15 December 2008

I'm dreaming of an indie Christmas

As you've no doubt heard, the economy is in shambles. No one's got any money at all, except for the people who are getting bailed out by us taxpayers, and people are cutting corners everywhere they can.

Of course, that includes Christmas. Maybe this year you get a little tree, or shave a few inches off the plasma TV, or (if you're really old school) your kids get a smaller orange in their stocking.

All over the news there's stories about major retailers worried about their profit margins, and while that's bad in a trickle-down economics sort of way, consider for a minute how this affects the smaller retailers or, worse still, the people who rely on retail to supplement their income. Think of the craftsmen and the artisans who operate without profit margins and don't have the luxury of having their goods on display in the local Wal-Mart.

You know where this is going. Think of the artists.

In a good economy it's hard for an artist to break even and many of the day jobs artists hold are the first to get cut by a nervous employer.

So it occurs to me that no matter how bad the economy gets, people will be spending some amount of money on Christmas presents for their loved ones. And no matter how bad things get, people will be selling things they're making with little more than passion.

So why not combine the two?

Why not make a point of spending some of the money you've allotted for presents and buy your loved ones something they can't find in Wal-Mart? This has several advantages, including:

1. You get to "spread the wealth around" a little bit. Or, at very least, cover up some of the bare spots of poverty.

2. Your loved one gets something truly unique for Christmas, instead of whatever Amazon recommends.

3. You feel better about yourself.

Now I'm not saying that you should buy your grandmother a DVD of a locally-produced zombie movie. Certainly you can find her something that's been knit by a fellow old lady in your town. And you don't need to spend all your budget this way, but it wouldn't kill you to spend 50%.

And there's so many things you could buy. A DVD. Albums by fantastic musicians. Shirts. Comic books. A festival pass. You get the idea.

What do you say? And what other things are out there?

20 November 2008

via my email

One good thing about having a blog that people used to read back when you updated it is that you get on a lot of mailing lists and whatnot that generally keep you up-to-date on what's going on, even if you're out of the loop entirely.

Plus, follow enough people on Twitter and you get a pretty good idea.

Anyway, in my inbox yesterday is an email from the folks at Rooftop Films, a festival/screening series in NYC that you've probably heard of (but has not screened any of my films, even though they totally should). I'm in a generous mood, so I'll help out.

Here, I'll let Danielle take over. This is what she asked me to pass along:

Submit your movies! In May 2009 we will begin celebrating our 13th year of bringing the best underground films in the world outdoors and to the rooftops of New York City. Submit your films and videos now and participate in one of the most unforgettable, unique, filmmaker-friendly, independent film events in the world!

• A complete list of rules and regulations are available on the Rooftop Films Website.
• Films can be submitted via Withoutabox.com or directly to Rooftop Films
• General deadlines and fees have changed since last year: Earlybird: $9, postmarked by January 5, 2009; Regular: $13, postmarked by February 02, 2009; Late: $16, postmarked by March 1, 2009; Without A Box Extended: $16, April 1, 2009 (Without A Box members only).
• Rooftop continues to accept films year round, but if you want to guarantee that your films will be considered for the 2009 Summer Series please make sure to submit them on or before the deadlines.

THE FESTIVAL

The 2009 Summer Series will run from May through September and will feature more than 200 daring new films, all screened outdoors, in front of big, loyal audiences in parks, along the water, and on rooftops overlooking the greatest city on earth. More than 15,000 people attended Rooftop screenings in 2008, making it one of the most popular festivals in New York City. The 2009 Summer Series will surely feature even bigger crowds, even more beautiful venues, and more incredible films.


So there's that.

18 November 2008

Smoke Jumping

One of the things I learned during my last trip to LA (well, maybe not learned as much as had confirmed) was that Entourage is more fantasy than reality. Naturally, this isn't a surprise at all, and doesn't even detract from my enjoyment of the show, but it's interesting in that for the vast majority of people, this distinction is never made.

In fact, I know people who are pretty sure that Entourage is a pretty accurate representation of how things out there operate. They're also convinced that batting average is a good measure of a baseball player's value, but that's a different post.

That being said, one of the things that's been bugging me about this season (besides the increasing realization that Edward Norton won't show up) is the trouble the writers have had working Vince's new-found work ethic into the show. They've had him up early reading his lines (hell, he's actually reading his lines) and showing all sorts of Motivation and Determination, but he doesn't wear it well. Part of the fun of the show (especially as it exists more as fantasy than reality) is how little effort or concern Vince shows toward his career, how Eric and Ari fret over his projects, only to have him shrug his shoulders and have everything work out just fine. It's a nice counterpoint to Drama's maximum effort career, but over the last season or so, the show has been giving Vince more ownership of his career and despite that (because of that?) the career seems to be going in the opposite direction.

