Grindhouse

First teaser trailer is out for "Grindhouse" the new Rodriquez/Tarantino films that will be released in April (as a double feature).

Pretty cool - very much a throwback look to the 70's. I'm sure Rodriguez's film was shot on HD. Not sure about Tarantino's though...

-Blake

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Should be a Merry Christmas

Our last round of QC was successful. We got the "Approved" stamp on the QC Report and made all our necessary dubs. And today, we're sending off the last of the required paperwork, etc. including our E&O Insurance Certificate to our distributor.

What a relief.

Delivering a movie is quite a challenge. This is my second time to do it, but my first time at this level. The first time around was NOT NEAR as "picky", time consuming or expensive. This one was tough (but not out of the ordinary).

Check out the next issue of Indie Slate Magazine when it hits news stands in January (I think it'll be January). There will be a piece on "Killing Down" and the delivery process we just went through. Hopefully it will be interesting.

So, that's that. Now we await payment from the distributor. Should be here pretty soon, and if so, will definitely make for a very Merry Christmas! :)

-Blake

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Almost There...

We've made the recommended fixes to "Kiling Down" via the QC Report from Modern VideoFilm in Burbank. We now await the final report and will then make the appropriate dubs for our distributor.

What are these dubs?

An NTSC DigiBeta 16x9 letterbox, an NTSC DigiBeta 4x3 full frame, and the same but in the PAL format (for European territories). These PAL dubs are ultra expensive - the way we're going to do them anyway. Tried just doing a strait conversion from 29.97 to 25 fps, but the dubs sucked. They were roughly $300 each. The better way (and they way we're proceeding) is to dub them through a Teranex box. The Teranex is an incredible device. I have used it on occasion to do up and down converts for HD... I've never used it to do PAL conversions though. The kicker is due to the running time of the movie these dubs are going to be about $750 a piece. That's a chunk of change - especially for an SD dub. I'm hoping to get a deal on them, but either way it's expensive!!!

Once these dubs are done we'll deliver to New Film International (our foreign distributor) and we should be off to the races. What do I mean by that? Well, we start getting paid finally. :)

ALSO, the movie will be available and seen throughout the world (excluding the U.S. and Canada). We're still working on a domestic deal and will hopefully be announcing some good news there after the first of the New Year.

Oh, and one last thing... in the very near future we'll be uploading the first 8-minutes of "Killing Down" to YouTube. We'll post here when the footage is live.

-Blake

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Quality Control

I'm deep into the "QC" process of my deliverables for "Killing Down". That's Quality Control (I guess you call it that). And I must say it's tough, tough stuff.

I've been involved with the QC process before, but from afar. Not directly responsible for the technical issues nor for the expense. On this run I'm responsible for both. Everything. And it's really becoming costly in both time and money.

Not that there is much wrong with the film, it's just that the QC process is EXTREMELY picky, and often it's WRONG TOO. What do I mean by that?

Well, for instance...

I have a fair amount of subtitles for some Spanish parts in the film. However, there is some Spanish that is spoken and I purposely did NOT WANT SUBTITLES THERE. It's a creative choice. But on the report I got the dreaded "3", meaning it doesn't pass. Of course I'll work this out with the QC facility and ultimately the distributor, but it kinda sucks having to go through this...

Or, I have some sound effects that cut in and out (purposely) and on the report they failed. But again, it was a creative choice...

I also have several issues with my titles (and subtitles) not being in the Title Safe Area. This is quite bizarre and I'm waiting to see exactly how far off they are. We did our HD online on an Avid DS Nitris (one of the highest-end of highest-end editing system there is) and I can't imagine the titles being positioned wrong. I'm going to verify this later this week.

Anyway, long story short... this stuff is not fun. I can't wait to get back to MAKING another film and leaving this "business side" behind - I mean 14 hour days, no sleep, and little food actually sound pretty good right now. :)

-Blake

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The Departed

I finally saw "The Departed" this weekend. I've heard nothing but rave reviews about the new Scorsese film, and I will say it was very well done and entertaining.

But, I must also say that most folks who have been raving (critics and film fans alike) probably have not seen the original movie. That's right, if you didn't know, "The Departed" is a remake. It's a remake of a very, very good Hong Kong film called "Infernal Affairs" (it's English title).

"Infernal Affairs" was much more of an emotional film for me. "The Departed" was a tad too glossy and commercial in it's approach and I didn't feel for the characters as much as I did in the original (mainly the DiCaprio and Damon characters). Their Asian counterparts brought a much deeper emotional feel to the roles.

I'm sure part of the reason I didn't "love it" was that I was so familiar with the original. I knew what was coming in the twists and turns. The Scorsese film sticks to the original pretty closely. Although the ending is slightly different (and not as good).

The best thing about "The Departed" for me was Leo DiCaprio's performance and to a lesser extent Mark Wahlberg's. Mark wasn't in the film that much, but when he was it was good. Also, Alec Baldwin did a nice turn as a police commander. This could (finally) be the movie that Leo gets an Oscar. We'll see.

Scorsese is among my favorite filmmakers ("Goodfellas" is my all time favorite film). He's doing very innovative stuff here too - especially for being 65 years old. So, don't take my review here the wrong way. I would definitely recommend the movie. I just wasn't blown away by it like a lot of people.

Go check it out though if you haven't. And if you don't mind subtitles (or an English dubbed version) check out "Infernal Affairs" first - then compare the two and see if you agree with me.

-Blake

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Sunny and 70 Degrees

Actually sunny and 89 degrees today... where? I'm in LA on business talking to the new distributors about "Killing Down", and also meeting with some producers about a New Project - and meeting with the writer working on the Other New Project.

We're slowly but surely getting all the "Killing Down" deliverables prepared for our December 1st deadline, although it is becoming increasingly difficult to determine if we'll have everything ready. There's a lot to do, and with the Thanksgiving holiday upon us, it's slowing things down.

Did I mention it was almost 90 degrees here today? I mean, it's November 20th. Thanksgiving is this week. Happy Holidays from LA. Is the weather ever bad Out Here?

-Blake

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Digital Do-It-Yourself

Good article by Scott Kirshner at the Hollywood Reporter...
http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/hr/search/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003381488

The pros and cons from different filmmakers about digital production through distribution.

-Blake

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Tough Enough?

Everything about the film business is tough. Everything.

Writing a script is tough. Finding money to make a movie is tough. Making the movie is tough. Selling the movie (if it actually got made) is tough. And even once you do sell it... yep you guessed it, it's still tough.

Why is it tough even when you sell the film? One word: DELIVERABLES

You may not be familiar with this term if you haven't sold a film or been involved with the sale of a film. It's not an everyday word, but if you're a filmmaker and have a hope to sell your film please take note of this frustrating word.

Basically it means what it says... "You deliver the movie". But, what the actually "deliverables" are is where it gets tough and VERY expensive.

Here are the items I'm dealing with right now since we sold the foreign rights to "Killing Down"...

