What would Francis do?

Okay it’s been awhile. I like others have begun to re-evaluate myself. We all do. The cinema and filmmaking in general has had a significant impact in my life. It started with photography at 8 years old, and has morphed into the monster it is now. The above is a lecture of some interviews that Francis Ford Coppola had done. Arguably he is the most prolific and skilled filmmaker of our time. I find comfort in his words and in his wisdom. Listening to him I find myself still drawn to the flame which we call filmmaking, and after a lifetime of reaching out and striving to include others with some successes and some failures I still want to ride this horse.

The digital realm offers a multitude of possibilities to create stories, and so I find myself at a point of reflection. Where do I take this? How do I continue to make stories I want to hear about, and how do I find others with the same passion? All the while trying to balance work, home & family. These are the questions? I’ll leave you with Mr. Coppola’s comments that inspire me and thrill me at the same time. I hope you find something in it that helps you. I have been an ardent admirer of Coppola’s and if his words can still stir me then maybe there is hope for me to achieve what I want.

Till next time friends. I promise I won’t be this absent or quiet till the next time I post.

The Future of Film-making II

I’ve been looking into what film-making is now.  I’m kind of that dinosaur that shot things on film, so film ISO, film latitude, emulsion were nothing I didn’t know about.  Yet I feel out of touch in today’s film-making climate.  It’s all become digital, and we no longer cut physical film.  In a way it’s become a bit easier, yet with that being said shooting digital can be anything but easy.  You’re dealing with resolution, different editing codec’s, file size, and let’s not forget the 24, 30 and 60 f.p.s you can shoot with.  Then there is the different media you’ll need to store your files on.  For example ScanDisk 32GB 95 mb/s or 128GB 170 mb/s or 32GB 80md/s are all things a filmmaker needs to know.  The faster your media is the superior your image will be.  Confused.  We’ll let Dave McKeegan explain it to you.  I find his explanation enlightening and easy to understand.

 

Now that that has been explained it all came down to camera, and let me tell you I researched the crap out of it to the the point of over researching it.  It came down to this what do I want the camera for?  I wanted something with a dual purpose.  One My old DSLR was old and did not take video, but the main purpose was video.   At least it was for me, and of course I could have gotten better, but I did not have the funds to go hog wild.  I wanted to open an avenue where I could shoot shorts, and to some experimental stuff with the camera.  Being a Nikon guy I really was leaning toward that, but I went with Canon.  I know you say sacrilege, but Nikon does not have a camera that is both good with video and stills.  Canon had it both.  When I finally got my hands on the Canon I knew I made the right decision.  It’s auto-focus is stunning, and it really is a run and gun type of camera.  I got an older model the Canon EOS 80D.  The 90D is out, but I got a package deal that included a Rode microphone, and also a scan disk card and a beautiful 18-135mm lens.  The speed of the lens is 3.5.  Not the fastest, but still good enough for what I want to do.  Also I’m looking to get some better lenses, but in due time.  There is still much to learn.  With that I also upgrade my computer.   File sizes are big when shooting video, and you’ll need processing power and a good video card.  I choose a DELL.  I’m familiar with them, and they never have let me down.  Again money was tight, but I managed to get something that I think I can use, and in the coming months I hope to post stuff here and try to see what I can do, and of course on how it works.

Here’s an example by Lohit Mohanta.  Here he shoot his lovely model Kira at 60 fps, and the video is about the auto focus.  See how quick the camera can focus.

 

Now for my last example.  Me being a film student and a film snob I know I will never get the quality of an Alexa type cinematic camera, but here is a comparison between the two, and as Gene Nagata shows in his video the 80d is not that bad, and the visuals are quite pleasing.  I will push the camera a little more, but I’m not expecting Black-magic or Alexaquality images.  But I need something to experiment with.  I will be using DaVinci Resolve for my editing.  It’s free and the color grading is pretty cool, and I intend to use it as much as I can, and see what results I get.  SO let’s see how it goes, and I’ll try and put up my success, and failures up here for all to see.

 

So thanks for listening and I hope to see you around.  The one thing I truly believe is hat through all of us we learn a bit more,, and hopefully something will move us to create something unique.  Remember my belief is what Francis Coppola once sad about a “Fat farm girl from Iowa will make something that will blow cinema away”.  So be that girl or boy.  The technology is here.

Be the next Mozart of Filmmaking….

bolex and me

I’ve so far I’ve shared my likes, dislikes, and my advice on making a film. I myself am not a good example on how to do things.  If anything I’m a good example of getting it done, and what I mean by that is producing a product.   You have to realize when your talking to anyone about making a film they’ll look at you like you have 6 heads. It is an understatement to say that most people just don’t get it.  Why? It’s a simple question. Why go through the pain of writing, financing, and shooting your film when maybe the odds are that you’ll never make any money at it, and you’ll struggle at getting it seen.

