for filling out (currently operating as The Boogeyman) so not a bad off season. Also, not a winter script in the bunch, which was kind of a goal this year. With the weather being how it is, I could probably crank out one of the many ideas drifting through my head fairly quickly to make something happen, but if we're going to do an outdoor winter shoot - it needs to count. Whatever the case, I'm itching to get back in front of, and behind, the camera. It is a pretty liberating experience that helps me put things into perspective.

There is another little thing that is keeping me unfocused at the moment. My novel and three quarters. While technically two separate beasts, one of them is actually finished in first draft form and I really need to get my head back into the right space to polish, shine, and ship it out. I put a ton of work into that story (a little over a year) and am actually very happy with the results. It's time to get back into the groove and make something happen with that one, a little story I have been referring to as I Land. The other one is actually better than I remember, having revisited the first two chapters recently, but first things first right?

As for the other three scripts - they're ready to go. What would you like to see first? Or would you prefer something totally different. I can do that too... Wait, I Land. Must. Finish. I Land.

Check back soon. I've got a couple more posts to squeeze in before my big Oscar recap success/failure piece. For those unaware, the predictions are here:


See you in a day or two!

2 Weeks and 2 Days Later...

It's been too long since my last post, and for that I apologize. There are no excuses really, besides a handful of writing projects, a strange obsession with all things Olympics, and the requisite daily grind.

I've also been spending far too much time trying to figure out how to shoot something in Cuba when I am there and what I should be shooting. I have a few ideas drifting trough the mental quagmire, but so far, nothing concrete. More vexing than an idea (which granted can probably wait for a bit) is figuring out what I can use to shoot. I need something affordable, portable, and easy-to-use on the fly. Any suggestions? I'm leaning towards the ultra tiny Canon SX200 at the moment. It seems like a good bet.

All of this of course has lead me to a whimsical nostalgia for the trouble shooting process of all our shoots. I've mentioned weather, equipment, schedules and more in the past, but ideas are one thing that I didn't mention. I have a few in the hopper right now, and a few scripts ready to go, and I am hoping that very soon, there will be a new update. In the meantime, some nostalgic shots of the process of bringing About The Girl to fruition. Still an achievement that I am extremely proud of...

I'll be in touch again soon. With some news. About ideas...

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Lake - Watch It Now!

Hello again, I've mentioned it a few times now, but our most recent effort is one that we are all very proud of. The Lake was definitely a weird piece, beginning with the effort it took to figure out how to tell the story based on a concept, and continuing right through the successful portrayal of a mid'-50s aesthetic. It is a simple story told in a not-so-simple way and we really do thing that it succeeded nicely. Here is what we wrote about it on the National Screen Institute of Canada's website:

"The Lake started off as a simple concept: two different men from two different generations have a conversation on a bench near a lake. As the script developed, a unique challenge presented itself and we decided to attempt to successfully evoke a nostalgic fifties aesthetic through the use of flashbacks."

"With rented costumes, local automobile enthusiasts, and a few tricks of the camera we were able to create not only the fifties vibe, but also a more dynamic portrayal of the story. It added an extra layer to what began as a simple story of a cocky young man and a mysterious old stranger who might still be living in the past."

Again, we are very proud of our
efforts. If you are in Canada, you can see the film here. Those of you who are out of the country will have to hold on a little longer - at least until our festival run is complete.

The Lake - Now Available for Your Viewing Pleasure

Saturday, February 6, 2010

You Need To Start Somewhere.

Every company needs to have a beginning. Ours wasn't really in film, but we have received the most feedback from our ventures into that arena so far.

Our About The Girl Poster

This is just a refresher for anyone new to the program... Somerset Productions started out in the print media arena before venturing into film. Our first short was called "About The Girl", lovingly shot by Ed Regan; directed by Kevin Hoffman; written by yours truly; and starring anyone I knew who didn't mind donating way more time than they originally agreed to. For a first-time experiment, it proved to be quite successful and won a handful of awards and recognitions and was very nearly featured on The Border, Canada's most successful hour-long drama. That last bit might very well still happen. Our film is available online at the National Screen institute of Canada, but for those of you outside of Canada, I provide the following link to Ed Regan's Vimeo account . I hope you enjoy it.

