A blog about movies and filmmaking.

Posts Tagged ‘filmmaking’

Poster for new short film: THE TOUR

In Uncategorized on October 17, 2013 at 1:15 pm

Poster for new short film: THE TOUR

Just a tease of my new short film, shot on location (shhh) on The National Mall, in Washington, D.C. It’s a little romantic comedy-ish, look at two people that wind up in a romantic situation, despite possibly not being able to follow through on it…

Should be releasing it in November. Stay Tuned.

SPIN CYCLE – A Short Film

In filmmaking, Uncategorized on April 27, 2013 at 3:12 pm

poster

November? Really, it’s been that long since I posted anything? And it’s almost May. Well, fortunately I’m back with something new, and hopefully fun. That new thing is a short film. Shot in one day, with a crew of seven people (including me, and the two main actors). Granted, I’ve worked with crews that small before, but, so far this was the most successful effort with me at the helm.

With that said, I wanted to do a walk-through of what it took to make the movie. From idea conception to what I’m doing with it now. There’s some techno-babble in there for those of you that care, and hopefully it’s interesting enough for those that don’t.

Read the rest of this entry »

A Return To Form… Any Form

In filmmaking on November 29, 2011 at 4:37 pm

Hey there loyal readers – I assume there are loyal readers and not just people that come searching for the logo to LOST and Kerry Green photos.

So, it’s been a long-time, lots has happened, and now I’m back. Honestly, I’ve been back for a while, but the reason the blog has sat here untouched was because I just wasn’t sure how to approach this place again. I’ve kind of moved beyond wanting to write movie reviews, and I don’t really feel qualified enough to write straight up comments on filmmaking. I’ve also been busy writing some scripts, and reading other people’s scripts, and plotting making some films. Read the rest of this entry »

What 2011 Means So Far

In filmmaking on January 17, 2011 at 2:38 am

You’re probably thinking, “it’s been a couple of weeks now and only one post on this here blog.” First of all thanks for caring; second there’s a good reason for the silence. Every now and then I’ve mentioned the whole “moving to Los Angeles and working in the movies” thing I’m doing.

Well, almost in time for my one-year anniversary, I’m going to be making my own movie. A short that I wrote and will direct called FREEBIE LIST (http://freebieshort.com) and is a fun little story, which I’ll go into further down. But, to not bury the lede, I need some fund-raising help. I’ll admit that I don’t know who’s out there reading this right now, but if you’ve read this blog for a while; I’d take that to mean you like – or dislike enough to hang around – what I have to say.

So with that, I hope maybe some of you out there might be up for kicking in a few bucks to help a fledgling filmmaker out. You’ve gotten a taste of what I like in movies and I would hope that what I’d eventually make wouldn’t be too far from that.  Read the rest of this entry »

The Movies Aren’t What They’re Cracked Up To Be…

In comedy, cult film, Directors on March 17, 2009 at 7:11 pm

Continuing from my previous post about making movies – posted here – I’ve seen two more movies that journey into the realm of movies about making movies. This time we have movies by two tried and true “pro’s” in the field. The previous post was by first-time writer/directors, who have been in the business – or had contacts – for a while. So, they’re perspectives were a bit more optimistic and not yet jaded. The two movies I’m about to discuss come from more of an established perspective. One being a recognized and applauded writer/director for such classics as RAIN MAN and TOOTSIE (and my personal favorite, WAG THE DOG). The other is from the “slacker generation” of the early ’90’s and while he has a large and vocal cult following, his movies have not really ever broken into the mainstream – other than for the controversies that his subject matter has caused. Both of these guys have seen the up’s and down’s of making movies. And these are the latest in their ongoing conversation with their audiences and even themselves on this artform.

