Friday, March 19, 2010

Prolific Friday = Post # 3

An addendum...

In this era of media proliferation where essentially any piece of media is available through a few key strokes, whether it be through legitimate channels or ill gotten gains, how is a no-budget film outfit supposed to recoup the costs of there (not actually) no budget productions?

I put this out there for you the audience: Would there be an interest in purchasing our...cough... humble productions on shiny DVD format for a nominal fee? We would like to be able to maintain our business and continue producing high quality tidbits of entertainment on your behalf. Would you be willing to support this endeavor?

I hope to see the comment boards erupt in a flow of positive support, otherwise we will just keep plodding on at one film a year (when I know we could be so much more productive). Thoughts, support and hugs encouraged as always...

Good Things Come In Twos (Movies Everywhere)

Am I not right? Good things come in twos? For today, that will be the case, and thus I present: Blog #2 for the day.

Movies Everywhere.

This is not a sequel post to my last entry. It is in fact a lament to the demise of the mystique of movies. Growing up, movies were a titillation and a great delight, a segue both from and back in to the literature that I was so quick to embrace. Seeing stories come to life was incredible. Our first VCR was a Beta, because Beta was better. Sadly for my parents, VHS was alpha and Beta remained forever in second (although VHS is now Dodo, whereas Beta is still industry standard in certain circles, which just goes to reinforce the fact that being the most popular rarely means being the best).

Growing up, I would receive movies for Christmas and Birthdays, great big VHS versions. Even as recently as Tim Burton's Batman, I was still clamoring for Beta. Now Beta is gone, VHS is gone, DVDs are dying out, HD-DVD is gone, and even Bluray is on apparently tenuous ground and it is still in its infancy. Digital seems to be the way of the future, and it has in fact opened up a world of cinematic opportunities. It kind of sucks.

Don't get me wrong, I love the fact that previously unavailable movies are now accessible to me, but I also miss the days when there were hidden gems to be sought out, treasures of the film scape that remained just on the other side of elusive. This new found accessibility has taken away from the romance of films. Growing up, I can remember begging my parents to buy me Willow when it was released on video. It has just come out and existed in the the $135 price range, which in today's dollars would be close to $2,456. Crazy, right? Nowe, you can get it on DVD with a pristine remastered picture for less than $9.99.

Even those movies that you can't find on DVD or Bluray? They are out there and they are waiting. It doesn't matter if they are banned where you are from. Remember Disney's Song of the South? Probably not, because it has never been released to home video in North America due to content that Disney executives in retrospect realized might be racially insensitive. Most of you know the song 1947 Academy Award winning best song Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah though. The thing is, even that banned movie can be obtained now (although I am not condoning illegal downloading, I'm merely pointing out the accessibility of just about anything you might want to see).

Whoa, illegal racist propaganda online? Never.

Once mythic relics that would only ever be darkly whispered conjecture like D.W. Griffith's Birth of a Nation or Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will are now available on YouTube. Even more modern shocking films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Faces of Death that threatened the fabric of society, or the U.K.'s much maligned "Video Nasties" such as The Evil Dead (easily one of the most released DVD titles of all time) are rampantly and readily available.

In the end, I love being able to see what all the furor (and at times Fuhrer) was about with some of this relics, but it does detract from the overall magical mystique of the industry.

Sometimes I guess we need to take the good with the bad and make the best of both. Still, I miss the day where movies were an investment of time and finances - and where the studios appreciated that fact. As more and more recycled dreck filters through, and more and more people complacently support it, the further we come from the golden age of cinema.

Still, there are plenty of aforementioned 'unseeable' films out there, so who am I to complain. I actually got to see The Evil Dead on the big screen in Burnham-on-Sea, Somerset, United Kingdom; on the big screen in the very country that vilified and elevated it to cult stature at the same time. The good with the bad, right?

North Bay: An Industry Town?