And, by the way, did Drama's show get canceled or does he just have the easiest shooting schedule ever? How does he have all that time to be on set with Vince?

Anyway, part of me was interested to see if the show could pull off the hard-working Vince and really turn him into an actual actor. That, in addition to Rhys Coiro's Billy Walsh, is one of my favorite storylines. So I was really intrigued by the promo for episode 10, particularly the lip quiver interaction between Adrian Grenier and Stellan Skarsgård that indicated that perhaps our man would be tutored and whipped into shape by ze German.



But then, the full episode airs and...nothing. Vince doesn't see the lip quiver and the animosity continues. Ok, fine. So Vince is going to revert to his carefree ways. Until the next morning when he tells Turtle that, in fact, he's been up all night studying his old movies. Yet, on set he can't seem to pull himself together. Or, as may be the case, the director is making it impossible for him, but I saw the same thing in the performance the director did, so I don't know. I just don't know.

And that's what I find most frustrating. I can't figure out which it is, and I don't get the sense that the writers know for sure themselves. Now there's no movie and the show is back where it started the season. What have they gained? Nothing, it seems.

01 October 2008

plus/minus

I have a bad (good?) habit of getting distracted by data, be it baseball stats or football stats or anything else. I'm known to spend way too much time building spreadsheets that do little more than tell me who to draft or track festival entries or pretty much anything else.

Anyway, over the last couple of months I've been following the election pretty closely, almost primarily over at fivethirtyeight.com, a site run by Nate Silver, one of the key people over at the fantastic Baseball Prospectus.

Nate's forecasting has been pretty much dominating the political landscape lately. He's been featured all over the place, including this feature with Dan Rather on HDNet. Check it out.

10 September 2008

how do you blog?

That is, when you're writing about a film, how do you do it? What's your process?

Do you write immediately after seeing the film? Do you let it sit for a couple days? Do you watch certain sequences over and over?

What's the method?


** and, yeah, i realize i haven't updated this in a while. i've been traveling and/or on vacation. hopefully i can do better.

13 August 2008

me vs. me

I conspire against myself sometimes.

I have a screenplay I'm mostly happy with (the exception being the first 7 pages, which need a total re-do) and people who want to read it and momentum and everything you'd think one would need to be motivated.

And I can't seem to find it. I will, though...eventually.

So this post isn't a total waste, I was featured in yesterday's Pittsburgh Trib PM, which is a local free paper thing that all the cool kids read. The interview is nice and everything, but it seems much cooler in the actual paper, since the article is a half-page and everything:



What does this accomplish, exactly? Well, the theory is that every amount of press we can get right now makes things that much easier when the screenplay is ready to start shooting. More doors get opened if people know who you are, or if you've been vetted by the local media.

That's the theory, at least.

11 August 2008

1234



2 things (ok, maybe 3):

1. I don't care what anyone says, Sesame Street is pretty much one of the greatest things ever.

2. When did they start filming in HD? And if Sesame Street films in HD with those black bars, does that mean the full-screen vs. wide-screen debate is officially over?

3. Where's the Count? No one loves counting to 4 than he does.

20 July 2008

hollywood

After an eventful week on the left coast, we're back in Pittsburgh. And nearly with a new camera in tow. I've been photo blogging the whole week, so hopefully you've been following along, but here's the larger version.

Unlike normal festivals, the Now Film Festival has pretty much entirely taken place already, so you don't have the multiple days of endless films and discussions. Of course, that's been taking place for months, so you've kind of already gotten that.

I hit LAX late Sunday night and, as seems to be the pattern lately, my luggage didn't. This requires some hanging around until the suitcase shows up an hour or so later. This isn't so bad, really. At least it got there.

On Monday, Sean (the festival director) and I make the rounds. We hit the offices of Now Casting, the main sponsor, and met Rick La Fond, one of the head honchos whose mother owns a art gallery here in Pittsburgh. Small world. From there, we head to the Sony lot to make sure things are set up. This takes all of five minutes, so we wander the lot.

photo-775638

There I nearly run into Emma Stone from Superbad (at least, I think that's who it was) while trying to take that picture, and there's rumors that Seth Rogan is wandering around, but no one knows why. Instead, we go looking for a set that's unguarded. We wander onto the set for Angels & Demons, where they're trying to rebuild a church after the Vatican kicked them out recently. For some reason there's a pretty big circular ramp thing, so if you see the film, let me know if it shows up.