Final D5-HD master, only requires “access to”
Audio stems, only requires “access to”
Production Audio, only requires “access to”
DAT of film score and songs
HD footage of deletions, etc., only requires “access to”
HD title materials of all credits, only requires “access to”
NTSC DigiBeta 4x3 full frame with M&E
NTSC DigiBeta 16x9 letterbox with M&E
PAL DigiBeta 4x3 full frame with M&E
PAL DigiBeta 16x9 letterbox with M&E
NTSC DA88 of feature with M&E
PAL DA88 of feature with M&E
NTSC DA88 of 5.1 mix
PAL DA88 of 5.1 mix
“TV Version” of stereo mix
NTSC DigiBeta of TV Version
PAL DigiBeta of TV Version
TEXTLESS MATERIAL – attach to NTSC and PAL version of film, both theatrical and TV, one-minute after finish
QC report of NTSC DigiBeta Master
QC report of D5-HD Master
NTSC DigiBeta of original trailer
NTSC DA88 of trailer
(1) Dialogue/Action Continuity & Spotting List
All Production Notes/Papers from SAG, Camera Reports, etc.
100 Color Production Stills
Key Artwork
Presskit
Cast/Crew Interview footage and behind-the-scenes footage
(2) Copies of the Music Cue Sheet
(2) Copies of Composer Agreement
(10) Copies of Certificate of Origin
(10) Copies of Certificate of Authorship from each credited writer
(1) Copyright Certificate
Credit Obligations
Thomson Title Research Report
Thomson Copyright Search Report
(1) Copy of Screenplay
E&O Insurance Certificate
Characteristics of Picture
Chain of Title

As you can see this is A LOT of stuff, and as I said... A LOT OF EXPENDITURES to actually deliver the movie. I figure a rough estimate here is around $15K to get all this done. Maybe more. Not sure yet. And, we have to have all this delivered by December 1st. That's just over three weeks from now. Did I mention this is going to be tough?

For non-filmmakers reading this I'm sure many of the terms in the delivery list above do not ring a bell. A lot of it is film jargon and/or technical stuff. But, suffice it to say it is all very important and required to sell the movie and to GET PAID. That's right. We do not get paid untill we delivery all this. The next three weeks will be very, very busy for me.

So, filmmakers selling your movie... just be prepared for these costs when or if you get to this point. Like me, I'm sure most of you will be completely out of money and having to beg, borrow and steal to get the deliverables delivered.

I do find it quite ironic when you actually sell your film you still have to go into more debt. But nothing in life is easy... as a matter of fact it's all really pretty tough.

-Blake

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Foreign Distribution

Our foreign distribution deal is done. The film was bought by New Films International. Thank you to my attorney Mark Litwak for negotiating the deal.

It's kind of ironic really because New Films actually works with several other Texas filmmakers, and they are NOT a Texas company or have any ties to Texas. As a matter of fact, their owner is from Turkey!

New Films works with director Jon Keeyes (from Fort Worth) and has produced two films with him - Living & Dying and Fall Down Dead. They bought the rights to the film The Prodigy, which was shot in Denton and made by local filmmakers (including Lawrence Varnado who has a role in "Killing Down"). Another Texas connection for a film they rep is Dirty Work. This film was not made in Texas, but was shot by a well-known Dallas DP, David Blood (film was produced in Chicago). And now, New Films has bought my film Killing Down, which was completely produced in Dallas, Texas.

A lot of good independent filmmaking going on in Texas (specifically Dallas)!!!

So, if you happen to be attending AFM this year go by and check out New Films booth at the Loews Santa Monica. They're in rooms #632, #634 and #636.

And here's a direct link to their website, which now has some Killing Down marketing info on there: http://www.newfilmsint.com/

-Blake

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Gangster Style

Check out this really good article on Martin Scorsese and his process of making "The Departed".

While he's definitely an old school filmmaker, he is starting to embrace a lot of modern technology like HD dailies and Digital Intermediates. Very good read, although it is fairly technical, it's still very interesting and informative for most folks interested in making films - especially at this level.

There's also a link to a Podcast with him, so check that out too.

BTW, I have not seen "The Departed" yet (or really any new movies recently to be honest), but I plan to very soon.

-Blake

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Back to Work

I'm back in town and back to work. Survived the Hawaiian Earthquake and now concentrating on finalizing the deal for foreign distribution of "Killing Down". Actually, my attorney is doing most of the finalizing, but I'm closely monitoring the negotiations.

As soon as everything is inked I'll disclose the details.

In the meantime, we're talking to a few companies about domestic distribution and I'm working on putting together my New Project (things are moving along nicely on that front too).

Oh, and I'm trying to get my previous movie "Hit" out on DVD by Christmas. Should be an interesting next several months...

-Blake

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Waaay OT: Hawaii Earthquake!!!

I don't normally post too much personal stuff on this blog. I try to stick to the film business, but today I have to say I AM IN HAWAII AND EARLIER TODAY I WAS IN MY FIRST EARTHQUAKE. A 6.5 magnitude... there hasn't been an earthquake this big in Hawaii since 1983! Crazy stuff.

After it happened my first concern was a tsunami. Very scary - especially after seeing what happened in Indonesia a couple years ago. But, thank goodness there were no tsunami warnings or any sign of one.

So what happened?

Christine (my wife) and I woke up early and she went on a snorkeling trip. I stayed at the hotel to watch football (yeah I know, I'm in Hawaii and I'm staying in to watch football? I'm a big Cowboys fan what can I say...). Anyway, she left and I just started watching the game around 7am local Hawaii time (5 hours behind Dallas) and next thing you know I hear this sound like - and I hate to say it because it sounds cliche' - A FREIGHT TRAIN. Just a very loud rumbling sound.

At first I thought it was a bell cart in the hallway. Then I noticed the bed shaking and the floor starting to wave. Next the table in the room started to violently shake. My computer shook and almost fell on the floor. My iPod did take a tumble to the ground (but it's okay, I know you were worried).

Keep in mind, I'm from Dallas, Texas. We don't have earthquakes there. We have tornados and I will take one of them anytime over this. At least with a tornado you have some advanced warning.

So back to the event. I'm running around the room like your dog or cat does when you turn on the vacuum. I honestly had NO IDEA WHAT TO DO. Being from Texas I had no training on what you should do. So, I looked for my shoes and ran out in the hallway. Bad thing is I'm on the 7th floor of the hotel. No real good place to go. As I got into the hallway many of the other guests were out there and they told me to stand in the doorway. I later learned that is what you should do - OR just get out of the building.

Oh yeah, back to Christine. I mentioned she was going snorkeling... and she did. She was driving to meet the chartered boat and didn't even feel the quake. I called her and she wondered why there were rocks all over the road. She ended up going on the trip, but in the end she wished she hadn't. Although there were no tsunami issues, the seas were very high and she got sea sick on the trip out to the reef. Just nasea luckily, but it was not good. She did end up enjoying the fish and coral, but the trips there and back were brutal.

Meanwhile, back at the hotel... I had no idea what was going on with her. The phones and electricity were out. My mobile phone would work here and there - but I only got her voicemail (I learned later she was okay minus being sea sick).

In the end we're okay, but I have to say it was one of the scariest-natural-disaster-type-events I've ever been in. It was over in a flash, but the unknowns were (and are) difficult to think about.

I'll be back in Texas later this week (looking forward to it too), and will be back to talking film. A lot of cool stuff going on with "Killing Down". :)

-Blake

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First Deal Done

Quick update...

SOLD FORIEGN RIGHTS to film. Deal just closed. Details to follow soon.

-Blake

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Wheelin' & Dealin'

Things have been pretty crazy this week. We've entertained several offers to buy the foreign rights to "Killing Down". This is GREAT news! Now we're in the midst of deciding which company to go with. Pretty sure we'll have a deal done by the end of today. Can't wait to get this done and then look forward to AFM in just over three weeks.