Thanks again for your support and I'll look forward to providing you with more updates, and hopefully some very exciting news, in the next couple days. Until then...

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Oscar Predictions - Part I

Every year I do this and every year I come close to a perfect set of predictions. Not bad considering the limited number of films that actually make it through this neck of the woods. This is going to be a fairly long two-parter, so without further adieu, the predictions for this year:

Best Picture
The Blind Side
District 9
An Education
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
A Serious Man
Up in the Air

The Hurt Locker. Why? I’ve been calling this one for months now, and I’m sticking to my guns, despite what the Hollywood Foreign Press thinks. It’s nice to see District 9 in there, the better of the two ‘alien’ movies in my mind, but The Hurt Locker has been the little movie that could since Sundance ‘09.

Best Actor
Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart

George Clooney, Up in the Air

Colin Firth, A Single Man

Morgan Freeman, Invictus

Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker

Jeff Bridges. It would be nice to see Jeremy Renner take this for the sheer upset alone, but I think Hollywood is going to choose Bridges as much for his contributions over the years as for this particular role.

Best Actress

Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side

Helen Mirren, The Last Station

Carey Mulligan, An Education

Gabourey Sidibe, Precious

Meryl Streep, Julia and Julia

Sandra Bullock. Carey Mulligan was an early favourite, but she seems to have drifted to the sidelines and Hollywood loves their “stars”. From what I have heard, Bullock does a good job, but I’m not sure she would be my pick, even though she is.

Best Director

James Cameron, Avatar

Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker

Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds

Lee Daniels, Precious

Jason Reitman, Up in the Air

Kathryn Bigelow. This will be the first time a female has won the Best Director award, which means there will be buzz and publicity aplenty surrounding the choice. As long as I don’t have to sit through more self-servicing nonsense from Cameron I’m happy, but this one is all about Bigelow. Point Break and Near Dark were not so long ago...

Best Supporting Actor

Matt Damon, Invictus

Woody Harrelson, The Messenger

Christopher Plummer, The Last Station

Stanley Tucci, The Lovely Bones

Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds

It can’t not be Waltz. He did a brilliant job and turned what could have been a strictly evil character into a funny, frightening and incredibly unique performance.

Best Supporting Actress

Penelope Cruz, Nine

Vera Farmiga, Up in the Air

Maggie Gyllenhaal, Crazy Heart

Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air

Mo'Nique, Precious

I’d have to guess Mo’Nique, although I’ve heard wonderful things about the ladies of Up In The Air and Penelope Cruz looks all right dancing around in her underwear. Being where I am though, I haven’t had the chance to see any of these performances yet though.

Best Animated Feature


Fantastic Mr. Fox

The Princess and the Frog

The Secret of the Kells


As much as I would like to see Coraline win, being a huge fan of Neil Gaiman's work, I know it’s going to be Up! I think this category was created especially for Pixar, but there is no denying the quality of their work. And Up! Was a wonderful movie, and deserves the win.

Best Screenplay

Mark Boal, The Hurt Locker

Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds

Allessandro Camon & Oren Moverman, The Messenger

Joel Coen & Ethan Coen - A Serious Man

Pete Docter & Bob Peterson - Up!

Quentin Tarantino will win and deservedly so for his most accomplished film to-date. The Coens are always favourites, but this will be Quentin’s award.

Best Screenplay (Adapted)
District 9

An Education

In the Loop


Up in the Air

A bit of a tough category, but I think this is where Up In The Air will finally get some love. That being said, I would love to see Nick Hornby take the win for An Education.

Best Art Direction


The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus


Sherlock Holmes

The Young Victoria

Avatar won’t be shut out and is a shoe in for this award. It would be nice to see Gilliam get some love for the maligned Parnassus, but this is Avatar’s win.