Movie producer, Ben, starts the movie at a photo shoot for Variety’s Top Hollywood Producers and he has a complaint about his positioning in the photo. We then go into a flashback on what has brought Ben to this situation. In WHAT JUST HAPPENED, the new movie by director Barry Levinson (although, written by esteemed movie producer, Art Linson – which, natually alludes to the “fiction” being presented in this movie being more “fact” than we might know.), we get a look inside the life of what a producer does – a question often asked in the previously mentioned WAG THE DOG – and what it takes to stay on top in the movie business. Ben, played by Robert DeNiro – also previously discussed here – starts his day on the phone, stays on the phone as he drives to his ex-wife’s to pick up his kid and takes her to school. Then he stops into his office, answers more phone calls. Argues with studio heads, has to deal with a finicky director who has made a film that commits the biggest mortal sin by killing the dog. Then he goes to meet (and this wasn’t clear to me) another ex-wife and take that kid to school. He wines, he dines and meets people and friends of people. Then eventually he winds up in bed waiting to repeat it all the next morning, into eternity.

Ben’s problem come in many forms in this story. First the finicky, “artistic” director – played by a wonderfully cast, and vitally underused Michael Wincott affecting a British accent – named Jeremy Brunell, has made a movie called FIERCELY starring Sean Penn (playing himself) and when we come into the initial test audience screening to see the ending of the movie, Penn’s character is shot by a group of gangsters who then shoot the dog with one dramatic shot before the credits roll. Obviously, the test audience hates it, and the studio head – played by Katherine Keener – says that the movie has to be recut. This sends Brunell into a frenzy and leaves Ben to try and pick up the pieces and get him to work with the studio, or else they won’t get their premiere at Cannes. 

Secondly, he has his ex-wife – number one – Kelly (played by the ever lovely Robin Wright-Penn), who is still living in their old house and together they’re seeing a counselor that is trying to make them alright with their divorce and help them to move on. despite the fact that they still wind up sleeping with each other and Ben’s finding a strange Argyle sock under his (ex-wife’s) bed. Which leads into a pretty funny subplot about who else his wife is seeing and how he deals with this situation. There’s also his daughter played by Kristen Stewart and his first ex-wife.

Third, there’s a new movie project that Ben is working on starring Bruce Willis – again playing himself – who has decided that his character would be better served by being over-weight and having a large beard, to which he refuses to shave. So, Ben much try to work with Bruce’s agent, Dick Bell – played by John Turturro – who is much too timid and passive to really be effective at anything.

Then lastly, there’s his meeting with some mysterious Russian types who are looking to invest in a movie and thus leads him to being introduced to Laura, played by Mood Bloodgood – in a subplot that I honestly wished there was more to. 

The movie covers all this stuff to varying degrees. We see how you have to navigate through who you talk to, who you can see is lying to you or exaggerating things – as portrayed by Stanley Tucci’s character who has written a screenplay that “isn’t a movie” – and how best to get all these things to flow and in the end produce a movie, that’s good and hopefully even makes a profit. 

All of the performances are top-notch. DeNiro is very subtle in his humor in this and laconic in his patience and perseverance to get his goals met. He spends the movie with grey hair and a permanent half-five-o’clock shadow/half goatee look – which he seems to try and keep just the right amount of grey mixed with color. Some of his best scenes are when he’s pretty much left dumbstruck being seeing things acknowledging his wife’s affair, and who it is with.

Penn and Willis, playing characters of themselves are great. Penn, mostly is seen only  the screen as his character in the Brunell film – and the couple of scenes where we are given “Penn, the artsy actor with an edge”. Which is fun and a nice poke at himself, along with his acceptance speech at the Oscars shows that he’s definitely got a sense of humor. Willis gets the best character of the movie, because we get the “movie star” version of Bruce Willis, if say John McClane were a real person and an actor. He gets to be bullying and a hard ass. And his obstinacy in refusing to shave off the beard – and seeing him later in a yamaka – makes him a draw for the film. 