For a minute I thought I saw Julian Schnabel, but it wasn't him. It's a shame too, because he's pretty awesome.

Part of our wandering included a look at some of the Sony/Columbia history. There's large-scale posters of stuff like The Awful Truth and It Happened One Night all over the place. Plus, there's a lineup of Oscars, like this one from On the Waterfront:

photo-764680

And that's probably as close to an Oscar as we'll ever get.

Tuesday we're at the Backstage Theater on the Sony lot and I'm walking around the lot getting more nervous by the minute. There's a glitch with the master DVD that's been put together, and Sean has to scramble to get the other DVDs set up.

photo-742493

And here we are on the program:

photo-749245

Rachel shows up and I'm getting more nauseous by the minute. We walk around to kill time. We look at posters. For a minute I consider throwing up. (I get like this before screenings. Sometimes I drink. Today I don't.)

The screening starts and there's a ton of technical difficulties. The DVDs that played fine on a MacBook Pro and a DVD player are skipping like crazy in the player at the screening room. When you consider that Sony makes a DVD player, this is kind of funny, but not so great for the festival and filmmakers. gravida plays cleaner than pretty much any other film, which is good for us. Afterwards, there's a Q&A that goes pretty well. People talk about the cats in the film and the red light and all that stuff. Afterward, I'm approached by a creative executive from a production company that works with Jose Rivera, the guy who wrote The Motorcycle Diaries and the upcoming On The Road. I mentioned to him that I really hope they don't fuck up the Kerouac film and that I'd be a little scared to tackle something like that. Anyway, he asks about my next project and apparently wants to read it when it's done, which would be super cool.

photo-728828

A bunch of us (Rachel and I and the director and caterer of "Missing Pieces" and Sean's girlfriend) go to a Mexican restaurant while Sean counts the votes. After a few minutes he comes and tells us that "Missing Pieces" has won by a grand total of 1 vote over "gravida". I congratulate Samah (that's the director's name) and when he leaves a little bit later, Rachel and I realize that her husband and small child (who is in the cast, you know) could have wandered the lot during the screening and then voted. The thinking being that no one wants a crying kid during a screening. That, of course, would have been enough for the win. So it goes.

After that, we did some sight-seeing, spent some time on the beach, and generally relaxed. (It isn't often that you finish second in the world's largest film festival.)

And now, we're home. We very well may have something for you soon. Hopefully we can parlay this into some media in the near future. Oh, and on the way home, my luggage didn't make the connection.

19 July 2008

hanging chads

So at long last, we have results. There's a fuller, richer report to follow, but here's the results:

The winner of the 3rd Annual Now Film Festival is "Missing Pieces" (the Rainn Wilson film). This is not so surprising.

But wait, there's more.

In second place, a mere one (yes, one) vote behind is "gravida", everyone's favorite film about loneliness.

A little number crunching reveals that "Missing Pieces" had 4 of their crew in the audience, while "gravida" had 2. So the industry audience actually found "gravida" to be the best film of the festival, the best film in the "largest film festival in the world"

As far as we're concerned, this is easily a win for us.

finally...

10 July 2008

Now



Some info on the Now Film Festival finals, via their MySpace page (more comments after the italics):

After receiving over HALF A MILLION votes on MySpace, our top 5 short films (Summer Breeze, My Name Is Lisa, gravida (that's us), Dawn Chorus, and Missing Pieces) have moved on to the final round. After the films are screened the industry only audience will decide which filmmaker receives a brand new High Definition Camera, courtesy of Now Casting Inc.

ABOUT THE FILM FESTIVAL: Voted as Part of the 2008 Movie Maker Magazine's 25 Film Festivals Worth Entering, The Now Film Festival is the world's largest on-line film festival. Every week for 25 weeks we have featured thought provoking short films on the front page of MySpace to millions of viewers. The final five films have gone on to Sundance ,Cannes, and even win the YouTube Filmmaker of the Year Award.

We leave the final decision of the "Best of the Best" to the industry.

We would love to have you, the future of the industry, in attendance as we complete this amazing year. Tickets are free, however seating is limited so RSVP as soon as possible.

Time : Tue July 15, 2008
Doors Open : 7:30 PM
Screening Begins : 8:15 PM

Q&A to follow

BACKSTAGE THEATER
Sony Picture Studios
10202 W. Washington Boulevard
Culver City, CA. 90232.

