VOD And Screenings!

NOW AVAILABLE ON VIMEO ON DEMAND!

Want to see it with other folks? That’s great!
Singularity and Co. Sci-Fi Bookstore , Thur., Sept. 11th, 6:30pm
18 Bridge Street, Brooklyn, NY
More info: singularityand.co – director will be there!

Science Fiction Society of Northern NJ, Fri. Sept. 12th, 7pm
Well Read New & Used Books , 425 Lafayette Avenue, Hawthorne, NJ 07506
More Info: Meetup.com/science-fiction-society-northern-nj – director will be there!

Unreal Film Festival, Sept. 28-Oct. 1st (exact date TBD)
Evergreen Theatre, 1705 Poplar Ave., Memphis, TN 38104
More Info: www.unrealfilmfest.com

Louisville International Film Festival, Oct. 8-Oct. 10th (exact date TBD)
Louisville, KY
More Info: louisvillefilmfestival.org – Director may be going

Three Weeks From Release…

Some cool things are happening.

Awards!

We won the Best Sci-Fi Feature at Phoenix Comicon, and Best Sci-Fi and Best Audience Sci-Fi awards at Intendence Film Festival! Thank you to Intendence and Phoenix Comicon!

Made In NY Marketing Campaign Ad

We qualified for the Made In New York Marketing program, which means NYC will print and put up 250 subway and 20 bus shelter ads for our film – at no cost! Here’s a pic of our team looking over a rough copy of the subway poster:

Made In NY Marketing Poster Team

Screenings

We’re organizing some non-festival screenings in September, October and November, timed to the release of the film. Stay tuned and we’ll keep you posted.

I know we haven’t written a ‘how-to’ or diary entry in a while. Things are a little hectic right now. We’ll post more in-depth pieces in a short while.

BaltiCon! And Post-AOBFF

We got into BaltiCon! This is Maryland’s biggest sci-fi/fantasy convention, running from May 23-26th. This is four days of workshops, cosplay, films, singing, gaming, author panels, and lots more! Details:

WHERE: Hunt Valley Inn, 245 Shawan Road, Hunt Valley, Maryland 21031
WHEN: Sunday, May 25, 9:30am in the Garden Room
TICKETS: Balticon.org

Art of Brooklyn Film Festival Round-Up

The Art of Brooklyn Film Festival was, in short, quite wonderful. Their claim is that it’s run by Brooklyn filmmakers for Brooklyn filmmakers, and they deliver. The screenings were organized into blocks that made sense, the pairing of shorts and features worked well, the communication between the festival staff and the directors and producers was great… and the overall atmosphere was joyous.

Cast, crew, fans, staff, and industry folk mingled pretty freely, both during the pre-screening receptions and at the nightly after-parties. It was, of course, great to be able to commute to a festival as opposed to taking trains, buses planes, and automobiles. But the venues themselves were also easy to get to by subway and a lot of care was taken to make sure the projection and sound quality were up to par.

So, here are a few really quick ‘snapshots’ of the films I saw. There wasn’t a bad one in the bunch, but I’m trying to write this quickly and I didn’t get to everything, so I apologize in advance if I don’t mention a few films (hopefully I get a little more time to write a follow-up piece).

Art of Brooklyn Film Festival

Dee and Arthur at the festival

Shorts

The first set of films I saw were part of a shorts block on Wednesday, May 7th. These things are often a very mixed bag, with one or two standouts and a very pretty terrible pieces, or others that simply don’t relate thematically to each other very well. So imagine my surprise when every damn short worked well and flowed naturally into the next one.

One of the qualities all the shorts had was their restraint. There wasn’t an extraneous line of dialog, an out-of-place trick shot, or a distractingly flamboyant performance in the bunch. The show/tell ratio was perfect in all of them.

Inquietude (directed by Morgan Davidsen): This was a really tense short film about a dancer who’s at a particular crossroads – she’s broke, desperate for a break, losing both her apartment and maybe even her mind. There are only a handful of lines of dialog in the whole film. Unlike flashy crap like Black Swan, you really feel for the character. Fun fact: the film was shot several years ago but the audio was lost and had to be recreated. Perhaps this lends something to the sparseness of the film as well?

