For your enjoyment this weekend, a look at what living in a city with a superhero might be like...
Professional VFX artist Marcus Alqueres created the story, produced, directed, edited and financed this short. In the comments on the vimeo page, he's cagey about the budget, saying only it was low and that he called in a lot of favors.
Short of the Week has more from Alqueres, who did the VFX work with another pro, João Sita, using Maya, Photoshop and Nuke. Alqueres says he opted to launch his film online before going to festivals, based on the experience of Andrew S. Allen (I highly recommend this article).
I couldn't find any info on cameras used or other equipment details, but I have an email out to the filmmaker, so hopefully will be posting more soon! (See update below!)
What did you think of the film and the filmmaking? Would you like to see more of this story?
UPDATE: Marcus answered some of my questions about how the film was made via email...
Making the Movie: What cameras did you use?
Marcus Alqueres: I used the Canon 7D for the opening sequence. Red One and Red Scarlet for the rest, Red Scarlet for the hospital sequence.
MTM: What was the lighting package?
MA: It was only two cheap LED stands, plus available lighting.
MTM: Can you tell me how you got the awesome sound and music contributions?
MA: It was from a friend and collaborator Roger Lima, he liked the material and decided to invest his time creating the score. We had previously worked together on another piece I directed.
MTM: What editing software did you use?
MA: Adobe Premiere.
People in movie posters...
[Photo via reader LSP]
Two more books in the FilmCraft series have crossed my desk: in depth explorations of screenwriting and directing. (Here is the review of previous FilmCraft books on Cinematography and Editing.) Let's take a look inside...
by Tim Grierson
Like the other books in the FilmCraft series, Screenwriting consists of interviews with working artists -- screenwriters in this case -- and "Legacy" profiles of artists who are no longer around to be interviewed (or, in the case of Woody Allen, I presume, declined). The selection of screenwriters is admirably heavy on international and indie names, including Guillermo Ariaga, Lee Chang-dong, Stephen Gaghan, David Hare and Whit Stillman, among others.
The layouts are beautiful, featuring stills from the films in question and facsimiles of the writer's actual script pages, large enough to read the print. Interviews focus on both the writers' careers (Caroline Thompson explaining her "breakup" with Tim Burton is crushing) and working methods (John August explains how he writes and re-writes using a series of hand-written drafts).
While it would be difficult to pick a favorite, I recommend poking into the interview with Jean-Claude Carrière, a name I didn't recognize, but whose wide variety of films over a long career is an awesome achievement. He has great stories about collaborating with directors -- from Luis Buñuel to Jonathan Glazer to Michael Haneke -- and the differences between adapting a play or a novel versus inventing a screen story from scratch.
My biggest complaint with the book is that I wish it was much, much longer. Some marquee names you might expect -- off the top of my head: Nora Ephron, Ron Bass, Shane Black, Charlie Kaufman, Robert Bolt -- are not included. The Legacy sections, especially in the case of Billy Wilder, who left reams of interviews, could stand to be beefed up to the same depth as the participating writers.
But with as much work has been put in by Tim Grierson and the editors and designers, I understand that a limit must be enforced. Here's hoping for a sequel!
by Mike Goodridge
Perhaps it is easiest just to list the names of the interview subjects in this book: Pedro Almodóvar, Olivier Assayas, Susanne Bier, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, the Dardenne brothers, Guillermo del Toro, Clint Eastwood, Stephen Frears, Terry Gilliam, Amos Gitai, Paul Greengrass, Michael Haneke, Park Chan-wook, István Szabó, Peter Weir, Zhang Yimou. Is it worth reading a book of these people talking about the craft of directing?
I caught up on many summer movies over the holiday weekend. What follows is some scattered thoughts...
I think director Gore Verbinski, writers Ted Elliot, Terry Rossio and Justin Haythe were going for a revisionist riff on the old school Lone Ranger story. And also for a slapstick adventure in the mold of Pirates of the Caribbean. And also a dark horror story.
What they made is a mess. First off, the film does not need its c. 1930's frame story, in which a kid dressed as the Lone Ranger wanders into a San Francisco fair side-show and meets the agéd version of Tonto (Johnny Depp). I like the idea of the story having an unreliable narrator, but the movie does nothing with it.