I have to argue that in today’s world you have a better shot at getting your film seen then ever before.  How you ask?  Easy it’s all about social media and how big YOU can push you’re own story through the gate keepers at studios.  Make no mistake I am being very sarcastic when I say it’s easy.  It’s anything but easy, yet it is being done.   Good stories and good films get seen.  How they get seen is all up to you.  I am no master at knowing how to do this, and it would help if you knew people who did.   The distribution business has changed radically in the past few years.  Sometimes if you make an impression and get some buzz going through the festival circuit or even on-line studios may begin to notice you.

I have had NO luck doing that personally.  Maybe because I didn’t want to give my baby away for free.  I always felt that if anyone wanted to distribute my film they would make an offer.  But that is naive.  There is a whole lot of content out there.  Many of different degrees of quality.  I have looked down at films shot on video because I felt the technology wasn’t there yet.  Also the quality of those films (shot on video) were not of the same quality of films shot on film.  That is no more the case.  I can attest to seeing some really good films shot on digital.   Just peruse YouTube, and you’ll find some.

Listen if you’re hot on making a film of you’re own do it.  Simple.  Test the waters.  Use friends and relatives when doing you’re initial foray into filmmaking.   Make a couple of shorts and post them.  The more you do the better you get at it.  No really it’s that simple.  We are our own gate keepers.  We put limits on ourselves for what ever reason, and those reasonings can be multiple.   Life can get complicated at times.  Life is short and there are a lot of things people go through that sometimes gets in our way of what we want to do.   Don’t beat yourself up if the circumstances don’t happen for you right away.  Plan, write, read, and meet other creative people like yourself.  In numbers there is strength.  Just get out there and experiment.  No actors or you’re time limited?  Try the avant garde  Anything goes there.   We all need to do something we enjoy, and NOT finding the time is on you.  It’s you’re passion GO FOR IT!

Don’t let the naysayers get you down.  Stymied from lack of talent?  Check out the local art scene in your area.  I bet you’ll find some great talent there.  You just need to look hard enough.    Can’t pay people?  Well make it easier for people to act and participate in your opus by feeding them, and/or maybe paying for their travel.  If their your family they’ll understand, and if their not they’ll thank you for the opportunity to participate.  The one thing you should NEVER do is lie.  Don’t lie to people about your project.  I never did.    When I finally had the resources or partial resources I jumped in and went ahead and focused on finishing the film.  It took awhile to finish the film.  The editing and the sound mix took awhile, but I found people who could help me, and it didn’t turn out too bad.  Even today I still want to re-scan the negative and do an HD version of the film so I can distribute it myself via the web.   I always thought my movie was one of those dime store novels you picked up at news stands or airports, and watched while killing time via you’re phone.  We’ll see how that goes in the future.

Remember YOU’RE the one person who can set yourself back.  I’ll still keep trying myself, and hope that I have the privilege & opportunity to make another film.  But don’t forget to live also.  Go out with friends, fall in love, and do things that make you happy.  Don’t be all too consumed by being that filmmaker.  If you have the itch go scratch it.  Start making films with your phone.  Don’t underestimate yourself.   I’ve taught young children how to tell stories, and they seem naturally gifted in doing so.  Especially in todays world where media dominates a lot of their lives.  I’ve taught kids for 10 to 20 minutes, and they figured out how to put clips together and create a story from those clips.  The hardest thing is to teach what is the idea or subject you want to convey.  I have had teenagers ask me what should I talk about or do?  I’ve given them the same answer always and that is to write what YOU know.  What is it that you are passionate about? Let it flow from what interests you.  Again when you invest in your passions an idea is born, and from there it’s off to the races.  We are conditioned to emulate Hollywood, and TV, but it doesn’t have to be that way.  I find that in young children, and in teenagers the norms are challenged, and if you show them other works unlike what they see in mass media they really get excited about their ideas.  It’s also a great way to learn collaboration which filmmaking is.  So no matter your age, or where you come from you should not feel inhibited by your ideas.  Experiment, and play with different forms and different media.  I really believe that we are on the cusp of a breakthrough in media, and it is not only technology that is driving this but the different ways we use and see media now.

I keep on coming back to what Francis Coppola said about moviemaking:

Now go on and start being that new Mozart of filmmaking like Mr. Coppola says.  He believes it, and so do I.

Rebel Without a Crew & Clerks….