Without Fire (directed by Eliza McNitt): A single mother and her daughter struggle with poverty, no heat and little hope on a Navajo reservation house in the middle of the desert. But the girl has an idea about how to get heat… The director, cast, and crew did an amazing job of conveying the depths of the story, the stakes, the resourcefulness, all with a bare minimum of flash, some great music and sound design, and terrific performances.

An Honorable Man (directed by Harrison P. Crown and William G. Utley): This won the best short award, and for good reason. A cynical, older priest shows up to give a eulogy, but no one’s showed up for the funeral. If this sounds like a downer, I assure you it isn’t. It’s funny, tragic, wonderful, and hangs entirely off a few well-placed camera moves and the priest’s performance.

The next block I saw was on Thursday night just before the Found In Time screening. Again, a wonderful selection of films – that all fit well together – so I’ll just mention a few here.

Armed Defense (directed by Irina Patkanian) is a mysterious, quiet short. A man walks into a house – is it his? We don’t know – and he’s not talking. He starts arming himself, setting up defenses. Against what? It’s a great film because it doesn’t supply all the answers, but perfect captures a mood.

Kosmodrome (directed by Youcef Mahmoudi) was the definition of trippy. It’s a story about a young psychic woman who’s being brainwashed by a another psychic (working for the KGB) to kill the head of NASA. It’s got a ton of ideas and somehow captures the its subject perfectly. I’d love to see a feature version of this.

Sci-Fi Block

Found In Time was part of a sci-fi block that started later that night, that included two well-done shorts, The Dahl House (directed by Jason Markowitz and Zac Grant)and Hole (directed by Brian McCann).

The Dahl House is about a family that seems to be living in an underground bunker. But the son is having trouble making friends. Can dad help him out? It’s a Walt Disney meets Twilight Zone film. This was really well-made – it’s inventive, shows rather than tells, and has a great twist. It also features some really nice performances and has a great, lo-fi look to it.

Hole is about a young, rational, realistic guy who suddenly finds himself in the middle of either a quirky string of coincidences or a web of interconnected, suspicious events. It’s another film that shows rather than tells, has some understated, winning performances, and is really well shot and edited.

Both of these films treat the audience like adults, and the filmmakers were a lot of fun to hang out with as well. I wish them a lot of luck on the festival circuit!

A Break… And Indigo

After three days of film watching, networking, and hitting up the after-parties, I had to take a break. But we came back to hit up the “Dark Side” screening block.

Indigo (directed by John Hawthorne Smith) was a really great tragic thriller. Eli Casey is an up-and-coming photographer, happy husband and father, and recovering heroin addict. When his son is kidnapped, his whole life falls apart, and his old habits start getting the better of him. He tries to battle both his inner demons and figure out the mystery of his son’s disappearance. This is a heavy film, but NOT a downer. It’s a well-acted, well-directed film, takes its time, doesn’t try to rush the scenes, and builds up the dread.

CONCLUSIONS

This has to be one of the best fests that we’ve been to, in terms of the quality of the films, the dedication of the staff, and the good vibe of the fans and fellow filmmakers. Can’t wait to come back next year and soak in the films as an audience member!

Best Feature at Art of Brooklyn Film Festival!

Art of Brooklyn Film Festival Award

What a fantastic end to a great festival! We will post a round-up of all the wonderful films we just saw and the cool people we met in the next couple of days. In the meantime, a big thank you to all the staff, fans, fellow filmmakers, and our own family, friends, crew, cast, and (especially) loved ones who made this possible!

Art of Brooklyn Film Festival Screening!

Just a quick reminder that we’ll be screening at the Art Of Brooklyn Film Festival!

AOBFF

WHEN: Thursday, May 8th, 8pm (reception) / 9pm (screening starts)
WHERE: St. Francis College, Founders’ Hall, 180 Remsen St., Brooklyn, NY
TICKETS: $10 for the evening – includes the reception, 2 shorts, Found In Time, and a Q&A!
MORE INFO: AOBFF Page

I’ll be there with DP Ben Wolf, editor Dan Loewenthal, costume designer Ghislaine Sabiti, and other crewmembers for a post-screening Q&A!

Six Things I’m Learning About Distribution

Found In Time goes to Harvard

Found In Time goes to Harvard’s VeriCon

#6: Don’t Bother With The Top-Tier Festivals.

I wasted a lot of time – nearly six months – sending the film out to “A-List” festivals. These are the ones that everyone wants to get in – Sundance, Berlin, Toronto, Berlin, Cannes, and Tribeca. I applied to three of them (Sundance, Toronto and Berlin), but really I should have started with the sci-fi/fantasy/horror festivals and targeted them instead.