Of course, next we work on selling the domestic rights - oh, and we start working on the new project very, very soon. Like I said in the title to this entry... definitely "wheelin' & dealin'.

-Blake

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DVD Screeners

The DVD screeners we're shipped out this week to potential distrubutors. Hopefully we'll start getting some responses early next week.

So far, I've had two meetings with companies regarding domestic DVD. Both are interested in the film. However, my domestic deal I'm not as concerned about right now. With AFM right around the corner we need a good foriegn sales agent first.

A lot of companies will try to buy "worldwide rights" that covers, well, everything. I'm not particularly interested in a deal like this unless it's a REALLY good deal. My best bet is we'll end up doing separate deals for domestic and foreign.

-Blake

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Things Are In Motion

We started sending out email query letters to distributors today regarding "Killing Down". So far we've had a positive response... of course they haven't seen the movie yet, just the new poster artwork and a synopsis - but, I think most will like the film.

Next week we'll send out DVD screeners to the interested folks and to various other distributors that Mark Litwak (our producer's rep) has a relationship with.

Things are definitely in motion.

-Blake

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Same Look But Different

Here's the new poster without the orange/warm wash on it... we're playing with both looks for different uses.

-Blake

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Busy Times

I've had very little time to blog lately. Between finishing the color correction (it's done), the sound mix (it's done), and working on NEW artwork (again) for the movie - I've been busy as all get out. Not to mention I was in Vegas on a corporate shoot early last week, and then back in Dallas later in the week directing a TV spot for an alarm company... it's been crazy!

But, things are looking good on the "Killing Down" front. As I've said many times, it's taken A LOT longer than planned, but it's almost done and will be worth the wait.

Here's a mock-up of the "new and improved" artwork:


This will be the front of the one-sheet that will help sell the movie to potential distributors. Hope to find a good foriegn sales agent in the next two weeks or less to rep the film at AFM.

Keep your fingers crossed.

Working with producer's rep and attorney Mark Litwak again. So, we'll see what offers come our way.

Stay tuned...

-Blake

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The Hard Drive Turns 50

I didn't realize the hard drive was 50 years old. Pretty wild if you think about it. I found an interesting article on Yahoo! about it, from the article...

"In 1956, the first hard drive was two refrigerators wide and stored the equivalent of one MP3 song."

"Today, on 2.5-inch platters we have 15,000 times the capacity of the original IBM RAMAC... the advancement is startling when compared to the pace of other industries: In the auto industry, to keep that same pace, they'd have gone from fitting five people in the car in 1956, to fitting 160,000 people in that car; or, from getting 25 miles per gallon to 62,500 miles per gallon."

So how do you ask does this matter to filmmaking or distribution? It's probably one of the single most important things there is (besides a good movie!).

- Right now movies are being shot on cameras that record to hard drives - NO film or tape
- Virtually every movie is edited on a computer using tons of hard drive space - even if it was shot on film - that film is scanned into computers
- One of the hottest sites on the Internet is YouTube - a place where video clips, short films, etc. are stored on hard drives for the masses to watch (a.k.a. distribution albeit for free)
- And of course the future of feature film distribution (Hollywood and indie alike) is directly linked to digital downloading of movies to computer hard drives

So you see? Hard drives and technology go hand-in-hand with filmmaking and distribution.

I've talked before about how being a filmmaker today it is really beneficial to be technically-minded as well as creative. The best folks in my opinion are both!

Click here to read the entire article.

-Blake

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Dallas Lands Major Film Festival

This is interesting to me (being from Dallas)... not sure if it's good or bad? I'd say probably good, but there are just SO MANY film festivals these days that they all get a bit watered down. Are any of them really that important?

I mean, stats show only one in ten "Sundance" films even get distribution...

(CBS 11 News) DALLAS CBS 11 News has learned the City of Dallas has landed a major international film festival. After a year of negotiations, the American Film Institute has signed on to help run the festival.

For years Dallas has been home to several small film festivals. The city however has lacked a major international event; the type to draw world-wide attention… starting in the spring of 2007 that may change.

Cities such as Park City, Utah, Toronto and Austin have greatly benefited from high-profile film festivals. Now the City of Dallas is hoping to join that elite group with a new international film festival.CBS 11 News has learned that the Dallas Film Society has signed a deal with the American Film Institute or AFI.

According to the three-year agreement obtained by CBS 11 News AFI will provide use of its name and will help run the festival. In return, AFI will be paid $836,000.

The event will be called the Dallas/AFI International Film Festival and is scheduled to run in the spring of each year, beginning in 2007.

Although organizers declined to comment, an office for the AFI festival is already up and running in the ‘W’ building. Sources say the W Hotel will be a major sponsor.

Films are likely to be screened at the Magnolia, the Angelika and the Inwood Theaters, to name a few.

The new agreement will likely have an affect on other Dallas film festivals. While the Deep Ellum Film Festival will likely to go away, organizers from there will help run the new festival. As for the USA Film Festival, the director tells CBS 11 News that event is, “here to stay."

Bart Weiss is director of the Dallas Video Festival. He fears the new festival will be one where style wins over substance.

“It's a big festival. We’re afraid it is going to do a poor job and go out of business... and because they go out of business, it will make it difficult for all of us ‘mom and pop’ shops to keep doing what we do well, because we'll have this black mark on us."

Sources say the goal is to make the Dallas-AFI event a top 20 festival by drawing thousands of film fans, ‘a-list’ movie stars, and millions of dollars to the city.

The proposed budget for the new festival is roughly 2.3 million dollars for a 10-day event, with the money likely coming from corporate sponsorship.

Again, I do think this is good news for Dallas and film in general, but I'm just hesitant on the idea of another film festival. I think they grow on trees.

-Blake

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2006 American Film Market

"Killing Down" is almost ready to be screened for potential buyers. We're working feverishly to ready it for the American Film Market (AFM) in November - actually we're working feverishly to ready it to screen for foriegn sales agents that will then rep it at AFM.

What that means though is we don't have much time.

Today is September 2nd and the market is only two months away. Most buyers want their films 30 days out from the event. So, that means we have roughly 30 days to finish the film, finalize our new artwork for the one-sheet, set up a screening and/or send out DVD screeners, and make a deal. That's a lot, but it can be done and I am confident we can make it happen.

If you are a buyer interested in the rights to the film please send an email to info@loudpictures.com and we can arrange a screener.

Otherwise please contact our Producer's Rep:

Mark Litwak
433 N. Camden Drive, Suite 1010
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
310-859-9595
Law2@marklitwak.com

We will be having an LA "industry" screening too - not sure of the date yet though. We're making arrangements for this and will post information soon.

-Blake

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Netflix

A lot going on at Netflix for the indie filmmaker and distribution...

Businessweek Article

Hollywood Reporter

Deepstructure Blog

From Deepstructure...

listen to ted sarandos, netflix's chief content officer in charge of all dvd purchases and overseer of an $100 million annual budget:

"eventually we'll be coming to sundance and saying, 'we can buy everything.' there's a deal for every film."


damn. that's quite a statement. but it gets better. netflix ceo, reed hastings wants to take things one step further:

...(hastings) also outlines a scenario that outstrips sarandos' lofty vision of acquiring every picture that plays at sundance. "about 3000 films are submitted; only 100 or so get in," hastings says. ultimately, netflix wants to be able to pick and choose from the 3000 submissions, he explains, and maybe even allow moviemakers to circumvent the festivals altogether.