Turturro, Tucci, Keener and the other actors that have smaller, but vital roles in this movie all do what they do best and have made them the cream of the crop of today’s acting talent. The last real standout, is Wincott – who is most famous for his villainous roles in ROBIN HOOD: PRINCE OF THIEVES and THE CROW – eats this movie up in every scene he’s in. This is probably the widest performance he’s ever given and definitely one that reaches up there to the tops of his previous roles. From certain perspectives, he might be considered the hero of this movie – aside from Ben – with his standing up for his artistic expression and in the end getting the last laugh and giving the finger to his “hollywood” oppressors. And in the last moments leading up to the end of the movie and bringing us back to that Variety photo shoot, we get a new ending to Brunell’s movie – and it’s not what either we or the audience at Cannes expects to see. 

In the end, we see what Ben’s issue was with his placement in the photo. And we see how it’s a reflection on how Hollywood treats it’s own. When you’re hot, you get prime placing in the photos and when you’re not; well, “if you could just stand a little further to the right..no, further. Further please”, is what you get.

The other creator is Kevin Smith. In 1994, Smith came onto the scene by getting his feature film debut, CLERKS, accepted into Sundance, the rest is slightly unimportant, but still very interesting history. He was given money by a studio to create his next movie – a continuation, of sorts of CLERKS, using a few of the same actors and being the base of more long-time collaborators; such as Ben Affleck, Jason Lee and a couple of others. The closest to a real break out hit was his 1997 movie CHASING AMY – which again used much of the same group of actors but stepped slightly away from the geeky humor that his other movies are known for – and it still possesses, just in a limited quantity. Making a long story, not quite as long as it could be, Smith’s new movie, ZACK AND MIRI MAKE A PORNO, breaks away from the mold that he has worked with for the past fifteen years. (While also still remaining, most definitely a Kevin Smith movie) This time out, he uses only a select few of his familiar faces of performers — with the main standout being Jason Mewes – who has played Jay to Smith’s own Silent Bob in pretty much every movie (I’ve never seen Jersey Girl, so I don’t know anything about it) – only this time he’s playing a non-Jay character and to say we see a new side (maybe even “part”) of Mewes in this might be a bit of an over-statement. We also get Jeff Anderson, who played Randall in the “Askewniverse” movies, as most of Smith’s movies are called. 

Making their first appearances in a Smith movie, and helping to blur the line between Smith’s own brand of gross-out humor and nerd-centric dialogue, we get a slew of Judd Apatow movie regulars. Mainly featuring Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks as the titular characters, with Craig Robinson also tossed in there. Also thrown in for good measure are, Traci Lords, Brandon (SUPERMAN RETURNS) Routh, Justin (“I’m a Mac”) Long and cameos from Tom Savini and Smith’s wife, Jennifer Schwalbach. 

The crux of the movie is that Zack and Miri have lived together, seemingly since high school. They have menial jobs and have failed to pay any bills, in who knows how long. So, one day after their electricity, water and heat is shut off – during Thanksgiving, in the middle of winter, in Pittsburgh – they decide that the quick, easy way to make money would be to make a porno. They get Zack’s co-worker – who was looking forward to purchasing a new plasma screen TV – Delaney (Robinson) to finance the production, using his saved up cash as well as his and his wife’s credit cards. They get Zack’s hockey-playing friend Deacon (Anderson) to be their cinematographer – he’s qualified because he used to film the games during high school, in hopes of hooking up with a cheerleader and finally they put out a casting call to pad out the movie of performances besides Zack and Miri’s sex act. Here’s where they meet Bubbles (Lords), Lester (Mewes) Stacey (also a real-life porn star, Katie Morgan) and Barry, a fey performer who thought that the audition was for an actual play/movie, but in the end finds he likes performing with Bubbles – as the bottom. So, our characters set off to film their porno titled STAR WHORES, a take on STAR WARS – in case you couldn’t figure it out. Only on the day of filming they find that all their hard-work has been ripped apart – literally. So, a new plan forms and along the way the question comes up on whether Zack and Miri are really up for doing what they planned on, and whether they can see it just as “acting” or if long-latent feelings might well up and over-take them. 