TO RSVP : e-mail RSVP@nowfilmfestival.com (tickets are free)
Please include name, affiliation, and how many people will be
attending


Rachel Shaw and I will both be there to represent everyone's favorite feel-good film about loneliness, so expect a report when we get back. Do we expect to win? Nope. Do we have a chance? I guess so. It all depends on what the people there think. So...if you're in the area, get yourself some tickets and join the fun.

04 July 2008

Indestructible


Earlier this year I had a chance to see Ben Byer's Indestructible at a festival. In short, the film is a documentary following Byer himself as he is diagnosed with, then fights, ALS (or, Lou Gehrig's Disease). It's a powerful documentary, a heartbreaking look at a truly awful disease. If it plays in a city near you, try not to miss it.

For example, it screens in Chicago later this month.

Sadly, there is news today about Byer (via the webpage):

Dear Friends,

Early in the morning of July 3, my brother Ben Byer lost his battle against ALS. He fought up until the end but his body did not match his spirit.

The party that Ben and I were planning for July 17th, to thank all of you, our supporters and friends, will still happen and we welcome you there if you are in the Chicago area. In addition to celebrating the Chicago Premiere of Indestructible, we will celebrate Ben’s life and the legacy he is leaving. He would not want it any other way. The information is below and we hope you will come to celebrate his life with us.

I will continue to work toward fulfilling the mission of ALS Film Fund in raising awareness and change for this brutal disease in Ben’s name, his memory, his spirit and his honor.

Sincerely,
Rebeccah Rush


RIP.

25 June 2008

My Box Office is Bigger than Yours

For the Bizarro Blog-a-Thon

As you've no doubt heard, Elvis Presley invented music.

Oh sure, music technically existed before him, but it wasn't really music until Elvis transformed it. He is, without a doubt, the single greatest musician in the history of the world. Better, even, than these hacks.

So when such a luminary releases an album titled "50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can't Be Wrong: Elvis' Gold Records Volume 2", one can only assume that he's attempting to tell us something deeper about ourselves, about the world we live in.

What then, is he saying?

Well, if 50 million people can't be wrong, then the only rational explanation must be that popularity equals quality.

Ergo, film box office equals success, because if 50 million Elvis fans can't be wrong, then neither can the $38M grossed by Get Smart or the $305M grossed by Iron Man this year.

Better clearly than There Will Be Blood ($40M), better than The Darjeeling Limited ($11M), better than I Think I Love My Life ($12M).

And while sites like Metacritic may say otherwise, clearly they cannot be right because 50M Elvis fans cannot be wrong.

Why we even bother with critics and award shows is beyond me. We should just total up the box office at the end of the year, and there's your best picture. Much easier, and think of the money Hollywood would save on tuxes and dresses. Enough to subsidize all those failures that gross less than $150M.

22 June 2008

Getting an Oscar Nom now makes a little bit more sense

Via The New York Times


Two long-overdue rule changes for everyone's favorite award show that may or may not be meaningless:

1. No film can have more than 2 songs in the Original Song category. I've been bitching about this for years. How having 3 songs from Dreamgirls benefits anyone is beyond my comprehension, and now it won't happen anymore. Sure, it's a little too late for the "Kazakhstan National Anthem", but better late than never.

Side note: how does the Academy not nominate this song? Sure, it's a joke and shouldn't really win, but the value of having it performed at the Oscars is worth so much to a show that's been steadily losing viewers for years.

2. The other change is that now "three of the nine finalists for the foreign-language-film nomination will now be chosen by the 20-member Foreign Language Film Award Executive Committee". What this means, I assume, is that a group of 20 somewhat intelligent people will be able to step in and make sure the year's 3 best foreign language films make the cut, thereby ending the annual problem of having something like 4 luni, 3 saptamâni si 2 zile not even make the short-list.

Or, they'll somehow manage to screw it up even worse.

17 June 2008

AFI

So I'm watching the AFI broadcast of the 10 best films of 10 different genres, which I meant to say something about earlier, but totally forgot about.

Right now they're on animation, and we've seen such luminary cinema experts like Jennifer Love Hewitt and the guy who played Cliff on Cheers, and somehow that's not the biggest complaint in the first 3 minutes I've watched.

First, they aren't shooting in HD. Really? The AFI can't afford HD? Really?

Shrek, which isn't exactly Citizen Kane (I've gotten past the point where I expect the actual list to be worth something, really I have), but even so, is it so hard to show the thing in the proper aspect ratio?

