18 October 2007

cleaning out the inbox

Lately there's been a trend of people sending me emails about their various projects, announcing to me (and I assume others) of their existence. Press releases, if you will. Since a lot of them aren't addressed to me, I'm never totally sure what I should do with them (note: if you're looking for a specific action from me, put that at the top of the email), so they just sit in my inbox.

But, recently I had two that were directed to me, so I'm gonna reach back and let you know about some of the other ones as well.

** There's a new movie community on the internets over at Spill.com. Alex tells me that, "the site’s built around animated reviews we put together on the latest movie releases. We launched originally at the beginning of the year, but it’s only within the last few weeks (and after more than a few sleepless nights…) we’ve added the community features in. The movies we review may be a little mainstream for your taste, but thought you might be interested to check the site out."

** The International Museum of Women is holding an online film festival throughout October, debuting a film a day for 31 days, all directed by women. Should be cool. Go here for more.

** The first DVD from tank.tv is now available for your purchasing pleasure. From the email: "This collection contains 24 film and video pieces by 24 UK based artists, each around three minutes long, and reflects the creativity, innovation and wide variety of subject matter for which tank.tv has become known and respected. It also includes five new, specially commissioned interviews pieces between feted curators and artists." There also seems to be a book.

** Jimmy Traynor's got a new film, Jimmy Traynor's The Ticket, which was filmed in 32 hours. Beyond that, Traynor's a big fan of the collaborative power of the indie filmmaker. Check it out.

That's all for now, as I seem to have deleted some. Enjoy.

13 October 2007

uber-indie: Aesop's Diner


starring: Royce Peterson, Wilder Selzer, and Mary Micari
cinematography by: Eric Giovon
written by: Peter Kohl and Cara Maria O'Shea
directed by: Cara Maria O'Shea
26 min/New York, NY

The Family Johnson was once New York City's "coolest band", but sex, drugs, and rock and roll don't always mesh as well as you'd hope. A year and a half later, lead singer Bugs (Royce Peterson) is a broke addict with nothing but fond memories of his time in the spotlight. As part of his recovery program, he meets former bandmate Shelly (Wilder Selzer) at a diner to apologize for his sins.

The bulk of Aesop's Diner happens in the diner, with various flashbacks to headier days that play like footage from a poor man's Velvet Goldmine (1998). This gives cinematographer Eric Giovon a chance to shine. He composes a number of nice images over the course of the film and really gives Aesop's Diner a professional look that's often lacking in these types of films.

Sadly, the same cannot be said for the script and direction, which lack a strong sense of purpose and focus. Tonally, the film is uneven, so while it works in short bits and spurts, there are equally long stretches that don't at all. Most of these occur in the diner, where the film tends to drag, especially in the interactions between the musicians and the waitress (Mary Micari).

But, if Aesop's Diner is a first film for director Cara Maria O'Shea (as the festival selections seem to indicate), then this isn't so much of a problem, as there isn't anything here that isn't easily fixable with experience and an emphasis on viewing your own work with a more critical eye. These things come with time, as does the confidence required for a director to impose their will and make a series of strong, cohesive decisions.

One of the film's most interesting decisions is the casting decision of Wilder Selzer as Shelly, the still successful member of the group. Shelly's a big star now and rather full of himself, using inane pickup lines to flirt with the waitress (the film never bothers to explain why such a big star would flirt with a waitress so ordinary). Selzer's performance can kindly be described as existing in an entirely different universe than, well, everything else. It's all kinds of weird and the type of performance that's either brilliant or terrible with no chance of a middle ground. Problem is, Selzer isn't Johnny Depp. He isn't even Jon Heder. He's all kinds of bad. None of the performances are good, but Selzer's is easily the worst. There isn't the modicum of acting ability on display that you'd require to believe the character is a human being. In addition, Shelly is supposedly the "next singing sensation" but the film doesn't give us any indication that he's anything but an inept musician.

Of course, that doesn't mean he couldn't be a big star, but that's a discussion for another time.

You can check out Aesop's Diner at the official webpage, the MySpace page, and on IMDB.

Got a film you'd like to submit for the uber-indie project? Go here for details. You can also read these reviews at TalkingMoviezzz.com.

05 October 2007

an email

Dear Lucas,

Congratulations! Your film, Gravida, has been selected to screen at the 26th annual Three Rivers Film Festival. The festival will be held from November 2nd through the 15th. Our Shorts Program will be presented in two parts with one screening each night, Sunday, November 11and Wednesday, November 14, at the Melwood Screening Room at 477 Melwood Avenue in Pittsburgh. For more information please visit the festival’s official website, www.3rff.com.