There has been a great kerfuffle in North Bay of late, one that centres around the idea that this is an "ideal filming destination". While it is true that this past year has seen an unprecedented amount of productions filming in and around our fair city, I am not sure that everyone is seeing the big picture. North Bay has been used as a small town location in the Kids in The Hall: Death Comes to Town, Oliver Sherman (with the awesome Garret Dillahunt), and in some minds Running Mates (with Henry Winkler, although shot mostly in Burk's Falls), and a northern Production Company and Talent Agency did spill out of Dark Rising 2: Summer Strikes Back, and the accompanying miniseries that was shot in town (primarily on sets built in a warehouse). It is great to see our community embracing this new potential, but there are people worrying that dollar sign pupils are obscuring the vision of this new directive. It is fun and exciting to see famous people walking the streets of North Bay and relishing all we have to offer, but it is not necessarily a guarantee of a bright and prosperous new film industry future.

Death (and the Kids In The Hall) come to town = Fun! Exciting!

Film making is definitely a big-money industry, but it is also one filled with passion and vision. North Bay needs to maintain a clear line of sight and not get too far ahead of itself. Jim Calarco, who has always maintained a passion for the industry even when the glory and riches were not guaranteed, and his niece Brigitte Kingsley who brought the Dark Rising 2 production to town, realize the potential that our community holds and the need to build up the industry essentially from the ground up. That is the kind of vision that North Bay needs. It is great that we have experienced success over the past year, but the film industry is a fickle mistress.

I know this not through experience, but from general knowledge. The beauty of no-budget film making is that there are no stakes and nobody to answer to really but ourselves. For our team, the process is about passion and artistic gratification more than anything. The best reward isn't awards, or even nominations; it is the satisfaction that comes from seeing a few ideas on a page turn into a solid finished product after so much hard work.

I want to see North Bay succeed with its film aspirations. I want a thriving community to grow. When we launched About The Girl out into the world, most of the feedback we received was about the dynamic presentation and great locations. I wrote that script based around those specific locations with a full appreciation of what each location offered. North Bay has those locations, and so many more to offer, but we need to maintain realistic expectations.For the industry, the tax incentives are great, but when the expenses involved in importing qualified personnel outweigh the financial benefits of filming in the north, this perceived money train will find a new station.

About The Girl was never destined for Cannes, but one of our future projects might be. It will just take a bit of time before we have refined our process to that point. I hope that our passionate and committed film community, as well as our civic leaders and champions, can maintain a similar outlook.

Let's make it work!

ADDENDUM: There have been other films produced in North Bay and surrounding area including Captain of the Clouds, That Beautiful Somewhere, Grey Owl and more - but this really has been a good year hasn't?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Reason #10,043,604 for Vimeo

So... I've posted links to our first film, About The Girl, in the past so that everyone has a chance to check it out. This evening, I retooled the Internets in the favour of our humble (sorry) production company and we now have our very own page on Vimeo. It currently features... wait for it... About The Girl! Cool, no? Rest assured, we will be updating it soon with additional fun and films but for now it is a good start.

As an aside, I would like to mention that while I have always been a great online spectator, I am actually starting to feel like a participant now. For those who may not be aware, Somerset Productions, and through that yours truly, can now be found at:

Vimeo Home Page
Facebook (Personal Profile)
Facebook (Somerset Productions Group)
Twitter (Mostly Somerset, via me)
About The Girl on Vimeo

Part of this new digital life, especially through Facebook, means a greater ease of communication. In the case of Twitter, it also means accessibility, in particular to people who I have always admired like Roger Ebert...

Check out my latest Tweet:

Technology can be a very helpful tool. Through it, I have now been able to reach out to a person who shares his love and appreciation of film with the world (and has inspired my own), to share a link to a film I might not otherwise have made. That's pretty cool no matter how you look at it. I hope he watches it, and I hope to send him more in the future. It's not much, but it is the best way I can think of to thank him for what he has done for the film industry, film makers, and amateur dreamers like myself over the years.