While it’s always a “nice idea” to premiere at Sundance, the time you spend waiting to hear from them – during which you can’t really apply to any other festivals that may screen beforehand – is time you could be spending on other things. Unless you know for a fact that you can really get into Sundance or one of the other fests, don’t wait for them to pass on you – go find another festival premiere that may better suit your material anyway.

In my case, Shriekfest was happy to premiere my film, and I screened in front of a great, appreciative audience. I also got a lot of press coverage from the screening, was treated really well by the staff and fans, and my LA-based cast were able to see the film as well. I even won an award! If I’d premiered at Sundance earlier that year, I would have been competing with much bigger fish with budgets for publicists and wine-and-dine parties.

#5: Figure Out Your Genre.

I initially thought my film would appeal to indie-types because it’s a little on the experimental side, and fantasy fans, because it’s not really “hard” sci-fi. I called it a “fantasy” film. I consciously avoided the terms “sci-fi” or “science fiction” whenever possible because I didn’t want my film to be compared to other higher-budgeted, effects-driven films.

I was wrong on both counts. The people who liked my film were sci-fi folks. The crew, cast, and early viewers all called it a “sci-fi” film. The festivals that accepted it first: sci-fi/horror fests. The people who seemed to hate it the most (judging by distributor and festival rejections) – the “indie crowd.” I think “Found In Time” hit the market at the same time as a crap-ton of weepy 20-something-let’s-figure-out-our-relationship-bastard-son-of-mumblecore movies hit the market, and those are what played at SXSW, Tribeca, and Rooftop the past couple of years. Some of these films are great, by the way, but they’re not what I made.

If you’ve made a movie, try and figure out where it “belongs” in the genre universe as soon as possible, so you’re not wasting money and time sending it out to festivals, sales agents, and distributors who really don’t know what to do with it. And yes, drama and comedy are genres.

#4: Don’t Make Your Artwork Too Specific:

I printed up my first batch of postcards to indicate the Shriekfest screening time and location. This was dumb. It made it almost impossible to re-use those cards. I had to cut out custom-sized labels with the Eerie Horrorfest times on them, then carefully stick them over the Shriekfest screening times.

#3: Sometimes The Screening Isn’t Going to Be Great.

The projector’s too dark, the sound system is a rusty tin can with string, the attendance is down, there’s a blizzard outside, your screening time is at 9am, there’s a huge racket outside… you can only control so much about your screening, and then you have to let it go. DON’T let your anger show, or take it out on the staff or the audience. Treat the staff and audience with the same respect regardless of their size or the conditions. Some of the best screening experiences I had were when five people showed up. Those five people held a Q&A with me for an HOUR after the film. Those are the fans you should kill to have.

#2: Try to Avoid Online Screeners.

I still firmly believe that DVD and BluRay offer a superior viewing experience, if for no other reason than they require the sales agent/festival programmer/distributor to actually sit down, put the disc in, and watch something. Especially now that net neutrality in this country is about to be toast, I don’t want my film being choked to the point of unplayability, or competing directly with the viewer’s other twenty browser tabs.

#2: Transparency Works Better Than Opacity

The prevailing wisdom back when I got out of school was that you kept your cards close to your chest – your budget, your plans for the film, your premiere status, etc. You didn’t want your film getting stale, so you listed it on IMDB much later in the process. You didn’t want your ideas stolen by competing filmmakers, so you didn’t reach out to them. You didn’t tell your fans what you were up to, as a means of building suspense.

The truth is that telling people what’s going on with the film – especially the cast and crew – at each step of the way has been a great help. It’s kept us all together like the happy family we were when we were shooting. Putting up set photos, listing the film on IMDB, setting up the Facebook page, reaching out to other filmmakers at festivals, comparing notes – it’s all been a great experience and I think has only helped us find a bigger audience. I’ve also had a much better time. I still think that you don’t want to tell people your budget unless it was so low that that’s actually part of your marketing. However, explaining your process, how you shot it, what your successes and failure during the production and post were, can only help you stay connected to your audience, your cast, your crew, and the larger filmmaking community.

#1: Make the Film With The Assumption That You’re Going to Self Distribute.

