Making the Movie

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Category: News

Filmmaker Persists to Make William S. Burroughs Doc

Interesting article in the Lawrence Journal-World about Jonathan “Yony” Leyser, who was kicked out of CalArts and ended up in Lawrence, Kansas pursuing an interest in writer William S. Burroughs.

His dedication to the project eventually won over the executor of Burroughs’ estate, a man named James Grauerholz:

Grauerholz says, “At some point I realized: ‘Hey, this is not some wannabe-filmmaker-fanboy – and he keeps growing his reservoir of filmed interviews. This new Burroughs (documentary) is a project good and real enough to be worth my helping Yony see it through.'”

Persistence is great for all kinds of filmmakers, but for a documentarian, you hit the motherlode when you can win over someone like Grauerholz, who controls rights to all kinds of media and can make introductions to the right people.

[via reader GH]

Machete Trailer: Special Arizona Edition

In the movie Grindhouse, there were breaks with trailers for fake movies. Robert Rodriguez did one for a movie called Machete and decided it would make a good real movie. Now, in light of the news from Arizona, it takes on a new dimension.

The original Machete trailer from Grindhouse had nudity, but it didn’t have Robert DeNiro. There are many similarities, especially in the openings. Compare the two versions:

My personal favorite trailer from Grindhouse was the one Edgar Wright directed for a fake film called Don’t:

The Machete story illustrates a point I made in the “Five Possible Next Big Things” essay about the future of film. Filming a trailer first and using that to get people excited to make a feature is not only a smart strategy for getting a movie made, it could very well be the only way independent films get made. Already there are a number of features that come out of short films, such as Frozen River. How soon before that process streamlines itself down to trailers first?

NYU Web Series Showcase

Hey, I’m back!

In addition to working on the migration of this site (hopefully you’ll notice — or not notice — that all archival posts are now reformatted), I’ve been putting some serious time into helping out some fellow NYU alumni who have put together pilots for web series.

It’s called — and yes, this is a mouthful — the Spring 2010 Tisch West and Writers Lab West Web Series Showcase. From a batch of thirty or so proposals, an industry panel narrowed it down to ten. Scripts for those ten were workshopped over about two months, then the filmmakers had to go out and shoot them, leaning on fellow alumni for cast and crew. Six of the final pieces were selected by the judges to showcase. Check them out.

I happen to know they shot and edited for low budgets — I think most were a few thousand dollars or less — and in a time frame of about two months. NYU itself did not provide any direct resources, but the winning six filmmakers each won a $250 prize. The alumni group I work with, Writers Lab West, which is part of a greater NYU Alumni universe, organized the whole thing. It was really fun bringing in guest speakers to the workshops and working with the filmmakers to hone the scripts.

These series show what you can do with limited resources, and I’m very pleased that the final projects are all unique — and very much in the individual voices of the filmmakers. The idea of breaking them up into three, five-minute episodes was kind of arbitrary, but I think it provides a good model if you’re thinking of launching a web series. This is just small enough to be possible to do with limited resources, and just long enough to tell a more complete story and give a sense of what the whole web series would be like.

If you only have time to check out one, my sentimental favorite is Nothing is Cool. It’s a parody of the indie music scene, and Chris Punsalan, the writer/director, used to be in indie bands, so it comes from a very real sense of that world. He actually scripted and shot more than was needed for just three episodes, and is considering putting together a feature version of the story. I hope he does.

One of the things we stressed in the workshop is that your job isn’t done when the edit is over — it’s just starting. The filmmakers all considered how to get the word out. One of Chris’ ideas is to have the fake hipster band from Nothing is Cool (“The Moustache Bravado”) play some real gigs (with actual musicians playing behind them). This is just the kind of unorthodox buzz-generating stunt that I think all filmmakers should be thinking about: something that supports the story and is entertaining in its own right.

Anyway, I’ll be keeping an eye on all these cats and rooting for their success so I can say I knew them back when.

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