Saturday, August 27, 2005

All Talk

Yesterday evening my friend (and Production Designer) Allyson and I went to a room at the Hotel Intercontinental to meet with a "Horror Film Producer". This guy has been trying to convince Allyson to work with him on a few of his "Forty-one Projects" that he has "slated to go to camera next month". A bunch of overweight men in their forties filled out the crowded discount room in the downtown five-star. Alcohol was abundant, but one of them had to go get mix when we arrived to avoid paying for the mini-fridge cokes. The "Producer" quickly showed us a model that another member of the group had made of a deformed baby monster that was to be the star of his new series, but apart from that all he offered us was talk... and talk he offered in abundance. For the next two hours we sat sipping rye and gingers while our morbidly obese host expound on his forty-one projects, his business model, his industry expertise, his diabetes, his dabbles with the priesthood, his lack of understanding of technology, the two HD camera packages he's planning to buy, his one testicle, the meaning of life, but most important of all, "his vision." He went on and on about the hundreds of thousands of dollars and in some cases millions that his shows will cost, but the only concrete money he could point to having raised was the $5,000 that his father had invested. Occasionally I got so bored that I asked him questions, such as "what are the budgets of each episode?" and "are you planning to direct all of them yourself?" But what I really should have asked is, "did you rent a hotel room during the Horror Convention to meet 16 year old horror fans in funny costumes or to pretend that you have a carreer in the film industry?"

The entire experience was maddening. Just another con man trying to make something from a whole lot of nothing, whose only real work is that of stringing along young and vulnerable film industry wannabes. And here is the thing—this is not an isolated incident. More often than not, the people I meet in the lower rungs of the film industry talk an incredibly ambitious game, but have absolutely nothing to show for it. And the most frightening part is that occasionally some yabbo actually gives them a chunk of change for them to spend on hotel rooms during Horror Conventions. And how does one sift through the mire of lies and find those who are actually on the level? Sadly, I don't have an answer to that question. Do you?

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Sign of the Times

In today's New York Times, Sharon Waxman's article 'Summer Fading, Hollywood Sees Fizzle' noted that "With the last of the summer blockbusters fading from the multiplex, Hollywood's box office slump has hardened into a reality that is setting the movie industry on edge. Multiples theories for the decline abound: a failure of studio marketing, the rising price of gas, the lure of alternate entertainment, even the prevalence of commercials and pesky cell phones inside once-sacrosanct theaters. But many movie executives and industry experts are beginning to conclude that something more fundamental is at work: Too many Hollywood movies these days, they say, just are not good enough."

NO KIDDING! It is time to turn down the suck. There are filmmakers all over the world telling fantastic stories, but Hollywood has somehow cornered world entertainment and now we all have to suffer for it. It's nice to see that some LA execs are finally clueing in to this fact.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Pressure Drop

"I say a pressure drop, oh pressure, Oh yeah pressure drop a drop on you. I say when it drops, oh you gonna feel it..."
- Toots And The Maytals

My editor pointed out that the lab always exaggerates the damage—and indeed comparing my fear level going into the telecine suite, verses the way I felt coming out, I might draw that same conclusion. "Intermittent blue pressure marks throughout" turned out to be a dozen blue streaks that only lasted a couple of frames, most of which will be edited out naturally as we take the footage from 20 minutes to thirty seconds. So I'm feeling a great sense of relief.After the transfer Jim Hardy at Eyes Post and I had a chance to chat about the comparative benefits of film and video and he made some very interesting points. "With a lab problem like yours, there is definitely damage to the film, but that damage is small and correctable, it's a 2 out of 10. Whereas if you'd had a faulty tape or tape dropout, a digital deck might just give you an error message and refuse to play it back completely." Basically Jim's feeling is that video is not a medium that lasts. He talked about seven year old metal tapes (such as High Definition and Digital Beta) rusting and disintegrating to pieces the second he inserted them into a deck. Film on the other hand lasts, and no matter how technology advances, we will likely always be able to access the images on a film negative and "display them on soap bubbles if that's what the newest medium is." Even if film is damaged, it tends to retain a majority of its information, and thus as an archival medium it far outstrips video. "You keep this negative in a vault and In 70 years you'll be able to retransfer this Super16 and it will be the same. Even the blue streaks will still be there."

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Pressure Marks

The unthinkable just happened. Over the weekend I got a crew together to shoot 2 super16mm film spec commercials "Vertical Integration" and "Backwards Barbeque" that I'd been planning for a few months. Just now I got a call from the lab telling me that there was a problem with the footage. Evidently, while the film was being processed, a wheel on the line broke and our film jumped a sprocket hole and flipped over. Now there are intermittent blue pressure marks all over the film. I have no idea how bad they are or how often they occur. I'm going to find out in the transfer in a few days, but right now I'm feeling very low. It's the first time in 7 years that I've ever had a problem shooting film and as someone who considers himself a film advocate (in this day of digital takeover) it's a shitty feeling to get a shot of the potential shortcomings of celluloid firsthand. The first thing I thought when I got the message though, was how glad I was that this had happened on a 1-day shoot as opposed to one of my bigger projects. I guess my insurance agent was right—there is an argument for paying for negative insurance after all.