I guess I'll have to at least enter Sundance then. :)

-Blake

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Several Cool Things...

First, we continue to make good progress on the finishing touches for "Killing Down".

This past weekend we got the sound mixed up to just over the 1 hour mark. Not bad. We've got roughly 45 minutes of the movie left to go. And, on the color correction side of things - we have set looks for just about every major scene. Now, we have to go in and cut and paste the looks throughout the film and then tweak the individual shots as needed. I'd say we're roughly half-way done with this.

So, if all goes well I hope to have everything done in about 3 weeks.

On to other things...

I was reading on the CinemaTech blog today several interesting stories about Hollywood: It's future with digital distribution, DVDs and the "star system" (some of the Tom Cruise/Paramount deal aftermath).

Here's a link to the digital distro and DVD story.

The digital distribution stuff is exciting for indies, but I don't think we're really close yet for it to be a viable (or successful) means of distributing content - except for only the most tech geek among us - and I'm talking feature films here by the way.

Why? Well, a lot of reasons. Mainly bandwidth, but also DRM (digital rights management or copyright issues), storage space, and cost. To download a DVD quality version of a movie is going to be around 4 gigs (or so) of data. Even with the fastest connections that going to be an overnight download. And then you have to have the space to store the files. Your averge joe consumer does not have a terabyte's worth of storge like I do. Then the costs are actually fairly expensive - especially when you consider if you bought (or rented) a DVD you'd get all the extras - and most digital downloads I've seen are just the movie. And the last thing for me is who really wants to spend two hours watching a movie on your computer? Unless you're traveling or commuting, this is not the best way.

So until you can download an HD quality (or even DVD quality) movie from the web and then play it on your expensive flat screen TV, digital downloads of feature films won't take off.

Am I saying I'm against digital downloading of movies? Heck no. I'm actually a huge proponent of it. But, I just don't think it will be a "normal" way of renting or buying a movie for several years to come - if not longer. I hope I'm wrong, but I don't think so.

Now on to the "star system" in Hollywood...

It's long been known (and assumed) that a star helps a movie out financially. I don't argue that point. As a matter of fact, I completely agree with it. In my own recent film I purposely sought several regonizable actors just for this reason (among others of course - like they were right for the part).

But there is a very interesting article in the NY Times contradicting the idea of the "star system" - and I must say a lot of it makes sense...

Hollywood, where the star system was invented, is not wholly dependent on celebrities: the list of biggest-grossing movies in history is dominated by movies like “Shrek 2,” “ET: The Extra-Terrestrial” and the “Star Wars” series, which were not star-driven. But the industry still places an enormous importance on superstar power based on a straightforward fact: On average, movies that have big names starring in them make more money at the box office than movies that do not.

“Movies with stars are successful not because of the star, but because the star chooses projects that people tend to like,” said Arthur S. De Vany, a professor emeritus of economics at the University of California, Irvine, who has written extensively about the economics of moviemaking. “It’s a movie that makes a star.”

In other words, while a person will go to a Bruce Springsteen concert because the artist is, indeed, Bruce Springsteen, the success of “The Matrix” had to do with many things other than its star, Keanu Reeves.

“Movie industry executives keep this perception that stardom is a formula for success, but they don’t measure it,” Mr. Eliashberg said. “They resist using analytical methods for all sorts of reasons, from being uncomfortable with numbers to the argument that this is a creative industry and not a business.”

Mr. De Vany and other economists point out that many factors contribute to the success of a movie — like a big budget, having a G or PG rating, opening on a large number of screens and whether it is a sequel, among others.

“Stars help to launch a film. They are meant as signals to create a big opening,” he said. “But they can’t make a film have legs.”

Mr. Ravid, the Rutgers professor, suggests that stars serve as insurance for executives who fear they could be fired for green-lighting a flop. “If they hire Julia Roberts and the film flops, they can say ‘Well, who knew?’ ” said Mr. Ravid.

I really like the line, “It’s a movie that makes a star.” I think that is right - but only for their first big hit. After that, they are the star. Especially if you're a Tom Cruise or George Clooney who basically plays themself in every movie.

In the end, I do honestly believe the story is the movie no matter who is in it. But, the thing is, how many times has someone ask you about a movie that you maybe hadn't heard of and the first thing you say is, "Who's in it?" That statement alone says more than I can about movie stars and their impact on the success of a movie.

Oh, last but not least, there's a nice little article in of all things Popular Mechanics about what Hollywood shoud fear most...

The entertainment industry's real threat isn't piracy, it's backyard Spielbergs armed with digital moviemaking gear.

Again, it's a descent article, but to me the main thing Hollywood should fear is the immense variety of (homemade) digital videos on the web from places like You Tube that are cheap entertainment sources and are distractions (and competition) to spending money and time at the movies.

I really don't necessarily think that Hollywood should be or is afraid of everyone who can buy a camcorder and some cheap editing gear. I mean, should Eric Clapton be afraid of everyone who buys a guitar?

-Blake

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WB Direct-to-DVD

Just found a Yahoo News story about Warner Bros. starting a new division called Warner Premiere that will produce 15 or so movies a year that are Direct-to-DVD instead of for the theatrical market. Sounds interesting that a big player would do this. I mean, this is what everyone else ends up having to do in most cases - we don't necessarily set out to only be on DVD. Funny too, for some reason "Direct-to-DVD" sounds better than just "Direct-to-Video"? Kind of like saying "pre-owned" versus "used" for car sales...

Anyway, here's the scoop...

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Warner Bros. film studio on Monday unveiled a new division to make and distribute movies directly to DVD consumers - a first for the company - and it put a veteran marketing executive in charge of the group.

The new division, called Warner Premiere, annually will produce up to 15 original titles made by well-known filmmakers, starring recognized actors and, in some cases, based on earlier feature films that played in movie houses.

Warner Premiere's first title, for instance, will be "Dukes of Hazzard II," a sequel to last year's film "Dukes of Hazzard" that was a moderate success at box offices. It is expected to be released in Spring 2007, Warner Bros. said in a statement.

Diane Nelson, who previously served as executive vice president of global brand management, has been named president of Warner Premiere. Warner Bros. is a unit of Time Warner Inc.

Other Hollywood film studios, particularly The Walt Disney Co., have built strong businesses making original content for direct-to-video and DVD markets.

In the past, Warner Bros. home entertainment division had released original movies based on animated content such as its Looney Tunes cartoon characters.

The establishment of Warner Premiere marks the first time it has created a new division solely for original, direct-to-DVD production and distribution.

Warner Bros. said select titles from the new group may be distributed to movie theaters and possibly online.

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Here's a link to the original story if you'd like to read it there.

-Blake

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New Project(s)

As I'm finishing "Killing Down" I'm also beginning to develop my next project. I've made minor mentions of this in previous post, but now things are starting to move forward.

The project is a biopic on a famous Texas family (of which we've secured a Life Story option). Can't give away any details just yet, but we are starting the interview process this weekend and from that we will write the script. Tentative plan is to have script finished by the New Year (or shortly thereafter) and shoot in the late spring (2007). Things have a tendency to change though (note the time it's taken to finish "Killing Down") - but we are making good progess.

I actually have another script I'd like to direct too - and it's already written. We'll see what I end up doing first. And, I'm also producing a film for a director friend of mine, so there's a lot going on.

Of course finishing the current film is my top priority now and we're closing in on that...

-Blake

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Distribution Rant

Barry Green from DVXuser.com has a really interesting rant about current and future distribution trends for Hollywood and indies alike...