Because of the retrograde Tonto character, the film goes out of its way to show the other Native Americans as noble, moral beings. But it can't make them intelligent or active, because then it would spoil a convoluted silver mining/railroad conspiracy plot. And, by the way, if you're going to make a movie with a railroad baron as villain, you had better measure up to Once Upon a Time in the West.
Verbinski can't even measure up to his animated Western, Rango, which did a better job of tweaking Western clichés than The Lone Ranger. While there are some beautiful shots, fun ideas (Silver as wacky Spirit horse), and a brilliantly-staged climactic set-piece, the movie suffers from a distinct lack of cartooniness. Early on we see a train derail and senselessly kill many innocent people. The movie is filled with R-rated violence done with PG-13 amounts of blood. But it is still R-rated violence. A movie where a man eats another man's heart, even if it only shown in a reflection, is too intense for family audiences. This is the same issue that I had with Jack the Giant Killer.
Disney famously battled Verbinski over the budget on this film. This movie still looked plenty expensive to me. I wish, instead, they had battled him over the tone of the film. More Pirates, less The Ring.
This movie was as dumb as I expected, which is to say, pretty dumb. Not that I won't admit to sometimes laughing with the film. But I still laughed at it more.
Several of the people involved in Independence Day were involved it its making, and it would seem to be in much the same mold. But look closer. My wife and I immediately watched Independence Day after seeing White House Down. White House Down is a pale shadow. White House Down, I've seen Independence Day. Independence Day is a favorite of mine. You sir, are no Independence Day
While both are corny, winky blockbusters with stakes that grow to encompass the fate of humankind, the writing in White House Down lacks the same wit. Say what you will about having a man who was probed by aliens fly his plane into an alien ship's metaphorical butthole, but it sure beats having a White House tour guide pummel a bad guy with an antique German clock. Channing Tatum (as a bodyguard who finds himself taking on terrorists) and Jamie Foxx (doing a riff on Obama) are both charming and fun. But the level of the material doesn't give the audience much credit, let alone their talents.
Perhaps it is unfair to compare White House Down to Independence Day. Better to compare it to Olympus Has Fallen, which a few months earlier took a serious approach to the same premise. Alas, I haven't seen it.
The Spanish writer/director Pedro Almodóvar returns to his roots with this silly, fabulous farce about an airplane which is unable to land. You do not need to know about the specifics of Spain's economic woes to enjoy this film, but if you happen to realize that the plane is a metaphor -- the Economy Class is drugged, the stewards are high, the banker is trying to get away, and the nation's leading dominatrix fears assassination from the King -- you'll find the film works on a deeper, intellectual level as well. As powerful as Peninsula Flight 2549 is as a metaphor, the most powerful metaphor is the real life Toledo airport, a financial boondoggle that currently sits unused.
Almodóvar realizes this, and exploits it for the climax of the film, which will soon find many of our characters having a giant metaphorical bath. Or is that white soapy stuff representing something else?
The film has a long digression where a passenger in the air reconciles with his mistress on the ground. It seems not to much fit with the story. But perhaps we can give Pedro some credit and imagine that he has a larger point about telling the truth -- in love, in economics -- in mind.
The leading candidate for my favorite film of the year. At once a surprising twist to the franchise of Before Sunrise and Before Sunset that preceded it, and a perfectly believable continuation.
Director Richard Linklater, writing with lead actors Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke, gives us a stage-play structure (one that observes, more or less Aristotle's unities). Supposedly he shot coverage for many of the scenes that play out in long takes. But he and series editor Sandra Adair, did not need them, thanks to the cast's virtuosic, sustained performances.
If I have a critique, it is that the movie feels slanted to get both the male and female audience on the side of Ethan Hawke's Jesse over Delpy's Celine. But not yet being forty or having gone through some of their life experiences, perhaps I will see the film differently later in my life. This series of films is like the Up series (the latest of which just became available on Netflix streaming, and which I highly recommend) in the sense that we can see the characters grow, even as we ourselves grow.
That, in itself, is a great pleasure. But the films still have much to add about love, relationships, parenthood and creative fulfillment.
Most of these links come from the @makingthemovie Twitter stream. If you'd like to see them as they come, follow us on Twitter.
Patriotic movies for America's Independence Day - an oldie from the archives
Filmonomics: Let The Right Ones In - Colin Brown at Truly Free Film sums up the state of the film industry today, and the recent rants of Soderbergh, Spielberg, Lucas and veteran producer Lynda Obst.