When I started making Found In Time, finding a distributor still seemed like a good idea, so I budgeted so as to pour as much money into the making of the film as possible. I’m happy with my distribution deal, and I still think that finding a “traditional” solution makes sense if you’ve crossed a certain budget threshold.

However, for super-low-budget films, direct or hybrid distribution models make more sense and will net the filmmaker more money and exposure than waiting forever to get a deal with no advance. You just have to adjust your budget accordingly, and spend more of it on the end of the process rather than on the beginning. But this also frees you to work on your own timetable. Get some buzz from festivals, sell DVDs directly, then find a streaming solution that works. You have to spend more time on distribution, but you’ll learn a lot along the way.

I’m learning more every day! The beauty and difficulty of this strange art/business form we’ve chosen is that there’s always more to figure out. Got a different opinion? Let me know!

2013: Overhyped & Underrated

Spring is coming!

This was a great year for films, television programs, webisodes, shorts. I saw a ton of great material, either streaming online or at festivals. I didn’t go to mainstream film screenings as much as in years past. I also watched a lot of day-and-date programming at home.

I have mixed feelings about streaming. The quality is still pretty terrible to my eye. Just pop a BluRay or ordinary DVD into the player (if you can still find the remote), hit play, and you’ll see what I mean. Wow – blacks that look black as opposed to milky gray. No dropped frames. No noise in the image.

On the other hand, the quality issues tend to melt away when weighed against the convenience of watching films right away. And it’s also given me the opportunity to watch some more obscure or older films in a low pressure way (hey, it was part of the subscription, so if I don’t like it I can just hit stop). I’ve also developed the (possibly) bad habit of binge-watching tv.

It sounds like I’ve finally caught up with 2009, right? Well, that’s interesting in and of itself, isn’t it? Streaming has become so ubiquitous that to talk about it seems weird. It’s an interesting example of what O.B. Hardison called “disappearing” – when something becomes thoroughly integrated into the mainstream culture, it disappears. No one talks about jump-cuts, nonlinear narratives, stereo, widescreen, color, or even CGI (yes, we talk about it, but it’s no longer a “gee won’t this be great one day” thing) anymore. But those were each revolutionary techniques/technologies when they first came out, whose impact is still resonating in how we make and watch movies today.

On the other hand – and maybe this is a side-effect of getting older – I see a lot of things that seem ‘new’ that really aren’t. I’ve been online since 1985, first on BBSes and then on bitnet. The social experience is nothing new to me. Streaming is a like a return to the VHS era, when we recorded shows and films and then binged-watched them at parties.

In film this past year, we also saw a lot of things that seemed new that weren’t. Stanley Donen and Vincent Minelli would have liked the color scheme of Spring Breakers even if they felt nothing for the subject matter (though the film does recall one of Keanu Reeves’ first films, River’s Edge). The Place Beyond the Pines and Prisoners feel similar to films made during the ‘New Hollywood’ years (late 60s-early 70s), especially in terms of the acting style, pacing and themes. And don’t get me started on Lars Van Triers. Tarkovsky, Tarr, Bergman, Goddard, and others were pushing the language of film long before he showed up, and were doing it in more interesting ways.

This is not to say I didn’t like Place… and Prisoners; on the contrary I thought they both were amazing films, and daring each in different ways. But they weren’t necessarily new. That’s okay though. I liked Elysium too, even though it’s a fancier version of Metropolis. It’s good to rework and reexamine themes from time to time; sometimes the remakes/reboots can actually become their own, fresh creations (Batman Begins is a good example, leading to The Dark Knight). I think though that it’s become harder to make anything genuinely new. The endless stream of reboots, while nothing new for Hollywood (The Wizard of Oz with Judy Garland, Christmas Carol with Alastair Sims, Howard Hawks’ His Girl Friday, were all remakes), does seem to be getting more circular and self-sustaining. Independent filmmakers who want to do something a little different are having a harder go of getting wider recognition for their work than during the ’90s.

Anyway, enough rambling. Here’s my annual Overhyped and Underrated list for 2013. Keep in mind that the overrated films weren’t necessarily terrible, just overpraised or praised for the wrong reasons. And the underrated films weren’t necessarily fantastic, but were more deserving of praise than they received. But first, a quick look at my favorite indie films of this past year. One of the things they all had in common was that they were ambitious, had a lot of heart, and weren’t afraid to mix genres and expectations around.