The thing to take from this movie, is that it is a sort of twisted version of exactly what Smith did when creating his first movie, CLERKS. He got his friends to help with the production and maxed out credit cards and borrowed money to pay for things like camera and film. He even actually used a hockey-stick as a boom mic. He cast friends and locals in the movie and filmed on the off hours at his “day” job – having to then actually work there during the day. It’s a very personal – and still very absurd – movie and it was sad to see it not get the audience that it really ought to have. It’s hilariously funny and completely in the same vein as the comedies that have been tearing up the box office over the past number of years. 

The performances are pretty much what you’ve come to expect from the majority of the performers involved. Rogen and Banks are both very funny and have a great onscreen chemistry. Rogen plays the “lovable loser” type, with the best of them. He’s funny and raucous. His stoner laugh and mentality, has so far worked to his benefit in most of the roles I’ve seen him in. Banks, who is actually quite a bit older than Rogen, looks perfectly like she’s the same age and holds her own in the humor department. She’s especially good at the “ditzy, funny and inappropriate” girl, as in a scene where she’s essentially throwing herself at Brandon Routh’s character. 

Mewes, as mentioned, shows he’s got a little more to his acting ability than just whipping out his “Mewesism’s” like, “Snoochy-boochies”, etc. And with his close-cropped, blonde hairdo looks quite a bit different from his former roles. Robinson, who was in last summer’s PINEAPPLE EXPRESS (also with Rogen), does a great job at being the co-worker/producer of the titular porno. He’s good at turning the whole “everything you say has to be racist” bent, as well as just playing so much of the movie with a straight-face…Which only makes it funnier. Katie Morgan and Traci Lords, being the tried-and-true porn stars of the movie, do fine in their roles. Morgan being our sole-female nudity role (Mewes, being the male – and we actually wind up seeing more of him, than we do of her!) and Lords gets to keep her clothes (as scant as they might be) on. We also get brief glimpses of Tisha Campbell-Martin pinching her nipple – through her shirt – and Gerry Bednob (the older middle-eastern comedian also in THE 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN) getting to spout his strange brand of curses and insults. 

This movie has managed to bring Smith more to the mainstream, though in that he is now signed to direct the first movie he has not written and for a major studio (A COUPLE OF DICKS, starring Tracey Morgan and Bruce Willis), despite it not being the mega-hit, that it was hoped to have been. (Really, pretty much assumed that this movie would make billions of dollars. Ending up, being Smith’s most profitable, but probably the lowest of Rogen’s recent run of comedies.)

While, I hope he never grows up in one sense, I’m happy to see that maybe he is in another. And like Zack, following his passion and still doing what he wants. 

**Warning, the trailer below, is the RED BAND trailer, which contains cussing and inappropriate material…Just as it ought to be! But, don’t watch it, if those things might upset you.**

That movie would make a great movie…

In comedy on March 5, 2009 at 11:46 am

Movies made about movies being made, this is what movies were made for!! Being someone interested in not only learning how movies are made, but possibly one day making movies, I love to see these looks inside – and visceral opinions, of what the people that do this for a living think about the industry that they’re in. Imagine if the person working at the IRS, or the super-market had the capacity to document – either comedically, or dramatically – the inner-workings of what they do. Well, I guess certain ones do, and that’s how we get movies like STRANGER THAN FICTION and GO. Then again, most of these people aren’t getting paid millions of dollars, to then turn around and spend a couple million dollars making fun of what they do. 

But, that’s why these films are fun to watch. You know the people involved relate to some of the hijinks that go on on film sets, or know what it’s like to be the first time filmmaker and the gaffs and misjudgments that are made. It’s sort of our way of living trial and error, while not putting our own (possibly, in the far future) careers at risk. And that’s what the two movies, I’m about to discuss do. They let us see the errors in seeing how we go about making a movie, when we know absolutely nothing about making them, or once you’ve “made it” how easy it is to lose focus and a sense of identity, because you’re almost swallowed into the beast that can be Hollywood.