If the purpose of the AFI is to be "a national institute providing leadership in screen education and the recognition and celebration of excellence in the art of film, television and digital media.", shouldn't we expect them to at least show the entire film, and not just the full-frame version? Shouldn't that be the minimum requirement for the AFI?

Or is it time to give up on them entirely?

Oh bloody hell. It's Jessica Alba.

11 June 2008

pretty, pretty good

So some people were a little confused by the last post. Yes, we made the Now Film Festival finals, thanks to your votes. We even beat out the BAFTA nominee. How? I don't know.

What that means is that soonish there will be a screening in LA, so if anyone's got a couch in LA they don't mind lending a filmmaker, that'd be awesome. (Or, if you've got a good idea of how to get there really cheaply, that'd be awesome).

Anyway, my good friend Stephen Moser was so excited, he sent me this photo titled, The emotional roller coaster caused by "Gravida". Enjoy.

04 June 2008

a birthday gift, from me to you

He's so fascinating, so exclusive! A man of great integrity. He's passionate about things...about people, ideas. About countries...

Here's hoping that you have someone in your life who might say that about you.



Oh, and long ago I wrote about this very film. Enjoy.

24 April 2008

the possible potential of that whole web 2.0 thing


Currently I'm working this temp job where the pace isn't that fast, essentially it's small burst of work surrounded by 10-20 minutes of nothing to do. It's longer than you need to catch a breath, but not long enough to go to lunch or really get into any writing. As a result, I spend a lot of that time either reading about the election, checking my email, or trying to learn what's out there on the internets.

One of the things I've found is IndieGoGo, a website that bills itself "an online social marketplace connecting filmmakers and fans to make independent film happen. The platform provides filmmakers the tools for project funding, recruiting, and promotion, while enabling the audience to discover and connect directly with filmmakers and the causes they support."

What does that mean exactly? Well, I'm not yet sure, but the website's potential seems to be that it would enable filmmakers who have projects to fund and promote an opportunity to connect with the people who are interested in that sort of thing. Think of it as online dating for indie film buffs.

Part of me wonders if this is something that could actually take hold (then again, I initially thought MySpace and Facebook would amount to nothing.

Honestly I haven't spent enough time on it to figure out how valuable it could be, but there's something about it I like. One of the nice features is a widget that you can place on blogs/websites/etc that will allow people to find your project as it needs funding. As an example, I threw one together for gravida. Pretty much it looks like this (to give you an idea):



The widget will take people to a site where they can contribute to whatever fundraising goal the filmmaker has established and the widget updates as the dollar amount goes up. Clearly this could be of great benefit to a filmmaker looking to expand fundraising beyond their parents and friends. Or, maybe nothing will come of it and they'll have to beg Mom and Dad anyway.

The website is really new (and I have no connection to it, by the way), so who knows. Check it out. Play around. See if it's worthwhile. Regardless, I kind of like how they're set up.

If you like the website, be my friend and stuff. Me, I think this stuff is kind of cool.

21 April 2008

on hype


As most of you are aware, I've had something of a busy year (as in, I've actually moved 3 times in the last 15 months) and part of the fallout is that I'm so very, very behind on my film watching. (I am, however, doing much better on my It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia viewing) There's a big stack of uber-indie DVDs I still have to watch and review and one of these days I'll get around to finishing a new script. I'll actually haven't yet watched No Country For Old Men, if that tells you how behind I am.

Anyway, that's all to say that I didn't see Juno this year until Oscar night (on the way to an Oscar party, actually). By that time, I'd heard from everyone alive how much I would love it. I'd even heard some of the backlash from my fellow bloggers. Actually, to be more accurate, I'd heard about it, not wanting to actually know what the backlash entailed before I saw the film.

So I went with my girlfriend to see it, pretty excited as I'm a big fan of Michael Cera and I thought Jason Reitman's Thank You For Smoking was highly underrated. Also, there was that buzz about the script. Apparently the wittiest, cleverest thing this side of Oscar Wilde.

Five minutes in and I can't get over how horrible the dialogue is, how forced it feels, like what someone is trying to imagine a teenager would say. And even if you concede that teenagers would say things like "honest to blog" (the horror), why do the adults speak the same way?

This is a pet peeve of mine, actually, when all the characters in a film have the same vocabulary. It isn't realistic. It isn't even probable. Tarantino does this all the time and it annoys the hell out of me.