The Original Fan: When The Thing became John Carpenter's The Thing - A phenomenal reconstruction of the story changes made during production of the cult horror classic.
Rope of Silicon: Critic Watches White House Down in 2D, Confused Why His 3D Glasses Weren't Working - Probably unfair to MTV's Kurt Loder, but has the truth of a parable.
The Sound of Monsters University - Great little featurette on sound design for the new PIXAR. It was probably made to promote Dolby's Atmos system, but still very illuminating since they show the same scene with various sound beds isolated.
YOUR WEEKLY WISDOM:
Before Midnight is Richard Linklater's version of This is 40. Discuss.
OLD POSTS UPDATED:
List of Streaming Movie Outlets - added Popcornflix Android App
Fans of Joss Whedon and fans of Shakespeare will be pleased to see the first screen version of The Bard's best romantic comedy Much Ado About Nothing in twenty years. Unlike Kenneth Branaugh's excellent 1993 version, this one chooses to emphasize the darkness of the Claudio/Hero subplot. In doing so, it provides some new insight into the text (and shows a side of Whedon that perhaps fans of The Avengers will find surprising).
Our bickering Beatrice and Benedick are Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof. These actors, it happens, were the inspiration for the production. Whedon regularly holds readings of Shakespeare at his house, and when he saw these two in the roles, he knew he wanted capture them on film. Denisof knocks it out of the park when it comes to the physical comedy, but I did not go for his manner of bombasting out blank verse. Acker, on the other hand, was totally convincing with the comedy and as a tough woman with a soft spot for her ex-lover. Acker's Beatrice also has a nice chemistry with niece Hero, played by the stunning Jillian Morgese. Morgese and Fran Kranz (who plays Claudio) did the best I've ever seen at making this Othello-lite sub-plot about puppy love and rash jealousy convincing. Whedon's added scene, of Hero observing her own funeral (you need to know the story), helps a great deal with this, as does Clark Gregg's convincing portrayal of her father, Leonato.
The villains, Sean Maher (as Don John) and Riki Lindhome (as a female Conrade) made next-to-no impression. Their fellow conspirator Borrachio (Spencer Treat Clark) gets a nice turn, playing some credible contrition when confronted with his dark deeds.
Nathan Fillion, as local sheriff Dogsberry, and his bumbling night watch played by Brian McElhaney and Nick Kocher (YouTube's BriTANick) are very funny. In case you were wondering if the movie was truly low budget, Whedon said that Brian and Nick had to pay for their own flights in to be in the movie. Whedon also shot the whole movie at his house and had his actors provide their own wardrobe.
So yeah, a little less than he was working with with Avengers or even Dr. Horrible's Sing-a-Long Blog. He also did his own score and some of his own editing. Whedon says he chose black and white photography because he thought of the story as a "noir comedy" in the vein of Sturges, Wilder or Hawks. Frankly, I didn't get this vibe. I feel more like it was chosen because, with actors providing their own wardrobes and using his own house as set decoration, it simplified the art direction. One need only choose for texture rather than color.
So where does this movie fall? Is it a goof, a lark, a slum scrum by some top professionals? Or does it stand with the great cinematic Shakespeares? I'd have to say somewhere in between, more toward the former end of the scale. This one is for the true fans. (The only line Whedon changed involves the word "Jew". He did not, however, change the "Ethiope" line.) As a true fan, I (guilty) enjoyed the heck out of it. My buddy who saw it with me -- and who is not familiar with the play -- was thoroughly confused, and hated the movie. I'm sure to him, my praises are much ado about nothing.
MORE: Great IndieWire interview where D.P. Jay Hunter talks about the run-and-gun approach to shooting Much Ado.
In his commentary track on the DVD for O (Two-Disc Special Edition), a re-telling of Shakespeare's Othello set in a modern high school, actor/director Tim Blake Nelson reveals some of the tricks he learned from Terrence Malick while working on The Thin Red Line.
The best of them, in my opinion, is to try doing takes where the actors don't say their lines. Have them act it out completely with looks and identical blocking. This can be intercut with the dialogue version of the scenes, to use where a look can say as much as a line. Nelson reveals that he used this trick on the scene where Martin Sheen's coach character loses his temper in front of Hugo, played by Josh Hartnett, and wrecks his desk.