Andy Sargentee is a man who needs an idea. When we first meet him, he’s sitting in the bar of Butterface Fields, Sometown USA, thinking. All of his friends, and the regulars in the bar/cafe/clubhouse are trying to stop him from thinking. Because when Andy thinks, he gets himself and others into trouble. Furiously starting to flip through the local newspaper, and out the windows – everywhere he sees – are the innuendo images of SEX. Then Andy screams out, “We’re going to make a porno!!” Thus begins THE AMATEURS, a movie about a small town, a group of friends and their adventure in trying to make a porno. The movie stars Jeff Bridges as Andy, William Fichtner, Ted Danson, Tim Blake Nelson, Patrick Fugit and Joe Pantolliono as the group of friends who take their chances making a movie. It’s written and directed by Michael Traeger, whose only other screenwriting credit is DEAD MAN ON CAMPUS. Not being able to make a porno, well their idea of one, without women, there’s also a bevy of wonderful and beautiful women as well, including Lauren Graham, Glenne Headly, Jeanne Tripplehorn and Valerie Perrine. 

This is probably the cleanest, most innocent movie about porno that has ever been made. That’s not to say it’s puritanical, because there’s still some cussing and some bare butts to be seen and heard (possibly the most disturbing is Mr. Ted Danson’s posterior!) and the movie is still rated R – even though that seems like it’s an obligatory rating just because of the subject matter. The characters go out of their way to use alliterative, and innocuous (yet, hilarious) names for body parts and sex acts. And for a movie that hypes making a porno with a “lesbo scene, a girl diddling herself and a small white girl blowing three black guys” that’s a pretty high-standard to shoot for. Nonetheless, they do. 

The cast, led by Bridges all do a fantastic job – not that you’d expect less of any of these principle characters actors. And honestly, I was surprised by how many people were in this movie!! Just to continue naming names, there’s Isaiah Washington, John Hawkes, Mike Binder, Brad Garrett, Judy Greer, Eileen Brennan and Steven Weber. For a tiny movie, THAT is a cast!! The real stand-outs here though are Fichtner who plays Otis, the bumbling guy whose job is as the custodian at the church, who wants his job on the porno to be the guy that watches. So, Andy gives him the job as Executive Producer. He also comes through with two of our actresses that want to perform in the porno. Fichtner has always been a stand-out actor though, from roles in HEAT and GO to ARMAGEDDON and THE PERFECT STORM. The other major standout is Pantoliono, another character actor who is almost always good, from big movies like THE MATRIX and RISKY BUSINESS (yeah, remember that one?! Tom Cruise, in the underroo’s?!), who plays the character named Some Idiot. He rallys for the job of Writer/Director for the movie.

Nick Chapman has graduated from film school. He won the top honor for his class and at the after-party is introduced to Allen Habel, played by JT Walsh, the head of a studio in Hollywood. Taking a meeting with Habel and his associate, Todd, Chapman – played by Kevin Bacon – starts his pitch for his movie. It’s about a couple who are staying at a farmhouse in the winter, and the guy learns that the woman has had an affair with their other friend – who is staying with them at the house. While Chapman is describing the scenario, we start to see it play out in front of us, and then when a phone starts to ring in the scene we’re seeing, we – and the characters in the movie-pitch – realize that it’s the phone of Habel’s, which he had previously said to hold all his calls. Thus is the beginning twenty minutes of THE BIG PICTURE, the directorial debut of Christopher Guest. The man behind other satirical fare such as BEST IN SHOW, WAITING FOR GUFFMAN and having played Nigel in THIS IS SPINAL TAP, in 1984. Gathered here is a veritable “who’s who” of Hollywood character actors, including Jennifer Jason-Leigh, John Cleese, Fran Drescher, Martin Short, Elliott Gould and even Teri Hatcher, in her first film role. There’s also Michael McKean – who also co-wrote – playing Emmet, a cinematographer and Nick’s friend. 