So, indies dream of the day that theaters will be equipped with digital projectors, when satellites will be beaming content directly to the theaters, and when ticket buyers will be lined up around the block to see their latest opus. Ain't gonna happen. Can't happen. You wouldn't go to the theater now to see a film you haven't heard of, would you? I mean, maybe on a lark a small percentage of you would, but the public in general? No way.

Very, very true. Distribution as a whole is tough even with a movie star.

Click here to read entire article.

-Blake

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Scarier than any Hollywood Horror Movie

Interesting article from the NY Times about problems in Hollywood - but it's more than that - it's problems in moviemaking and marketing period, including indies.

I've copied the entire article here for ease of reading...

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Caught on Film: A Growing Unease in Hollywood

By LAURA M. HOLSON

LOS ANGELES, Aug. 18 — For many here, Stacey Snider was the Hollywood executive who had it all. As chairwoman of Universal Pictures, she hobnobbed with celebrities at the Academy Awards. She was feted at charity events as well as in the fashion pages of Vogue. But after General Electric acquired Universal Pictures in 2004, the bright lights lost their brilliance.

Films like the Peter Jackson “King Kong” were considered disappointments, despite bringing in $547 million at the worldwide box office. And like many of her industry peers facing similar oversight, she regarded the scrutiny of the studio’s quarterly returns as, at times, oppressive. So much so that Ms. Snider quit her job in February to become chief executive of DreamWorks, now a division of Paramount Pictures, to work with the director Steven Spielberg on far fewer projects.

“It’s not like I view this as a private, artistic enterprise,” Ms. Snider, 45, said in a recent telephone interview. Still, she said: “I certainly felt the pressure. I felt the uncertainty. It galvanized the angst. We went from making movies to making product and content. I didn’t want to make franchises. I wanted to make movies.”

Hers is a common refrain in Hollywood these days. Despite a domestic box-office surge after years of declining attendance, 2006 is shaping up to be a time of Hollywood discontent. Studio executives have waged war on actor salaries, as high-profile projects with stars like Jim Carrey have been put off. Movie production deals, like the one Tom Cruise has at Paramount, are being renegotiated. Studios are also making fewer big-budget movies.

But while Hollywood has undergone periodic shifts like this before, many people here agree that there is something different this time, a permanence to Hollywood’s new austerity plan. Executives are facing too many unknowns, among them, changing moviegoer habits, rising costs and the threat of piracy.

“In this Wall Street and corporate world, the discussion has become: What is the proven, unique selling property of this product?” said Warren Beatty, the actor, who is upbeat about the industry’s prospects.

But he, too, agreed the industry was in transition. “The problem is you can’t sell entertainment the way you sell cars or air-conditioners,’’ he said. “Entertainment is dependent, to some extent, on surprise.”

The concern so far seems largely psychological, although many here predict dark days ahead. Movie-making is no longer a growth business, and has lost its luster among investors. Even the most well-run large movie studios often return only 5 percent to 7 percent annually. And other forms of entertainment — the Internet, sports and video games — are fiercely competing for consumers’ attention.

“When you hear what people are afraid of, it’s that movies are not special anymore,” said Terry Press, who runs worldwide marketing at DreamWorks Animation. “It’s the single issue no one wants to think about or say out loud.”

The tipping point, many here agree, was Walt Disney’s announcement last month that it would eliminate 650 jobs in its movie division, fire its production chief and sharply reduce the number of films it makes to a dozen or so a year from as many as 20.

What’s more, the company said it would focus mostly on Disney-branded films like the popular “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise, which it can exploit across all divisions.

“Where Disney may have sent ripples, it begged the question, Who knows what others will do?” said Leonard Goldberg, the movie producer and former business partner of Aaron Spelling who was known for television shows like “Charlie’s Angels” and “Fantasy Island.”

Slow-growing movie studios are wilting under Wall Street’s demands to deliver a box-office hit like the “X-Men” series or “Pirates” every time out. Executives say the decline in DVD sales, which began in early 2005, is taking a toll on budgets. And to complicate matters, studios have not figured out a money-making digital strategy to deflect piracy while, at the same time, appeasing fickle consumers who want movies online.

“Stress is a function of fear,” said Alan F. Horn, who has been in the movie business three decades and is president of Warner Brothers. While he says he is optimistic about the future, he conceded that running a studio “has never been tougher.”

Warner has had one of its worst summers in years, with disappointments like “Lady in the Water” by M. Night Shyamalan, the big-budget remake of “The Poseidon Adventure” and the animated “Ant Bully.” But even profitable Warner movies are cause for anxiety because Hollywood is quick to label anything a loser that does not meet prerelease expectations.

For example, “Superman Returns” by Warner cost $209 million to make and Mr. Horn predicted it would garner $400 million at the worldwide box office (a respectable sum), which he said ensured a profit after DVD and television sales. But many in Hollywood expected it to bring in at least $500 million given Superman’s popularity and the publicity around the movie’s release. Mr. Horn said, “People are asking, ‘Are you disappointed?’ I don’t know how to relate to that. I don’t know what to say.”

There are few economic indicators that reflect Hollywood’s apparent unease. Art dealers who cater to studio executives, actors and producers said buying had not slowed. Nor have sales of homes that cost $5 million to $10 million, several real estate agents said. And despite layoffs at all the major studios, the number of film and television production jobs has increased.

In the first six months of 2006, 130,000 people were employed in entertainment in Los Angeles, compared with 127,200 in 2005, according to the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation. That growth is being fueled largely by an explosion in independent film production. Jack Kyser, the group’s chief economist, said 23 of the 30 films being made here in mid-August were from independent production companies.

But those statistics reflect only part of the story.

Robert Shaye, the founder of New Line Cinema, a division of Time Warner that will celebrate its 40th anniversary next year, said a fundamental driver of Hollywood’s unease was the high cost of making and marketing films. (The average in 2005 was $96 million.) Investment funds have poured money into movies, reducing the sting of studio cost-cutting. But investment funds are not immune to losses, either. A newcomer, Legendary Pictures, invested in “Lady in The Water” and “The Ant Bully,” Studios are also under attack from digital pirates who distribute illegal copies online. As a result of the piracy, studio executives can no longer depend on waves of re-releases for steady income. “Once it’s out there, it’s out there,” Mr. Shaye said.

With digital pirates and the pressure from Wall Street to produce predictable profits, the dialogue about what movies are made and marketed was bound to change.

If there is fear among some in Hollywood that brand managers are taking over, it is because two studios recently filled top creative jobs with executives whose expertise is movie marketing. At Disney, Nina Jacobson, the well-respected president of production, was fired and succeeded by Oren Aviv, the marketing chief. Ms. Snider, who joined DreamWorks, was succeeded in March by two executives, including Universal’s top movie marketer, Marc Shmuger.

Tom Staggs, Disney’s chief financial officer, argues that the concerns are unfounded. “The suits aren’t running the studio,” he said. “I think Hollywood has to constantly challenge itself to remain relevant.” Still, he added: “If we let it become a cookie-cutter, brand-flapping exercise, it is not going to work. We have to focus on the creative side.”

Some promising young executives are seeking to pursue creativity outside the studio. Last year, Mary Parent, 39, and Scott Stuber, 37, set in motion an option in their contract that allowed them to quit their jobs as presidents of production at Universal Pictures to become producers. Both said they did not leave the studio because they were unhappy; their producing deal is at Universal. Instead, they wanted the opportunity to flex their creative might before they got too old or started families.