FAVORITE FESTIVAL FEATURES

Lonely Boy (dir. Dale Fabrigar): A film about a young man suffering from debilitating schizophrenia? When I heard about this and about the fact that it was playing at 9am at the Phoenix Film Festival, I was like “hell I think I’ll skip it.” I’m SO GLAD I DIDN’T. This is a fantastic film – funny, serious, heartwarming, heartbreaking, stylish, beautiful, gritty. It’s like five films in one. Go see it! http://www.lonelyboyfilm.com/ – it’s playing in film festivals and will be coming out sometime this year.

Channeling (dir. Drew Thomas): This is a very stylish, quick-moving sci-fi thriller. The main conceit is that there’s a device that looks like a contact lens that allows you to ‘stream your life.’ Sounds great, except when big money’s involved, things go haywire. People vie for sponsorship dollars on their channels, doing more and more outrageous things for increased viewership. But when one of the self-made ‘stars’ gets killed, his older brother decides to investigate – and finds himself in a deep web of crime, corruption, and celebrity gone haywire.

Found. (dir. Scott Schirmer): OMFG. This is a fantastic horror film, a coming of age story, a meditation on the relationship between real and film violence, a family drama… all in one movie. What does a young kid do when he finds out his brother is a serial killer? What does he love his brother? How did he get that way? Does he have that in him as well? This is an movie that’s not gratuitous (though it is gory), that takes its time with its characters, that’s beautiful to look at. Foundmovie.net

The Invoking (dir. Jeremy Berg): Saying this is a horror film doesn’t really do it justice. The premise sounds familiar – four friends go to a remote rural property that one of them, Sarah, inherited from her estranged family. She doesn’t remember much about the place, and what she does remember isn’t good. But then something really interesting happens – the film begins to creep you out by what it doesn’t show you but only suggests. When Sarah starts seeing things, is she remembering events, participating in them, making them up, or doing something completely new? Is the place haunted on some level, or is she? It eschews simple jump scare tactics for a more thoughtful, under-the-skin approach, and it pays off big-time. The Invoking‘s Official Site.

Leaving DC (dir. Josh Criss): The found footage genre is ridiculous in many ways – why not just put the damn camera down, right? But here it totally works. A consultant with OCD moves out of Washington DC, and starts sending ‘video diaries’ of his new life in a remote dreamhouse in the woods back to his friends in his old OCD support group. Now that he’s finally clear of the city and the distractions, he can work from home! Except that something in the woods seems to be seriously screwing with him at night. Is it some side effect of his meds? Is it a projection of his anxiety? Is it some local kids screwing with the new guy? Or something else? Over the course of the film you see the poor man disintegrate, while trying as best he can to make sense of what’s going on.

Menschen (dir. Sarah Lotfi). This is a short film, unlike the others. But I can’t wait for the feature-length version. It’s the story of an Austrian captain who ‘inherits’ a boy with severe Downs syndrome, while trying to keep what’s left of his company alive at the end of World War II. Instead of doing the expected thing – killing the boy – he takes him under his wing instead. It’s a great film, made for peanuts, and shows what a talent Sarah is. Menschenthemovie.

OVERHYPED

Gravity: What? What’s wrong with you, Arthur? You love space, you love the lead actors, you love ‘2001’, you love Cuaron? What’s not to love about this film? Well, I give it credit for giving me an amazing experience – there were moments during the film when I was literally on the edge of my seat, gasping for air or feeling like I was tumbling out of control. And it was great to see a film give the finger to Hollywood – an action film carried by a leading woman over 40! BUT, the story just… wasn’t there. It’s almost like a thrill ride or a video game. I like playing video games and going on thrill rides. And the movie succeeds on that level. But I expected more from the folks who’ve done such fine work in the past, injecting political commentary, meditations on life and existence, and even humor into what could have been “average” fare.

Star Trek: Into Darkness Some good action scenes, but a completely generic mess of fan-service slop plus plot holes, lens flares, and a weird attitude towards violence. It glorifies violence in every shot (look at those people getting sucked into space! Look at that beautifully-rendered crash) while declaiming it in wooden speeches.

12 Years a Slave – but not for the film itself. This is a film that I think has been massively misunderstood by critics, who either have dismissed it as ‘cold’ or have fallen all over themselves in what I can only think of as some form of guilt. What it truly is is a beautifully nuanced look at how our society (both past and present) makes us complicit in slavery at every level. Slavery invades Solomon’s body first, but then it takes his mind and his soul. Like Polanski’s The Pianist, it’s only by virtue of sheer luck that he survives.