The other trick Nelson said he used on the movie O ... Read more...
A French company called Patador Prod did this cool music video for Professor Kliq's "Plastic and Flashing Lights".
On the Patador Prod website (Flash required) you can view more films with their hand-made stop-motion animation aesthetic. It's all in French, so I can't tell if there's more information on how the film was made. Thankfully, the filmmakers did link some behind-the-scenes photos on the Vimeo page which show some of the techniques.
As you can see - pretty simple set-up using a miniature stage and a DSLR on a jointed arm. Here's an X-sheet, which shows the frame counts for various events:
I'm guessing by the large gaps that much of the movement was improvised but aimed toward key beats or sounds. Pretty cool. Magnifique!
The filmmaker Juan Carlos Pineiro Escoriaza (J.C. to his friends) had a hit with Second Skin, a documentary about the world of MMO gaming. Now he's hard at work on his second feature, Know How -- an exposé of the US foster care system that is also a musical(!). J.C. generously took time to answer some questions via email about the film, his low-budget filmmaking methods, the perils of distribution and how he puts a passion for social change into his work.
Making the Movie: How did you first become interested in filmmaking?
JCPE: Movies have defined me as a person since I was so young, I can’t remember not being interested.
My very first video camera was a rejected Christmas gift that my father received from my mother. Instead of taking it back to the stores, she gave it to my brother and I to play around with. Embarrassing videos of me from when I was 8 years old all the way through college are all in a big box at home. I think there’s even a recording of me talking about wanting to be a director when I was in the 5th grade.
While it was exciting making shorts with friends, I think what drove me to fall in love with cinema were my parents and their enthusiasm for foreign films; we’d buy weeklong passes to local film fests and go nearly every day. Movies have defined me as a person since I was so young, I can’t remember not being interested.
MTM: Your first feature, Second Skin, was a documentary about World of Warcraft that wound up being a hit at the South By Southwest (SXSW) film festival. How did you connect with the festival? What has been the life of the film afterwards?
JCPE: Second Skin was a true passion project. I went into massive credit card debt, borrowed from friends and family, and made the film at all costs. There’s something reckless and exciting about that, it makes needing a win that much more essential, and so you’re willing to move mountains. (If you’re lucky, so are your friends.)
The producers and I didn’t go out willy nilly either, we sat and strategized, built momentum with our audience, and released a massive (for our means) grassroots marketing campaign. Things that seem really normal now. However, back in 2006-2008 we were breaking some new ground and generating a lot of buzz. Its success really resides inside gamer culture itself, and the attention they drove toward the movie. Word of mouth spread over two years of filming, blogging, interviewing, and so when the picture was ready to be birthed, the audience was already there with us.
I can imagine that you’re wondering how this all relates to SXSW. Well, I think having a built-in audience was a big deal, and it was a perfect fit for the film/tech/music festival. Even in 2008, the interactive part of the fest was taking over, and this picture lent itself to that group of folks.
In all other respects, we connected the same way everyone does, we submitted and prayed and wrote worried emails to the festival programmers, exercised every resource we had. We actually weren’t accepted immediately. I received a call from an incredibly smart programmer in early January who asked me to cut the film by 15 minutes in two weeks, and if he liked what I’d done he’d accept the movie. That was a tough couple of weeks! I’m glad he liked it.
MTM: What did you learn about distribution with this film? Anything you would do differently, knowing what you know now?
JCPE: Hah. I learned everything I know about distribution from Second Skin. Before that I didn’t really understand the business or how movie deals really worked. I’d read some books on the subject, but nothing prepares you like real life experience though. There’s something about reading a contract when it's your entire project on the line that makes it immediate.
If you’re going to sell the film, some major takeaways are to make sure your MG [minimum guarantee] makes sense to you. Keep an eye on the payment schedule in reference to distribution milestones, don’t worry too hard about 1 or 2 percent on royalties, and try not to lose that much sleep over all of it. I nearly drove myself mad the first time out. Finally -- and probably most importantly -- make sure you believe in the people you’re selling the movie too. Whether it’s a big or small company, you have to know that they’re in it for the right reasons, and that they’re going to do right by you.
That was my experience in 2008 and lots has changed since. Self-distribution is more enticing than ever before, there are more ways to get your content out there, and there are better ways to have an indie picture succeed. If you’re worried and can’t find somebody you think will give it real TLC, there’s nothing like committing to its success with your own blood, sweat, and tears.