Back to the point: I'm suffering through Juno, trying to figure out how this script got optioned, much less an Oscar nomination, and suddenly it shifts. The film turns serious and before I know it, I'm invested in the characters, but not hers as much as the rest of them. Maybe I can't get over the "honest to blog" bullshit, or maybe I just like those characters more than her, which is strange because the film so clearly wants to push her as the protagonist. I'm supposed to be in her camp.

I didn't really think much of it until recently when my girlfriend was telling me that she has a lot of trouble liking anything that she's heard is really good, as her expectations get built up to levels the films cannot actually reach. There's a ton of films that can easily fall under this heading: Napoleon Dynamite (her first example), The Sixth Sense, Juno, The Matrix, The Shawshank Redemption, and the list goes on.

And I think maybe I don't come across this all that often because I'm usually one of the first people I know to see something, so I have a fresh perspective, but there's gotta be something to the fact that the part of the film that got the most hype I found to be awful and the parts that no one talked about (you know, the non-flashy parts) I found to be so good.

I wonder what that is? Is public opinion that bad or is my reaction to it so severe? I hope not. Maybe it's a combination. I don't really know.

19 April 2008

12 March 2008

2nite

Just a quick reminder.

Tonight, 12 March, yours truly will be featured on BlogCritics Radio. I'll be discussing gravida, the Now Film Festival, and the state of indie film in general. I'm told my segment will start around 9.40 and you can hear it anywhere in the world. Click on the image below to get there.

Listen to BC Radio Live on internet talk radio

EDIT: Turns out they've over-scheduled the hour and I've been bumped to next week, 19 March. Sorry, all.

05 March 2008

uber-indie on the radio

Next Wednesday, 12 March, yours truly will be a guest on the Blogcritics Radio Network, which you can conveniently listen to on your very own computer. I'll be talking about gravida, the Now Film Festival, and "indie filmmaking in general" sometime between 9 and 10 EST. Want more info? Check it out. This week's guest, you may notice, is Debbie Gibson. That sound you just heard? That was Ryan Estes' head exploding. Remember to gather ye olde kids around ye olde internet radio and listen in. Maybe I'll make a fool of myself.

04 March 2008

uber-indie: short films by Keith Snyder

three_fingers

Sell in Hell

starring: Blake Arnold and Daniel McFeeley
cinematography by: Patrick Knisely
written by: Blake Arnold and Keith Snyder
directed by: Keith Snyder
6 min/Hollywood, CA


There's only one job in Hell, and that's telemarketing. So says Keith Snyder's short Sell in Hell, and it's hard to argue with that theory. Done in mostly one shot and starring a heavily made-up Blake Arnold (horns, fake teeth, and all that goes into the classic demon look), the film looks pretty much exactly like a telemarketing instructional video, only with more interesting lighting. It's somewhat humerous and somewhat annoying. Most of all, it's pretty much what you'd expect, given that scenario. I'd write more, but Sell in Hell isn't nearly as interesting as the other two shorts.


Credo

starring: Larry Picard
cinematography by: Andamion Murataj
original music by: Larry Picard and Keith Snyder
written and directed by: Keith Snyder
9 min/Brooklyn, NY


Apparently God is bald.

That seems odd, considering the whole omnipotence thing. I know if I were all-powerful, I'd ensure I at least had a full head of hair, but such are the limitations of working with a small budget. Even God has to cut corners somewhere.

Thankfully for Keith Snyder's Credo, God has more important priorities, such as an operatic bass singing voice that works perfectly for this 9 minute musical. That's right, we've got ourselves a musical. And if you're thinking to yourself that uber-indie musicals are pretty rare, you'd be right. So it takes a few minutes to realize that's what's happening, that the singing isn't just an interesting opening, but the film's overall narrative.

Larry Picard, a classically trained singer, stars as a God looking to distance Himself from the activities of some of His alleged followers. This isn't exactly a new idea, as God has been doing this nearly as long as there's been people invoking His name, but not usually with a trace of sacrilege:

"Blessed art I, the Lord thy God,
King of the Universe. Who loveth thee.
Who desireth to make thee happy.
Who apologizes for His misguided example,
And the lamentable results of His interference.
Who withdraweth His endorsement of murder,
And seeketh thy forgiveness for His terrible mistake."


I include these lyrics not to spark some sort of religious debate, but to give you an idea of the film's tone. This is, after all, a film review and not a discussion of theology and the nature of God.

What's most interesting about Credo isn't the message, but how that message is delivered. None of Picard's singing was done in post-production, but instead was performed entirely a cappella on set, with nothing but a small keyboard as assistance. The rest of the score was then recorded later to match Picard's vocals. This is not nearly as easy as it sounds. Synder himself gives an in-depth description of the process in the two articles he wrote for Recording Magazine.