Thanks for everything Roger!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Oscars - Blanked on the Writing: 58.3%

If you need a quick recap to get this started, my original thoughts are here:

Part One
Part Two

And now, on to the winners. My correct answer/guesses are in bold for your viewing pleasure...

Best Picture

The Hurt Locker
Despite the “scandal” surrounding a certain producer lobbying for votes then being banned from the ceremonies for his efforts, it is Hurt Locker for the win.

Best Actor
Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
Not surprised, although it would have been awesome to see Jeremy Renner win. He was awesome in 28 Weeks Later, and most everything I’ve seen him in – even SWAT).

Best Actress
Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side
Again, no surprise, but I wonder if she might have worn the Academy down just a bit. Still, happy about the win.

Best Director
Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
She is 58. She directed Point Break and Near Dark. She is the deserved winner…

Best Supporting Actor
Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds
As I said, 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
Mo'Nique, Precious
Of all the nominee clips, Mo’nique’s really did stand way out. That being said, Anna Kendrick looks like she did some nice work too. Twilight? Really?

Best Animated Feature
Wish we could have at least had a small cut-away to Gaiman in the audience for Coraline, but no surprise. Pixar is near enough to flawless as can be..

Best Screenplay
Mark Boal, The Hurt Locker
My first miss, and it’s in a writing category! I’m actually really happy to have been wrong and Boal’s story is a fascinating one, but Quentin Tarantino still delivered his most accomplished film to-date.

Best Screenplay (Adapted)
Jeffrey Fletcher, Precious
It’s funny that doing a full length version of your own short is considered an adapted screenplay. It’s funny that Nick Hornby continues to surprise me. It’s funny that Jason Reitman is getting a lot of backlash all of a sudden for no reason. Also funny? I was blanked in the writing categories…

Best Art Direction
I called it, and it seemed fairly straight forward, but there really was some fantastic work in this category.

Best Cinematography
Mauro Fiore, Avatar
I threw two names into the hat, and didn’t even factor in the 3-D equation. Should have thought of it really…

Best Costume Design
The Young Victoria
Missed this one too. It’s tough choosing whether period pieces deserve the win for their intricacy, and apparently our winner agrees – low budget, modern day designers deserve as much, if not more credit. “This award is for them, but I’m taking it home with me”.

Best Documentary
The Cove
They all look extremely interesting, but I am happy to have been right. 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
Music by Prudence
Prudence, which looks as interesting as the rest of them. Turns out the weird woman that rushed the stage during the speech was the producer and she has been in a feud with the director for some time now.

Best Editing
The Hurt Locker
A deserved win for sure – so many tense scenes in that movie, consistently ramping up. Basterds as well though, as far as my pick goes…

Best Foreign Film
El Secreto de Sus Ojos, Argentina
No White Ribbon, but they all looked very good.

Best Makeup
Star Trek
I said: "Star Trek by a hair, although this category often favours period makeup over creature prosthetics, so…" So what? Star Trek for the win.

Best Original Score
Up!, Michael Giacchino
Michael Ginacchino for Up! The guy behind Alias and Lost. Awesome acceptance speech about it being okay for kids to be creative and they should stick with it.

Best Original Song
"The Weary Kind", Crazy Heart, Ryan Bingham & T-Bone Burnett
"The Weary Kind". Not sure why I liked it for the win, but that was my call. Was a little more likely after winning at the Globes as well.

Best Animated Short Film
Wallace and Grommit defeated by Corporate America. Still, Logorama looks pretty awesome (and took six years to put its 16 minutes together. Trailer

Best Live Action Short Film
The New Tenants
I still don’t see The Lake on this list… Kavi didn’t win, but this one does look like a good picture..

Best Sound Editing
The Hurt Locker
So it was not Avatar. I am all right with that. Again, The Hurt Locker, which did have some impressive scenes, but it is a tough category. As is…

Best Sound Mixing
The Hurt Locker
I said: "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." I was right!