The Way Way Back: A fun, feel-good movie. But nothing super-special. If anything, it almost felt like a by-the-numbers reworking of earlier coming-of-age films. Again, that’s okay, but I guess I expected something… more.

About Time: This did get a lot of grief from critics, but it was also overhyped in some circles. The big problem I had is that… nothing happens. A film about time weirdness should have something happening, right? Some tragedy or another? The cast was lovely, and I will happily watch Bill Nighy in just about anything, but this felt like a second draft of an outline for a film rather than a film.

UNDERRATED

12 Years A Slave – What? Well, here’s the thing. A surprisingly large number of critics gave this film a hard time for being ‘too clinical.’ Others suggested it was ‘too stiff.’ To me, that’s its main strength. Instead of going for a gauzy, designed-to-death Spielberg schmaltzfest, the film steps back a bit and lets the subject speak for itself. The best moments in the film are the quietest, when we see the sometimes large, sometimes subtle changes slavery is making in Solomon’s psyche.

Elysium – Critics picked on this one for all sorts of crazy reasons. The one I most frequently encountered was that the film wasn’t subtle. WTF? Did they SEE District 9? What, exactly, was subtle about the mech fight at the end of that film, complete with a flying pig? Subtlety isn’t Blomkampf’s strong suit. Blowing up shit while delivering a balls-out indictment of a corrupt and unjust system is what he’s good at, and that’s exactly what we got here. And why do critics always so easily put down films that talk about class issues, exactly? I could’ve copied and pasted reviews of In Time into those of Elysium.

Europa Report – This is a great sci-fi film, and actually makes good use of the found footage conceit. It’s a post-mission analysis of a corporate-sponsored manned trip to Europa, what the crew found there, and how fucked up the mission got at various stages. Most of the footage comes from on-board ship or spacesuit cameras, plus interviews shot before and after the mission. Did I mention that it’s meticulously researched? It’s tense, interesting to watch, beautiful to look at, and cost the lunch money of Gravity, while also managing to deliver a more complex story. The worst thing about the film is that it came out the same year as Gravity.

Prisoners – this is an amazingly tense, dark thriller that should have gotten a MUCH bigger boost than it did. I really don’t want to spoil it for you.

Pacific Rim – this is not the second coming of cinema. But it’s the first time that a heavily-CGI-based action film got me excited in a long time. The globe-spanning message was great (we have to stick together to overcome this) plus the crackling fight scenes were just wonderful.

To The Wonder – a LOT of critics hated this film, and I can understand why. The Olga Kurylenko’s manic-pixie girlfriend act gets a little old after a while. But it’s an amazing film nonetheless – a depiction of the emotional life, with all the plot drained out. In a sense, it’s the kind of film you really have to be the right state to appreciate. Your emotions will interact with those of the film’s characters in ways that are largely invisible when watching a more conventional film.

The Place Beyond the Pines – Great film. You think it’s going to be a heist movie, then it turns into a smalltown-corruption story, then it becomes a coming-of-age drama, then a multi-generational saga. It’s so many things, packed into one film, that you want to applaud the sheer audacity of it. I can forgive the done-to-death Ryan Gosling blue-collar performance (I think he’s got a closet full of them at this point).

There’s a lot more to talk about, but this article is already too freaking long, so let’s move on to 2014 and a better year for everyone, everywhere!

2013 – What a Year!

Happy Holidays and New Year!

Happy new year to everyone! The year kicked off with a couple of great pieces of news: first, Found In Time had its New York City festival premiere at the Anthology Film Archives, as part of their ongoing NewFilmmakers NY program, on January 2nd. The attendance was a little sparse, but pretty damn good considering it was just after the new year and we were in the beginning stages of a really crummy winter storm.

Secondly, Preparing For Takeoff got a really nice review in Pro Video Coalition (PVC). Head over and read it if you get a chance.. PVC is a really terrific site, and features reviews, articles, tips, and news about the film and video world. It’s a great resource for indie filmmakers.