“It reaches a point where it is hard to enjoy it,” said Ms. Parent, reflecting on being a studio executive. “Just the sheer volume of meetings between phone calls. You are trying to cut through the tide. It was grueling. You were at a test screening every night until midnight; you have scripts to read. You don’t want to be that person just scratching the surface.”

Of course, being a producer, particularly a new one, is no less demanding. In the last year, Ms. Parent has made five weeklong trips to New Zealand where she is a producer for the film “Halo.” Mr. Stuber has spent much of the summer in Arizona on the set of “The Kingdom,” where temperatures have spiked to as much as 110 degrees. “It’s not like it’s less busy,” Mr. Stuber said. “But you get to spend three hours in an editing room if you want to. You can’t lose sight of the fact that the job is to entertain.”

Whatever the challenges ahead, Mr. Goldberg, the producer, said Hollywood would adapt as it did when silent movies became talkies, and three decades ago, when the VCR was perceived as a threat.

He had no sympathy for those who do nothing but complain. “Let them get a real job,” he said. “They get paid a lot. They go to great parties. They fly around in jets, not only for business reasons, but for personal things, too. I think there are worse jobs to have.”

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I've said this before... why do I want to work in this business?

-Blake

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Busy Weekend

It's Sunday night. I spent this weekend focused on finishing "Killing Down" (of course I've spent the last 8 months trying to do this too). :)

Saturday we did the final mix on the first 30 minutes of the movie. It sounds reallly, really good (thanks Roy!). We plan on hopefully mixing another night this week and then again next Saturday as well.

Today I worked on the color correction. We got about 6 hours worth of time in on the DaVinci 2K. We're having to work on weekends and off hours since our budget is a fraction of what they normally charge for an HD tape-to-tape gig like this. It's all good though. We're making great progess and the movie is looking excellent (thanks Peggy!). It's amazing what high-end color correction can do for a film. This is of course taken for granted on a Hollywood production or a larger scale indie - but I'd wager the vast majority of smaller indies simply "color correct" in the Avid or Final Cut Pro. Sure, you can even things out and shift some colors around - but you can not come close to what you can do in a true color correction suite. It just makes a film drip with production value, which is a very, very good thing.

I have to admit that I am kind of frustrated at the time everything has taken. Of course a lot of this has been out of my control - as they say, "beggars can't be choosers" and since I'm getting several deals on the work being done it's hard to demand things speed up...

I know I've said this before, but I really hope we can have this thing wrapped up by the first week in September. Believe me, I'm ready.

-Blake

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Bruno Kirby 1949-2006

A great actor Bruno Kirby died 3 days ago. Not sure how widely reported this was... but he was one of my favorite character actors with great roles as Billy Crystal's best friend in "When Harry Met Sally" and "City Slickers". He also played a gangster in "The Godfather II", had a very funny role in "This Is Spinal Tap", among many other great performances (including a recent stint on the current HBO hit "Entourage").

I highly suggest going back and watching "City Slickers" and "This Is Spinal Tap". These were both great roles and he created very interesting characters. You might be saying to yourself, "I don't really remember him in "Spinal Tap"? And if you do recall him, you're thinking he was only in the film for a few minutes? All I can say is watch the extras on the DVD. He plays the limo driver that picks up the group at the airport with a sign that says "Spinal Pap". But on the DVD extras his characeter goes up and parties with them in the hotel. It's some funny, funny stuff.

Anyway, it's sad news to report, but I'm glad he gave us many great performances to remember him by.

-Blake

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Making Progress

Started the new-new final-final color correction today on "Killing Down". Things are going pretty smoothly so far... got a lot done today (and will continue this week).

Only issue was the color correction box is having a problem reading the EDL. For some reason it has offset things by 3 frames and is adding random edit points for dissolves, etc. This is not a major thing thank goodness, although we do want the EDL to work properly in the end.

We were able to set up various looks and save them, but many of the in and out points are off - of course they can be inserted by hand if need be, but that is a lot of work - especially on a film that has around 1500 edits! One of the engineers is supposed to take a look at the list tomorrow and hopefully get this matter resolved. If not, I may need to export a new EDL.

A side note... as I'm finishing this movie I'm working on my next projects as well. I have several things in development and I'm trying to decide what to do next. I'm likely going to embark on a biopic that I recently acquired the Life Story rights to - but there is no script yet for this, so it will be a little while. I do have a dark comedy heist film script ready to go and I'm considering shooting this first, but again, I'm just not sure. And, I actually have a short film I'd like to do - yep, a short film. I've had this idea for a while and have been considering pursuing it. Of course there's no real market for shorts (from a financial point of view), but I like to keep the creative juices flowing.

So a lot going on. But priority numero uno right now is FINISHING "KILLING DOWN". :)

-Blake

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Sunday

This Sunday we're starting up with our new Plan B color correction for "Killing Down" at Video Post & Transfer. I can't wait to get going on this... and get finished!

Time is ticking away and due to issues out of my control the final completed movie is taking a lot longer than hoped. In the end though we should have a really kick-ass looking movie. :)

I'll update the progress as it happens...

-Blake

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Director Jon Keeyes

A fellow Texas filmmaker Jon Keeyes is directing a new film in North Carolina (starring Dominique Swain) and he's doing a great job documenting his experience via his blog. I highly suggest reading it.

The new film is going back to the genre that got him started... horror. I think he has a really good grasp of that genre and I look forward to seeing the end result. I also look forward to seeing his last film "Living & Dying" (and action/thriller starring Michael Madsen and Edward Furlong) which is supposed to be released either late this year or early next here in the States.

It's great to see a good guy like Jon have success - and it's also great to see a TEXAS filmmaker have success. :) Anyway, definitely check out his blog.

-Blake

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Tech Talk

To be successful as an indie filmmaker I believe you need to be both a creative person and a technically-minded one.

Can you be successful without knowing the technical side of things? Sure. Are you limiting yourself to being very dependent on others if you don't understand this stuff? Absolutely.

This is one reason I really like Robert Rodriguez. He has honed both his creative abilities and his technical filmmaking craft to very high levels (like his films or not).

Now understand of course, I'm not saying you should not collaborate with others who have expertise in certain areas. I absolutely think you should. Ever heard "jack of all trades, but master of none"? What I am saying is you should have at minimum a good understanding of all the technical aspects of making a film.

What format do you want to shoot on? 35mm? HDCAM? DVCPRO HD? HDV? DV? Do you know the strengths and weaknesses of each? How are you going to edit? Avid? Final Cut Pro? Adobe Premiere? Do you have an understanding of how non-linear editing works? How are you planning to distribute your final movie? A film print? An HD master? DVD? HD-DVD? Blu-Ray? What is the best solution for you and ultimately your audience?

These are really pretty general questions. Again, I'm not saying every filmmaker needs to understand the engineering aspects of high-def tape stock or an Avid editing system. I'm just saying please, please, please do some research and get a good general understanding of the process and how it will affect your project.

I consider myself to be a very technically-minded person (and pretty creative too). But notwithstanding, I have had some recent technical problems with the final color correction on "Killing Down". So it can and will happen to everyone - just try and prepare yourself the best you can. I personally read just about every industry magazine out there like Post Magazine, Millimeter, DV Magazine, High Def, Filmmaker, Indie Slate, Videography, etc - and I constantly read industry blogs like HDforIndies, DV Guru and many, many others.