Best Visual Effects
Avatar. The whole movie has redefined the industry, or at least propelled it ahead in new direction, so this is no surprise…

SO, 58.3% not great, but not horrible considering the vast amount of wild-guessery I had to do. It was awesome to see both Roger Corman and the tribute to Horror movies (I had seen them all except New Moon, which is way better than 58.3%). There were a few surprises for me this year, but none of them bad. Hurt Locker did better than I expected. Avatar did too.

58.3% might not be the best score, but I got all the big ones right. in Hollywood, that's all that matters. Most movies would consider a second weekend drop of 58.3% to be a job well done, so I guess I can think the same of my prognostications.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Clearing Up Confusion of "Coat Tail" Conundrum

I've always assumed that Somerset Productions is a model based around teamwork. We all work together to achieve our film making goals. With About The Girl in particular, it was extremely difficult to distinguish between people's specific duties and roles: there were actors, and producers, and directors, and shooters, but there was also an overlap to everything we did. Scan through the credits and you will quickly see the number of repeated names throughout. Any 'official' titles have been more token assignments to identify the perceived roles of film.

I've been joking about our nominations yesterday - about riding coat tails, or being the handsome face that gets our cinematography noticed, or about sending condolences to me as the one person not nominated. A few people have now mentioned that they were sorry to hear I was shut out.

The thing is, in my mind, I wasn't. Our movie is nominated for another pair of awards and for that I am grateful. It is a great accomplishment and I really do see it as the success of our team being acknowledged. We are in this together and while I definitely surround myself with talented people, it is a conscious choice. I want to create the best possible versions of my stories and Kevin and Pat are the guys I turn to most often to make that happen. Ed was a part of that equation to while we were still working together.

With these nominations, you can all rest assured that I am as excited for our team as I would be if I was nominated myself... That is the way you need to be in the world of no-budget film making. You are part of a team and part of a process that is about collaboration, team work, and shared success.

I'm proud to be part of this team and I am hoping that we continue to grow, develop and succeed with our productions. At the end of the day, we do it for the thrill and the art. Don't get me wrong, awards are nice, but they are nice because they reinforce the fact that we are doing what we set out to do in the first place. More to the point, we are doing it well and that's the best reward...

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Breaking News: NOMINATIONS!

This just in from the Music and Film in Motion Northern Ontario Music and Film Awards:

Best Film Editor
Kevin Hoffman – The Lake
Dave Clement – The Healing Lens
Ben Bruhmuller – Vs.

Best Cinematographer
Ed Regan & Patrick Gilbert – The Lake
Greg Tremblay – Doomzday Jezuz
Dave Clement – The Healing Lens

Music and Film in Motion (MFM) would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who submitted projects to the seventh edition of the Northern Ontario Music and Film Awards Program. It is with your talent and hard work the music and film industries see growth here in the North.

On the evening of May 1st, Music and Film in Motion will celebrate the Northern Ontario Music and Film Awards by presenting ten (10) Northern artists with awards for excellence in music and film. In addition to the Awards Ceremony, MFM will be hosting a conference component again this year from April 29th to May 1st.

This year, submissions came in from communities across the North including; Thunder Bay, Sault Ste Marie, Sudbury, North Bay, Timmins, Espanola, Parry Sound and Dryden. 

For each category, the nominees were selected by a panel of prominent music and film industry professionals. The winner for each category will be announced at the Northern Ontario Music and Film Awards ceremony to be held on Saturday, May 1st, 2010 in the Great Hall at Laurentian University.

Please feel free to send us your congratulations! Also, condolences can be forwarded to Michael Humble who was once again shut out of the writing category... That'll teach him!

Accepting the 2009 Award for Best Cinematographer
Kevin Hoffman and Michael Humble (for Ed Regan)

Congratulations to Kevin, Patrick and Ed. Well done guys! See you all there on May 1, 2010.