OBSERVATIONS ON 2013:

2013 was a pretty amazing year, by and large. It was a bit overwhelming at times. Found In Time played at nine festivals and got picked up for distribution. Along the way we created a seemingly endless amount of key artwork, for the poster, flyer, postcard, DVD slipcase, DVD cover, online ad, etc. Preparing For Takeoff, my book on preproduction, was also published in 2013. Promoting it to bookstores, conventions, review sites, indie filmmakers, and colleges took a while but was very rewarding. Somewhere in there I rewrote an older spec script, and started working on some new projects. Oh, and I started teaching a course on production management, something I’d never really done before.

One of the casualties of all this newness was the downtime I had two years ago when Found In Time was wending its way through post. It’s been harder to find time to reflect, exercize, and meet with colleagues and friends. I find that I miss it, and so one of my 2014 resolutions has been to carve out more downtime. It’s the only way to recharge and come up with new ideas.

PROFESSIONAL OBSERVATIONS:

The good and bad news is that filmmakers are finally waking up to what’s going on in their field, namely that they’re getting pushed into the same position that musicians found themselves in about ten years ago, and writers have been in for even longer. The demand for media of all types is rising, but the payoff for the media creators is getting smaller each year. That would be acceptable if the cost of living was manageable, but it really isn’t anymore. Education, healthcare, rent, food costs – pretty much all the necessities of life have become insanely expensive, even more so in the big cities that are often meccas for creative people.

The good news is that film folk are individually and collectively trying to do something about this. I’ve noticed a lot of camaraderie among filmmakers, and less competition. There’s been a growing awareness on the part of writer/directors of the critical role of the producer. I’ve seen crowdfunding take off in a really big way. Filmmakers have embraced (for better or worse) the idea that they have to think about distribution from the get-go.

The bad news is that marketing and promotion are difficult enough to do when it’s your sole job. When you’re also responsible for creating the thing you’re marketing, it becomes difficult if not impossible. To run your art as a business, you have to dedicate time to the following:

  • Working on new projects
  • Making and following up with contacts
  • Distributing projects that are “finished”
  • Marketing and promoting projects (both new and old)
  • Taking care of the office (paying bills, ordering supplies)
  • Bringing in/chasing after money

Each of these requires a different skill set, and a different type of concentration. The soft underbelly of all this is the art itself. After you’ve done all your social media work, fired off emails to friends, put together a little pitch document for your latest project, put the artwork together for your film’s postcard, and done some paying work (that’s hopefully film-related), how much energy/time/concentration do you have left to sit down and write your next script? Or even read your next script? And yet, people are doing it, often by forming small teams. I saw a lot of three and four-person “families” at the festivals this past year, and it’s a good sign.

THE FESTIVAL CIRCUIT, THE TV CIRCUIT

This past year marks the first in many where I think I spent more hours watching TV shows than I did actually going to the movies. I usually watch one show at a time, because that’s all I can budget for. This past year, however, I watched Game Of Thrones, Orphan Black, Breaking Bad, Walking Dead, and too many specials and webisodes to mention. This is a great time for television!

This was also the first year I saw more consistently awesome films at festivals than in theaters. I was terribly disappointed by most of the studio movies I saw in theaters, and even many of the so-called indie movies were just rehashes of various formulas with an “alternative” soundtrack. On the other hand, the films I saw at festivals – both shorts and features – were captivating, surprising, engaging, and entertaining, and managed to be all those things on shoestring budgets. Most of these films are going straight to DVD and digital.

This, frankly, sucks. The big screen still has a place in our culture, and it shouldn’t be reserved for high-budget dreck like Star Trek: Into Dumbness, or even enjoyable rides like Pacific Rim. Have we have become too enamored of spectacle, and identify it with the big screen too much? Can’t we still appreciate how wonderful it is to see a truly indie movie in a theater with strangers laughing, crying, clapping and oohing all around you? I remember seeing Francois Truffaut’s Small Change in an arthouse theater in upstate New York as a kid. It was as momentous to me as seeing Star Wars in the theater in the Bronx a few years earlier. There’s still a place for a theatrical release for really small films, but we may have to fight a bit to make it work.

THE YEAR AHEAD

Found In Time will be released this year by Green Apple Entertainment. Beyond that it’s hard to say what’s going to happen. We’re still looking at festivals, sci-fi conventions, and alternative theatrical venues for the film, and are contemplating a trip to the Cannes Marketplace to get acquainted with the woolly world of foreign sales agents. The future can be guaranteed to bring more change, at a more rapid clip that was thought possible. Here’s to a great year ahead. Let the adventure continue!