Best Cinematography

Mauro Fiore, Avatar

Bruno Delbonnel, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Barry Ackroyd, The Hurt Locker

Robert Richardson, Inglourious Basterds

Christian Berger, The White Ribbon

I think Richardson by a hair over Ackroyd, although it would be interesting to see Haneke’s bleak (and black & white) White Ribbon win. And the latest Potter film really was nicely filmed, but I’m sticking with Richardson.

Best Costume Design

Bright Star

Coco Before Chanel

The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus


The Young Victoria

Again, it would be nice to see Gilliam’s film take this award, but how do you compete against Coco Chanel? My gut is with Nine (although I usually tank this category if there isn’t a Lord of the Rings film in the running).

Part II to follow!

Oscar Predictions - Part II

And on with PART II...

Best Documentary

Burma VJ

The Cove

Food Inc.

The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg
 and the Pentagon Papers

Which Way Home

A heavily stacked category, but I’m going with The Cove, a clandestine examination of annual Japanese slaughter of dolphins and the efforts that former Flipper-trainer Ric O’Barry has taken to expose the practice.

Best Documentary - Short Feature

China's Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province

The Lost Campaign of Governor Booth Gardner

The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant

Music by Prudence

Rabbit a la Berlin

A tough category again, especially since I haven’t seen any of these, and know little about them, but I’m going to go with China's Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province.

Best Editing
District 9
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds

My gut is with Basterds again, if for no other reason than the dread-filled build-up of the cabin scene at the beginning of the film. It would be nice to see The Hurt Locker or District 9 on the podium as well.

Best Foreign Film

Ajami, Israel

El Secreto de Sus Ojos, Argentina

The Milk Of Sorrow, Peru

Un Prophete, France

The White Ribbon, Germany

Some dark and heavy subject matter in the foreign films category this year. I’m leaning towards The White Ribbon, but I think it’s a pretty tight race.

Best Makeup

Il Divo

Star Trek

The Young Victoria

Star Trek by a hair, although this category often favours period makeup over creature prosthetics, so…

Best Original Score


The Hurt Locker

Fantastic Mr. Fox

Sherlock Holmes


Michael Ginacchino for Up! Zimmer had some fun with Sherlock Holmes and Fantastic Mr. Fox is playful, but Up! Has it all for the win.

Best Original Song

"Almost There", The Princess and the Frog, Randy Newman

"Down in New Orleans", The Princess and the Frog, Randy Newman

"Loin de Paname", Paris 36, Reinhardt Wagner & Frank Thomas

"Take it All", Nine, Maury Weston

"The Weary Kind", Crazy Heart, Ryan Bingham & T-Bone Burnett

"The Weary Kind". Not sure why I like it for the win, but that’s my call.

Best Animated Short Film

French Roast

Granny O'Grimm's Sleeping Beauty

The Lady and the Reaper


A Matter of Loaf and Death

A Matter of Loaf and Death, created by Nick Park at Aardman Animations in Bristol, UK (my former stomping grounds). For those of you unaware, it’s a Wallace and Gromit short, which is always a good thing.

Best Live Action Short Film

The Door

Instead of Abracadabra


Miracle Fish

The New Tenants

I don’t see The Lake on this list… Weird. Again, I never know with this category, but I’m going to go with Kavi.

Best Sound Editing


Inglourious Basterds

The Hurt Locker

Star Trek


It will probably be Avatar, although there isn’t a bad pick in the bunch. The Hurt Locker or Star Trek could pull an upset, but this one is Avatar.

Best Sound Mixing


The Hurt Locker

Inglourious Basterds

Star Trek

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Just to shake things up, I’ll go with The Hurt Locker on this one. Go ahead, tell me I’m hedging my bets, but that’s my call.

Best Visual Effects


District 9

Star Trek

Avatar. Loved the work done in District 9, but Cameron spent 10 years getting this one right and really did create a whole new world.

Make sure you come back on March 8 for my recap. I’m shooting for an A+ this year…