03 October 2007


So I didn't get any writing done yesterday, more banging of my head against the wall, etc. I did, however, get gravida entered in 6 new festivals, bringing the total up to 9.

The thing that annoys me about this festival circuit (and maybe someone like Matt Riviera or David Lowery can chime in here and tell me what I'm doing wrong) is that for a film shot on a tiny budget essentially out of pocket, the $20-$40 entry fees can add up pretty quickly. And that wouldn't be so bad if you could, say, enter 3 festivals and then a month later know if you got into any of them, but most of these festivals have a turnaround time of several months, meaning I probably won't know how many of these I've gotten into until something like February. So you front-load all these fees and such for a project that may get completely shut out. And that's ok, but it just takes so damn long that by the time you know, how much incentive is there really to re-evaluate how you're approaching it? By February, I may be on a different project entirely.

This isn't so bad for a large project, but if your entire film cost, say, $500, then it seems pretty stupid to spend $300 on submitting to festivals.

What I have noticed is that a lot of festivals like to portray themselves as champions of the true indie filmmaker, yet they have entry fees of $30+. The DIY Festival is $35, for example. There's a great disconnect there, I think. I wonder if it would benefit some of these festivals to go find some micro budget films and invite them to the festival for no fee. Maybe they could team with, I dunno, the uber-indie project to ensure they don't get stuck programming something truly awful. Because there has to be a more efficient, cost-effective way for these films to find a festival audience.

Anyway, in the interest of full disclosure, here's the 6 (oh, and if you happen to work for any of these festivals, feel free to just plug me into the program, hint, hint[1])

San Francisco Independent Film Festival
Lake Forest Film Festival
Bare Bones International Film Festival
Hoboken International Film Festival
Festivus Film Festival
Oxford International Film Festival

Add those to these previous 3:

Omaha Film Festival
Three Rivers Film Festival

No, I don't expect to get into Sundance, but what the hell.

[1] Joking, but only a little bit.

02 October 2007

finding the film in my head

NOTE: Sometimes my best writing method is to ramble for a bit, so if I do that here, apologies in advance.

With gravida creatively in the rear-view mirror (although, there are still DVDs to sell and festivals to enter and screenings to organize), and indications that my immune system is getting back to normal[1], I'm starting to focus more on the next project, which looks more and more like it'll be the long-delayed coffee stains, an interesting project because it's existed for so long and keeps changing. Several years ago, I had a version of it I liked, and actually filmed probably 1/3 of it before schedules and everything else forced it to fall apart. In retrospect that was a blessing, as the script really wasn't all that good and the end result would have been far below what I would have been happy with. But parts of it were quite good and last year, when I picked the script back up, I decided to keep the storylines intact, but essentially scrap the entire thing and start over.

What ended up happening as a result was that the story, originally constructed as an ensemble dramedy, became more of a drama focused around a sub-set of the characters. I found that as I had gotten older, I was more interested in the relationship storylines than the other ones, and those naturally moved to the forefront. I finished version 2.0, polished it a little, and then set it aside to work on gravida. A couple of weeks ago, I picked it back up.

It needs more work than I thought (or, perhaps my standard are going up). A couple of days ago, I cut roughly 15 pages of the 105 and realized that several connecting threads were missing, storylines didn't flow, and the dramatic build wasn't what it could be. I'm guessing it's going to need another 20 pages of new stuff to work, including a new beginning. Part of the problem is that my writing process isn't linear. That is, I don't write from beginning to end. I'll maybe write the last scene and the first scene, then fill in the middle, in no particular order. I need to teach myself a better method, as this makes for some disjointed moments.

Anyway, I need a new opening, something that'll grab people right off, and the ideas just aren't coming. I feel like that piano player from Sesame Street at the moment.

One of the things I cut the other day was a subplot, so the overall film is much leaner than it was before, and overall I'm happier than I was, but it's nowhere near being ready to film. Not even close. Thing is, the previous version, I saw it in my head, and pretty clearly. But it wasn't great. This version, I don't see it, but I know it's there. I just have to get it out.

I just re-read what I wrote and realized it's a shitty blog post. Whatever. A big part of the artistic process is the struggle where you feel completely lost.

[1] The lead-up to the gravida premiere found me so stressed out that my immune system pretty much shut down and I got really sick. Since then, I've been scaling stuff way back in hopes of getting somewhat healthy.