Making movies can be a 'get rich quick' kind of thing if you’re insanely lucky. However, for most people -- including myself in this instance -- it ended up being about the journey. I didn’t really know that at the time, and took some hard knocks learning that the dream wasn’t going to be as easy to attain as I’d initially thought.
JCPE: They weren’t specifically all filmmaking experiences; I mean I did what every other indie filmmaker does, I suppose -- watch lots of movies, do some commercial work. I produced tech docs for Vice, read potential scripts I could helm and I left the production company I’d helped build and pinned my dreams on.
Amidst some tumult, looking for some direction in life, I started volunteering at Streetwise Partners (a mentoring program for young adults) and going to UCB improv classes. I’ve always thought I had keen ear for listening and understanding others, yet in both cases I felt completely enlightened afterward. It led me to rethink where I was going and why I was doing what I was doing.
So, I started looking at the potential to do good, be good, and have fun while doing it. I wrote something that became my own little mantra: I am here on this earth to be a vessel for change. To fix the social inequities I perceive in our world. I use my love and willpower to create tangible change.
From that point forward, I founded a non-profit called White Roof Project to curb climate change, and created a little marketing piece to fundraise for a foster care film that seemed like a great project to direct.
MTM: Which brings us to Know How. Tell me more about the origins of your latest project.
JCPE: Each year a group of foster care youth discover a non-profit called the Possibility Project. These teenagers are chosen to participate in the program based on their desire to create a better world. They come together for one year to share their stories. They learn to create change for themselves and their communities. They also create an original musical from the stories of their lives.
I actually went to one of their first shows when I was in high school, and after college volunteered to shoot some of the productions. I fell out of touch with them once I started directing my first feature. And then, in 2010, I got a call from the founder requesting a meeting. They wanted to make a movie.
The project felt like a great one to be a part of. I’d get to work with foster care youth to tell their stories for the screen and then have them star in the film itself. It also sounded incredibly challenging, high risk, and unlikely to get funded. So we started by making a short fundraising piece for the film; rather than focus on it as a motion picture, the pitch was based on youth development and creating change with a national conversation. A day after the musical premiered on stage, we had a few major donations come in that allowed us to move forward -- and so what originally was unlikely became very real.
I co-wrote and directed the film, in collaboration with foster care youth. The film is written and acted by them, about their real lives and we've been working on it for now nearly three years. I’m just rounding the corner on post-production.
MTM: I understand you've just launched a Kickstarter to help with post-production on the film. What is your strategy for reaching your funding goal?
JCPE: We did just launch a Kickstarter [link], and I’m really excited to finally be so close to finishing the film. We’re looking to raise $25K after nearly three years of production all that's left is the color correction, motion graphics, pieces of the score and sound design/mix. Our strategy for raising the funds is to drive excitement through our networks, email campaigns, reach out to news media, keep our community on Facebook and Twitter involved, and grow that core fan base we need begin taking social action.
An update on the indie apocalypse movie The Battle for Bunker Hill, whose making was profiled in depth here on the site. A company called New World Distribution just announced they will be releasing the movie:
New World Distribution releases “The Battle for Bunker Hill” worldwide on Google Play, You Tube Movie Rentals, Viaway, Amazon, Sony Playstation and I-tunes with many more platforms to follow. NWD will also be taking the film to the upcoming Cannes Film Festival.
“The Battle for Bunker Hill” begins its story when former Wall Street executive Peter Salem is released from prison. Peter heads for the small town of Bunker Hill, Kansas, where his ex-wife and their children have started a new life. Soon after he arrives in town, all power is lost – there is no electricity, and cars and computers suddenly shut down. Community leaders are at a loss to explain. Is it the rapture? A massive terrorist attack? Aliens?
Cut off from the world, the town’s militant past is reawakened and forces coalesce to protect citizens from an unseen enemy, represented to some by Mr. Farook, an elderly Pakistani immigrant who owns the local convenience store. The town’s fear leads to the creation of a posse of gunmen, resulting in torture, illegal searches and eventually murder.
The film includes a stellar cast of Saeed Jaffrey (Gandhi), James McDaniel (NYPD Blue), Laura Kirk (Lisa Picard is Famous) and Blake Robbins (The Office).