The end result is a compelling little musical, some editing problems aside. Andamion Murataj's cinematography does a nice job of using the church's natural lighting is his design, and gives the film an effectively solemn look, which is a nice thing to have, especially when your main character is a deity.


I Love You, I'm Sorry, and I'll Never Do It Again

starring: Peter Linari, Larry Picard, Paul Romanello, Frances Toliver, and Kathleen Haaversen
cinematography by: David Berliner
written and directed by: Keith Snyder
14 min/New York, NY


A shlub of a man, in hot water with the mob, discovers the payment he hid in a toolbox is missing. He calls his wife, only to realize he's in even more trouble at home. The mobsters, sympathetic to his plight (as all men are), teach him the three steps to placating an angry wife: say simply, "I love you, I'm sorry, and I'll never do it again"[1]. While some might call it an over-simplification, others would call Keith Snyder's I Love You, I'm Sorry, and I'll Never Do It Again a key step in the daily crusade against sleeping on the couch. Personally, I like to think of it as an entertaining little film that works more often than it doesn't. And in the uber-indie world, that's a rarity.

The film is primarily structured around a series of fantasy musical numbers where the two mobsters detail the Biblical applications of their theory. That is, we see where Sampson, Adam, and others apologized right off the bat, rather than risk a fight. Neither of the mobsters seem to have spent much time counting calories, so the sight of them dressed up as Adam and Eve and, later, Sampson and Delilah (complete with a costume to rival a belly dancer), finds that sweet spot of being so over-the-top that it becomes sublime.

It also serves as a nice visual counterpoint to the main story, which is mostly shot with shadows and cigarette smoke and other themes befitting a factory at nice. The musical numbers, however, are bright lights and brighter colors, full of gaiety and whimsy. Much credit goes to cinematographer David Berliner who moves easily between the two styles and is able to accomplish a lot of narrative goals with his compositions. Really, it's a startlingly effective piece of work.

Moreover, Snyder's script and direction is able to be both funny and serious, all the while telling a coherent, logical, and utterly absurd story within the confines of a fourteen minute musical. Think, for a minute, about what that entails. It's one thing to try and do a surreal musical dramedy, but to have it work, and work so well on a small budget....well....that's just crazy.

And I think maybe Snyder is crazy. He'd almost have to be. But, it's the kind of insanity we need more of in indie cinema. In short, we need more filmmakers like Keith Snyder.

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[1] In the weeks between watching this film and writing this review, I've learned that this does not always work. At least, not for me. Maybe I'm doing it wrong.

You can check out the thoughts of Keith Snyder at his blog. Or, check out his films here and here. Or, go to his IMDb page.

25 February 2008

the Murials and my lack of a ballot


Last year, I was more than happy to contribute to Paul Clark's inaugural Murial Awards. I'd, as usual, seen most of the necessary films (not all, mind you, because that'd be damned near impossible, but enough). But this year, when I started to fill out my ballot, I came to the realization that I hadn't seen nearly enough films. I've been kind of busy with my own film, it seems. So Paul, in his kindness, let me skip the voting part and just add my own category of 10 films worth seeing that aren't eligible (mostly because they're shorts). Also, I added some comments on some of the "important" film. Note my blurb on last night's big winner:

"I loved Javier Bardem in Before Night Falls. I haven't seen this, but the trailer looks good and my girlfriend liked it a lot."

See? How could I vote in good conscience?

You can read my entire sidebar here. Or, here's the 10 films worth seeing:

(in no particular order)

1. "Avec la Moustache" (Demitri Andrikopolous)
2. "Confusions of an Unmarried Couple" (The Butler Brothers)
3. "A Catalog of Anticipations" (David Lowery)
4. "I Love You, I'm Sorry, and I'll Never Do It Again" (Keith Snyder)
5. "Maine Story" (Nina Chernik)
6. "Cabbie" (Donlee Brussel)
7. "Partially True Tales of High Adventure!" (Murphy Gilson)
8. "Adam Taylor's Dracula" (Adam Taylor)
9. "Crooked Features" (Mike Peter Reed)
10. "Frownland" (Ronald Bronstein)

You'd have to ask Paul, but I see no reason why these films can't call themselves "Murial Award Winners".

15 February 2008

Hey look, we're in the paper...and on MySpace...and elsewhere...