These days technology changes extremely fast and so it's a good idea to stay on top of it. Just today I read a great story from Mike Curtis at HDforIndies about the first footage he's seen (or really anyone has seen) from the new RED Camera. This camera - if it even comes close to its proposed specs - will likely revolutionize ALL filmmaking (from Hollywood to indies and everything in between). Of course this phrase has been said a lot in the last few years, but again, technology has changed a lot too (and actually filmmaking has been revolutionized many times).

As for the new "Plan B" color correction on "Killing Down"... we're doing a very high-end HD tape-to-tape grading on a DaVinci system. So yesterday I had to output the movie from the Avid DS Nitris to D5-HD tape. The post house did not have a D5 machine so we had to rent it and get it shipped from LA. Supposedly there are over 400 D5-HD machines in LA - but there is only one in Dallas and it's at Video Post (where I'm doing the color correction). This was very costly, and I'll have to do it again after the correction to put it back into the Avid DS for subtitling, effects and final credits, etc. I normally don't discuss costs in too much detail, but I feel it's good for other indies to know how expensive this stuff is. The Panasonic D5-HD deck rents for $1700/day. Luckily the post house I'm using gets a discount, so with shipping it was $1400 to rent. Yep, that's a lot of money. Not to mention that the D5 tape stock - the 124 minute length - cost $291 for each tape. I bought two. One to output from the DS and one to color correct to. Again, not cheap.

So why D5-HD? I could have easily scored an HDCAM deck (maybe even gotten it for free as a favor), but I wanted the higher quality format. Here's where some of that technical mumbo jumbo comes in handy...

D5-HD is an uncompressed 10bit format with a 4:2:2 color space. HDCAM is a compressed 8 bit format with a 3:1:1 color space. My online edit in the Avid DS was uncompressed 10 bit 4:2:2, so I did not want to output to HDCAM. D5 was the best choice to retain the quality throughout. And, Video Post has a D5 machine.

So yes, it did cost me more, but in the end I will have a better master format and my technical know how helped me arrive to this conclusion (with the help of several other's input).

Of course now the business-minded side of my brain is saying "what the hell did you just spend that money for?".

But I'm an indie filmmaker, so I don't have any business sense. ;)

-Blake

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Thank You, Thank You, Thank You

If you read my previous post you know we've had an issue with the color correction. We no longer are working with the company in Austin to complete the work. It's a long story, but suffice it to say it didn't work out.

So I have to THANK the great folks at Video Post & Transfer in Dallas, Texas (specifically Peggy) for coming through for me in the 11th hour here. I've used VP&T for all my past color correction work, but wanted to try a new method using a "desktop D.I." - which by the way is the wave of the future - but unfortunately we had issues with the process and the company we tried to use. VP&T is actually getting a Resolve D.I. suite later this year (the super high-end DaVinci version). But, we're going to do an HD tape-to-tape grading which is the best choice for us right now.

Besides this good news, we are days away from doing our final sound mix - and man does it sound great. I have to thank the guys at Dallas Audio Post for all their hard work and dedication to the project. They have gone above and beyond and it will definitely show in the final movie.

-Blake

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Delays, Delays and More Delays

Well, here we go again... without getting into the dirty details things have been delayed on getting the final color correction done on "Killing Down". I will keep silent for now to protect the guilty - but suffice it to say I am not happy. Quite pissed-off actually.

So, we're going to Plan B for our grading now and hope to get the film done by mid to late August. Keep your fingers crossed... AFM is in November and we need distributors to see the film ASAP.

-Blake

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What's In a Name?



Yahoo! News (via the AP) has a cool little story on movie titles... the good, the bad and the ugly.



Check it out:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060725/ap_on_en_mo/film_titles

I personally like titles that say what the movie is about. Of course that can be subjective, unless you're talking about "Snakes On A Plane". ;)

-Blake

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Wanna work for Mark Cuban?

Mark Cuban has a very interesting blog entry concerning how to get people back to seeing movies in the movie theater...

http://www.blogmaverick.com/entry/1234000960073808/

The really interesting thing is that if he likes your idea he might hire you to work for him. I was just reading the post and there are currently 521 comments. We'll see if he likes any of them.

-Blake

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Another Poster...

I slightly revised the latest version of the poster...























I'm about to get 1000 postcards made of this look (and in the near future some posters too). BTW, the orginal poster (on the movie website) is still in play, but we're just keeping all options open and creating different looks for marketing. If you like this new look let me know - and if you don't let me know too. :)

-Blake

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iKlipz

iKlipz is a new "networking" website geared towards film and filmmakers. Think of it sort of as Myspace for filmmakers.

I definitely like the vlog they do with David Poland. Good stuff.

Anyway, I created a page today for "Killing Down":
http://www.iklipz.com/Movies.aspx?MovieID=1bea7e3a-d2ef-453b-91c7-66009cc6920d

Will it help market the movie? Don't know. There are a lot of these sites competing with each other. We'll see...

In the meantime please check it out.

-Blake

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Mark Cuban and Broadband Video

Mark Cuban has an interesting post on his blog this week about how broadband video is overrated. As a lot of people who use the net know - video is very hot right now - especially on sites like YouTube.

As usual, he takes a very no nonsense approach to his argument and I must say he makes some great points that apply to distribution of movies and/or TV, etc.

Unfortunately, his outlook for the future of broadband video is pretty gloomy.

I hope he's wrong. I think (and hope) broadband video can be a huge boon for indie film distribution once bandwidth improves and more folks get used to the idea of downloading content versus renting (or buying) it from a brick and mortar store. As Apple's iTunes has proved (so far) people seem to like it.

What will the future hold? No one knows, not even Mark Cuban. But, I probably wouldn't bet against him...

-Blake

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When the 'Yes' Becomes a 'No'

Check out this article in the LA Times. It's slightly depressing for indie filmmakers trying to work their way up to the big time - but it's also reassuring (to an extent) as to why folks make movies independently...

THE real magic of Hollywood is not the knee-buckling resonance of a perfect screen kiss or the ability to conjure an army of Orcs from the plains of New Zealand. The real magic of Hollywood, as any agent, screenwriter, director, actor, producer or studio executive will tell you, is that movies get made at all. Especially now.

Some years back, a commitment from an A-lister, those actors or directors whose track records proved they could deliver a big opening weekend at the box office, usually guaranteed a big-budget project would get a green light. Then the formula changed — it often took getting a star to commit to the project and then trying to get them to cut their fee. But now, apparently, even that is not enough, as filmmakers on a variety of projects are beginning to learn.

So tell me again why I'd want to work in Hollywood?

-Blake

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New Poster

Been playing around with a few new poster looks...























Working on alternative artwork for our upcoming industry screenings. I'm kinda diggin' this look myself. Do you like it?

-Blake

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Cutting Edge

I keep hearing the term "cutting edge" about what we're doing with the post side of things with "Killing Down". This routinely surprises me too. We are finishing the film in HD, which to me seems like old news. Understand of course I don't mean it's not cool - it is very cool - but as much as I read about HD, etc. I don't feel what we're doing is that "cutting edge". However, I could be wrong...

If you follow this blog (and the progress of "Killing Down") you know we're doing our final color correction as we speak. I was in Austin twice last week working with Omar Godinez and his boutique company Color Cafe (they hadn't done an HD feature until ours).