The movie is filmed in a fun and loose way, whether it’s from the jaunty, poppy music or the many side-steps into Nick’s head – like imagining the guard at the gate to the film graduation as a Nazi checkpoint guard, or being stuck in a 1930’s Capra-esque movie where he’s sitting in a bar that won’t serve him now that he’s a nobody. There’s the fun it pokes at student/arty films – like with the movies we see when Nick is graduating, which range from awkward dating scenario, to jump-cutting, no plot antics of Jason-Leigh’s Lydia Johnson. And of course, the best part being that after Nick has had his days in the sun, and then been dropped, after doing something on his own and being rediscovered, he quickly becomes the talk of the town again, only to be out of town – and causing even more of a ruckus because of his being incommunicado. 

The one really, awful thing about this movie, is how it wallows in the time that it was made – and this is a problem that anything made in the 80’s suffers from – from the big hair (and I mean BIG!) to the crazy outfits and some of the set decorating. Although, in one scene, the way that Walsh’s character’s office is setup, with (remote-controlled) fireplaces on both sides of him, he sort of looks like the Devil plotting how to get back into Nick’s life. So, seeing those images – and the music, god-awful music! – was jarring and yeah detracts from some of the fun to be had. But, it is what it is. 

There are some great performances in this though. Bacon, who tends to come off sort of as a stuck-up jerk sometimes, is young and idealistic – if all too eager to sell-out once the ball has started rolling – and turns in a great performance as Nick Chapman. There were even a few moments where I was expecting him to start dancing around, like his FOOTLOOSE character. (The scene in the car, you’ll know what I mean.) JT Walsh, here plays, against what “type” would become for him. He seems like he might be the bad guy, in how he treats our hero, but in the end he’s just a hollywood big-wig, and does champion Nick and his career. The other character that I have to mention is Nick’s talent agent, Neil Sussman, played by Martin Short. He’s dressed in a large red wig, with a loose perm and is just cheese and strangeness. When we first meet him, in a restaurant, he keeps being preoccupied with a man in the corner (who we never see) that he has the waiter send over an Almond Tart, in-between nick that he’s not going to “bullshit him”. 

Even though the people, running Hollywood – that we see in this movie – are flaky and “in one ear, out the other” types, their biggest flaw – and probably largest attraction to us, the audience – is that they still come across as nice people. There are only two characters we see that are the slightest bit unlikable; one being a fellow student – Jonathan Tristan-Bennett, played by Dan Schneider – who is just kind of a jerk, who was born in the system and is using his family as his connection; and the other is Nick himself. Once he’s taken the bite from the studio on his movie – and it’s changed from the farmhouse in winter, to the beachouse in summer, with a lesbian love triangle and possibly even stewardess ghosts – he changes, buying a new Porsche, leaving his girlfriend for the hot actress and ditching his friends. And neither of these bits, are in the movie long. It’s a very friendly movie. 

guest does a good job directing this – again considering the time-frame – and I think that it’s a nice lesson for wannabe film-writers and directors. There’s something to be said for integrity, and if you want to make a movie that’s yours, then you’ll have to fight for it. A good lesson, and one that it doesn’t really seem too many mainstream creators have been doing over the twenty years since this movie was made. Only now does it really seem that there are more directors taking chances on what their movies are. Whether it’s Christopher Nolan going outside the box to bring audiences a new kind of comic book movie – and have it accepted not only by audiences but critics as something more than just “summer movie fare”; to Francis Ford Coppola reinvigorating his career by financing and making smaller, arty movies, like YOUTH WITHOUT YOUTH. 

(No trailer,  Icould find, so enjoy the music video made in the movie)

Also Recommended:

STATE AND MAIN
LIVING IN OBLIVION
ED WOOD
BARTON FINK
SIMONE