As promised, the promotional stuff for the Now Film Festival continues. gravida is on the festival webpage for your viewing pleasure, on YouTube, where people are arguing about a pregnant woman drinking wine, and later today on MySpace Film, where we'll be the featured selection for a week.

Today brings a little bit more for your reading pleasure.

First, those of you in Pittsburgh can pick up a copy of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and find us on the back page of the Mag&Movies section. Or, you can read it online here.

Also, there's an interview with yours truly about gravida in Actor's Ink, which is some sort of newsletter/publication with a circulation of roughly 70k. The interview starts with a short review that contains the note that, "With a shoestring budget and a few friends, Lucas McNelly tells a story of loneliness and uncertainty better than most of the filmmakers in Hollywood can imagine." You can read the entire interview here, including the parts where I do some name-dropping of fellow filmmakers.

Speaking of name-dropping our fellow filmmakers, our friend David Lowery has made the cut of South by Southwest, no small feat.

07 February 2008

Now Film Festival

logo

gravida has been added to the lineup of this year's Now Film Festival, which runs primarily on MySpace Film.

We're one of 25 semi-finalists, with the grand prize being a new camera package (oohh, aahh). Also, there's a screening in Hollywood for the finalists.

Which is where you, the reader/viewer comes in. At the end of the 25 weeks of semi-finalists, there's voting and the voting will determine what happens from there. So go check out the festival and then vote for gravida.

It'll be fun. I promise.

EDIT: We'll be the featured short on MySpace for a week starting on 15 Feb.

01 February 2008

festival 3.0

gravida has been selected to appear in the 4th(?) Annual Mid-Valley Video Festival in Salem, OR. We will screen Thursday, 21 February at 9pm with James Spooner's White Lies Black Sheep at the Northern Lights Theatre Pub.

Also appearing in the festival is David Lowery's A Catalog of Anticipations and the Butler Brother's Confusions of an Unmarried Couple, both films by friends of this blog.

15 January 2008

Notes from Festivus

You know you've been at a festival a long time when on day 3 you say to someone, "You know, I vaguely remember watching a zombie movie, like, a week ago." Such is life in the festival world where you routinely watch films from noon until nearly midnight, drink alcoholic beverages, and talk to fellow festival goers about what films they saw that you completely should have seen. Depending on your level of cinephilia, it's either completely awesome or a bit much.

It helps, certainly, when you've got a film in competition and the badge of honor to prove it. Everyone makes a point of telling you they liked your film (even when they didn't), or how they wish they could have seen it. It's no wonder filmmakers love going.

For the inaugural Festivus Film Festival, we hit Denver around 10am Mountain Time and promptly hit a local micro brew house that featured a beer dedicated to the late, great Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. From there, we hit the festival, housed (for our purposes), at the historic Oriental Theater.

Oriental Theater

The festival kicked off with Wasting Away, a zombie movie about from the zombie's point of view (they see themselves as "super soldiers" and everyone else is infected) and Kill Kill Faster Faster, which looked really cool, but I came in half-way through and was too tired from the jet lag to follow it.

Saturday, we screen bright and early at noon as part of the "Popcorn Matinees" with Maine Story, Taken, In Times of War: The Ray Parker Story (winner for best documentary short), Simulacra, PK-Granny, and Revolver. The screening went well. Maine Story is clearly the best film of the set (or maybe I'm biased because it's set in Maine and the accents aren't all screwed up), but the important thing is that gravida isn't the worst. No one walks out. No one boos. Well, except for these guys:

critics2

Then, a Q&A (that's yours truly on the left wearing a "Debs '08" shirt, even if you can't see it):

"Festivus" Q&A

There were basic questions about budgets and cameras and whatnot, and we got a few questions asked specifically about our film (such as, "Where did you find a pregnant actress?"). And that was it. A number of people came up to me over the course of the day to say how much they enjoyed the film and we were able to make a number of contacts with other filmmakers and pick their brains about the whole festival sequence. Part of the value of going to this festival was to see what other companies do to support their films, and I think we've picked up a number of good ideas we can use for next time.

But there were 2 more whole days of films. Notable films were Avec la Moustache (the best film in the entire festival, I thought), Cabbie, Partially True Tales of High Adventure! (the narrative short winner), Hope Springs Eternal (animated winner), Beauty 24 (a bad documentary about a fantastically interesting photography project, also the documentary feature winner...go figure), Indestructible (a heart-breaking doc about ALS), and Life With Fiona (I didn't see it, but the filmmakers were really nice and helpful).

And that is about it. Don't forget to purchase a DVD or a tshirt. Be one of the cool kids.

un filmeDVD
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