The thing that crystalized me into making my own feature was reading the book “Rebel without a Crew” by Robert Rodriquez and the release of “Clerks” directed by Kevin Smith.  I had been trying to get a film together for some time, but I ran into resistance, and non-compliance by some.  So I decided that I had to go my own way and do my own thing.  Others were certainly doing it, and reading Rodriquez’s book was inspiring, and it set my soul on fire.  You would think that after reading so many books on filmmaking I would get inspired.  Rick Schmidt’s books certainly did that, but I wanted to make films of a different nature.  I was always drawn to B movies and I thought I could write something along those lines.  My favorite author was and still is Jim Thompson.  Thompson is the author of such novels as “The Killer inside me“, The Grifters“, “A Hell of a Women” and “The Getaway”.  These are all novels that were turned into films.  Some were successful, but to me it never came close to the true essence of a Thompson novel.  The closest was “The Getaway” with Steve McQueen and Ali McGraw not the remake with Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger.  Not that I totally disliked the film, but the original was a lot closer to the novel, and it was directed by Sam Peckinpah who got it right.  So I figured I try and write something like that, and it was no surprise that I loved the film “Blood Simple” by the Coen Brothers.  I looked for articles, and interviews when the film “Blood Simple” came out. It was the Coen Brothers I was trying to emulate, yet I did not have the budget they had, so of course my attention was drawn both to Rodriguez and Smith two creators I felt I had something in common with, and that was no money.

Can I say that I saw “Clerks” a total of three times in the theater.  I thought it was brilliant, and I reveled in seeing someone make a Black & white comedy.  Eat your heart out Woody Allen I thought.  I read everything there was on the making of “Clerks”.  I can thank “Moviemaker” magazine for their coverage of the film.  They even printed a budget for the film which again I looked at and studied.  What both movies had was that they were made by people with a passion for moviemaking, and a desire to get it done without any excuses.  It was then that I set off to write, plan and execute my own film.

With the knowledge I acquired I made my film “Deadly Obsessions“.  I started in 1997.  Shot it in 1998, and finished it in 2003.  Took 6 years approximately to finish the film while at the same time I worked at my day job.  When I finished I tried landing it somewhere at a festival, and I had no success.  I can cry “its not what you know, it’s who you know”, but I tried all the  festivals I could think of to no success.  Even got a book about film festivals.  I put it on “without a box” website, and still nothing.  I was a film lost in the wilderness of other films.  By now digital video had exploded and the internet was awash with DV clips, and shorts. Digital video changed the landscape of independent film.  Now there was a avalanche of films that were being submitted to festivals.  I was being lost in the shuffle, and I’m not making any excuses here.  My wife and I did our best to try and get it seen, but it became too expensive after awhile, and other priorities came first.  Number one being my family.

I still am very proud of the film and would like to release it someday online.  The film was available for a short while at Film Baby which closed awhile back.  I would need now to convert it to HD, which is possible, but costly.   I still have hopes that the film will be seen someday as it was meant to be seen, and I even have desires to do more.  What I learned in making my film was tremendous.  The people I met and the people I worked with will be forever etched in my mind.  I so want to use some of them again.  When you work with talented people you want to do it again.  I even believe that I could make a feature for even less then I original made “Deadly Obsessions” for.  But in order to do another feature it would have to be something that would be close to my heart.

All I can say is that if you’re going to go down this road make a movie you can live with for awhile because you’ll be working on it for sometime.  I’m sure you’ll do it on digital video since it’s easier and it looks fantastic, but you’ll still need to have a life, and the bills don’t stop coming so you’ll have the day job.  But pace yourself my friend, and get i done.  However it takes.  Francis Ford Coppola said once to an audience that:

To me, the great hope is that now these little 8mm video recorders and stuff have come out, and some… just people who normally wouldn’t make movies are going to be making them. And you know, suddenly, one day some little fat girl in Ohio is going to be the new Mozart, you know, and make a beautiful film with her little father’s camera recorder. And for once, the so-called professionalism about movies will be destroyed, forever. And it will really become an art form. That’s my opinion.

Francis Ford Coppola

I’ve always loved that quote, and it has fired up my very existence.  I see it in the young boys and girls I teach sometimes, or even in my own children.  There is so much more vision out there.  You are all better then Hollywood because you all have real stories to tell.  With todays technology all things are possible.  That neat little sci-fi epic you have in mind can be done.  I still have dreams and I’m much older now, but still the dreamer with a realist vision.  There is inspiration everywhere, and we all need to break down the walls that separate us and start building bridges.

What I want to do now is make more films.  Hopefully I will be able to.  In the meantime I’ll write, and keep yelling into the wind with the hope that someone else will hear.  Do you’re on thing and keep plugging away.  Enjoy your life, and meet others.  A rich life is a life with many friends and family.  Don’t let Hollywood dictate to you what a success is.  Find inspiration where you can, and don’t let the creative spark fade.