Our NYC Premiere!

newfilmmakers_laurels_2014b

Oh hai! We’re in NewFilmmakers NY!

First, the big news: we will have our New York City festival premiere at the NewFilmmakersNY screening series! Details:
Thursday, January 2nd, 9pm (series starts @ 6pm)
Anthology Film Archives, 32 Second Ave. (@ E. 2nd St)
Price: $6 for the entire evening (includes two features and some shorts!)
Tickets/Info: www.newfilmmakers.com

We’ll be there with refreshments, drinks, and possibly some swag, so go get those seats! See you there!

Updating Your Promotional Materials… Without Losing Your Mind

This falls under the category of problems that are good to have. You get into another festival, or get a review, or one of your crew or cast wins an award/gets a great gig/etc. For whatever reason, you now have to update your promotional materials – your DVD artwork, posters, postcards, press kit, website, etc. Here are some tips that I’ve found for making that task a little easier. I’m still learning, so if you have some ideas, please feel free to email me!

  • #1: Use layers: Whether you use InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop, Quark, and/or even Word to put together your print materials and graphics, you want to keep the things that don’t change (like your film’s title and poster design) separate from the things that will (like your bio, the latest festival dates, etc.)
  • #2: Put your credit blocks, review quotes, and bios into text files: This was you can cut and paste them into whatever document or promo piece you need. You can also cut and paste them into emails as needed.
  • #3: Create a festival laurel leaf logo and save it as a separate file: Ideally, you should have this as a vector graphics file (so you can scale it up or down without creating artifacts), but if not, create or steal a large (5.5″ print size, 300dpi) size laurel leaf pattern, and save it as a separate file. Keep the left and right leaves in separate layers, so you can change their spacing as needed. You’ll need the laurel leaf at different resolutions and sizes; sometimes you’ll need a laurel with room for text inside, and at other times you’ll want to put the laurel together and place the text outside. I still use an ancient copy of CorelDraw for this, and found a leaf on the clipart disk. I brought it into Corel, edited the shape a bit, cloned it (for the right side), and then saved it. Then I exported it to TIFF and JPG files at different resolutions.
  • #4: Work in 300dpi and downsample: You’ll need to prepare print versions of your posters, postcards, flyers, and press kits in 300DPI, using a CMYK color scheme. Web graphics are only 72DPI, and use the RGB color scheme. It’s easier to work at the higher resolution and downsample as needed, than to either create separate versions or use the low-rez version and upsample (in fact, upsampling usually results in crummy-looking print graphics)
  • #5: Put all your EPK materials in one directory: This way you can burn the entire directory to a CD or DVD as needed, without having to think about it.
  • #6: Many small updates are better: I can tell you from many years of web and desktop application programming, that it’s better to do a lot of small updates than to try and update everything at once, but less often. You can get away with monthly updates to your blog and Tumblr site, but your Facebook page and Twitter feed should be updated on a weekly or semi-daily basis if at all possible.
  • #7: Remember the difference in blacks and whites: In the RGB colorspace, black is 000, white is 255/255/255. In CMYK, black is 75/68/67/90, white is 0/0/0/0. CMYK colors don’t always look right on the monitor, so don’t just go by eye.
  • #8: Keep a list of your fonts somewhere: If you ever have to send something to a printshop or another artist, you’ve seen this: the design you slaved on for days looks like crap because they didn’t have the font you were using. The answer is to keep a copy of the fonts you use in your designs in a folder or ZIP file somewhere, so you can send them along with your graphics files. InDesign can take care of this for you, but Word doesn’t really care.
  • #9: Make a separate file with your film’s title logo: Your film’s title is also its logo, so it MUST look consistent across all your letters, posters, postcards, presskits, etc. On Found In Time I created a type layer in Photoshop, wrote out the title in a really large size, rendered the layer, and applied a number of filters to scratch and distort the text a bit. Rather than do this over and over again for each poster/postcard/etc. design, I saved the title to a PSD file and then rendered it to a 300DPI TIFF. This way I can insert the TIFF in all my other artwork, scale it/downsample it as needed. I recommend keeping your title it black and white, simply because those are the easiest to read. You can always color it later.
  • #10: Back Up Locally There are a number of cloud-based services for storing your work, but none of them are completely foolproof. Always make sure you have a complete local backup of your work. I’ve heard too many horror stories of work disappearing to trust non-local storage completely.