For our correction we decided to go with a "desktop D.I." using FinalTouch HD. "D.I." stands for Digital Intermediate - which is really used for filmouts today in Hollywood (and some indie projects) - but it's traditionally very cost prohibitive. However, FinalTouch HD has put D.I. in the reach of low budget indies like ourselves. Of course we're not doing a "true" D.I. because we're not going out to film and it's not at 2K resolution (not quite anyway, we're at 1920x1080 HD resolution - just shy of true 2K).

So far things are going fairly smoothly. There have been of course the normal hiccups along the way. Mainly dealing with PC to Mac translation issues. Since we are onlining the film in an Avid DS Nitris suite (running on Windows) and FinalTouch runs on a Mac (really working in conjunction with Final Cut Pro) we've had problems reading/writing back and forth to drives and getting our QuickTime codecs straight. There have also been issues with the EDLs and some timecode problems, but I think we're about to get all this figured out.

In the end, the color correction is what matters most to me. These workflow issues suck, but the final product is what is important. That's one of the main reasons we went with Omar - he has over 20 years experience color correcting.

But as much HD production that goes on out there it seems that most do not finish in HD. They downconvert to SD and then to DVD or whatever. So, all the HD post we're doing - and btw it's all uncompressed HD that runs about 120 MBs a second (that's 35 times larger than DV) - really might be "cutting edge"? Most people I talk to or try to get advice from have never done what we're doing.

I plan to post a real "tech geek" entry soon as to the exact workflow we used covering the entire post process from offline, to audio post, color correction and final online conform. It's been very interesting and a great learning experience, but I'd probably never do it this way again (the workflow that is, I've really liked the various software and gear we used).

So I guess maybe this is all "cutting edge" stuff? Or, maybe a lot of folks out there are just slow to catch on. :)

-Blake

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Piracy

As a filmmaker I must admit that piracy scares me. No, I'm not worried about being held up on the high seas by a pirate looking like Johnny Depp. I'm talking people stealing your copyrighted video/film content and selling it. Movie-piracy.

The music industry has been going through this for years and of course movie studios too have had major concerns. And with all the new HD content on it's way to the marketplace on DVDs, etc. it will inevitably happen even more and the thieves will have a "perfect" copy of the original work to duplicate (and sell). Pretty scary.

Another form of movie-piracy of course is simply videotaping a film in a movie theater. Evidently this is one of the biggest problems of all and last week the FBI broke up a big international ring and arrested 13 people.

Authorities estimate that 90 percent of the pirated, newly released movies that become available through bootleggers and on the Internet come from camcorder copies made in theaters.

Here's a link to the story in Reuters.

Just think if it were your hard work being stolen? Believe me, it's not a pleasant thought.

-Blake

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Natalie Raitano on Myspace

I haven't taken the plunge into Myspace yet, but I plan to for "Killing Down" (and maybe for myself showcasing my directing efforts).

I've of course known about it for quite a while, but haven't taken the leap because I used to think it was "only for teenage kids" and mainly geared towards music. While I still believe the vast majority of Myspace members are teenagers (and music folks), I do know a growing number of "grown-ups" using it and the new Myspace Film section looks interesting as well.

Anyway, I plan to have a "friend's list" soon, but in the meantime check Natalie Raitano's Myspace page at http://www.myspace.com/natalie_raitano.

She runs it in conjunction with a fan, so it's a legit deal. No 14 year boy from Ohio posing as Natalie. It's her and she replies to most postings.

-Blake

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Better Late Than Never

Well, I FINALLY got some more of the photos back from the after party of the movie premiere. We've had issues getting the pix from the photographers. We still actually have one photographer that is MIA - so, we'll have even more pix hopefully soon. In the meantime here are a few select shots...

Matthew and his fiance' Shauna (she plays "Lisa")
























Natalie Raitano, Jimmy, Rachel, Rey and Nat's friend (can't recall her name!)
























Oliver Tull with DP Alan Lefebvre and his wife
























Jesse Cortez and Shauna
























Natalie Raitano and Sheree Wilson
























Jesse and Natalie
























Sheree, Matt and Natalie
























Natalie and Blake (yep, on the phone at the party)
























Thanks to Jesse Cortez for getting me these pictures. As mentioned, I hope to have the last round of them up soon.

Oh, and the final version of the movie is ALMOST DONE. :)

-Blake

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Color Correction

We're starting our final color correction and have done some test this past week.

We're doing what I'm calling an "indie DI" using FinalTouch HD at Color Cafe in Austin. Omar Godinez is the colorist (and owner of the company) and has over 20 years experience working at places like Filmworkers Club and Video Post & Transfer (both in Dallas).

Here's a quick sample of what we're doing...

Original Image:















Corrected Image:















The original was shot very flat, low contrast with a lot of dynamic range knowing we would be doing color correction.

Pretty cool process and fun seeing it "come alive".

-Blake

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A Different Take

In the article below, Jacques Thelemaque of withoutabox.com has a different take than most today on the idea of using "stars" in independent films. He doesn't think you need them. He cites examples of successful films that didn't have them (or they weren't stars at the time).

This is all great and I really like his list of "facts" - BUT it's really all based in theory and unfortunately not the case in today's real world marketplace.

For every "Napoleon Dynamite" success with "no stars" there are literally thousands of other "no star" failures.

Do stars actually help low budget indie films? Depends. If their performance is good, then yes, absolutely. If it's not good, then yes, absolutely. Why? It's all about getting attention for the work. Do I like this? Not really. But it is a fact.

We live in a celebrity driven culture and having a "star" in your film just gives it that extra "legitimacy" that some folks need (i.e. festival programmers, media outlets, distributors, etc.).

Here's Jacques article...

TIP OF THE MONTH: Avoid The "Star" Trap

I don't know how many financing and distribution seminars I've sat in on where filmmakers were sold on the importance of putting a "name" or a "star" in a film to make it more attractive to potential buyers/audiences. The logic of this is, of course, obvious. Until you break it down. Like much of the information (and people) orbiting around the filmmaking universe, the "star" thing is a superficiality embraced by the starstruck, naive, desperate and/or lazy filmmaker that doesn't hold up to substantive thinking.

Let me clarify that I am not saying there aren't benefits to having recognizable actors in your film. There are indeed. Many people in and out of the industry, including festival programmers, are star-obsessed. They put name actors on a pedestal and reward the film accordingly. But do you really want to pander to the "cult of celebrity" mentality? Especially when you do a cool-headed cost/benefit analysis (in terms of time, money, AND energy) of doing the "star" trip.

Fact #1: Very few stars can meaningfully affect a film's bottom line. Any distribution executive will tell you truthfully that there are very few actors that will significantly impact a film's potential revenue despite the widely held contrary notion. The film needs to be the star. The film needs to work.

Fact #2: Stars are hard to get. You can spend months, even years, trying to get stars interested in your project no matter how good your script is. Even if you figure out how to make contact, you are often sent from agent to manager to lawyer to publicist to dogwalker back to agent, and so on - with each one taking months to respond.

Fact #3: Stars can be expensive pains-in-the-ass. Even if you can get them to work for free (or practically free), they are still used to a certain level of treatment and perks that can wind up costing the production considerable amounts of money. Or, they just can't/won't meet the demands of your production - costing you more time, which equals money. Also, stars can often wield their experience and status to run roughshod creatively over a fledgling director and, in fact, over a whole production. Of course, there are many exceptions to this fact - known actors who are respectful and generous with their time and creativity. But there are many more horror stories.

Fact #4: Stars can upset the tone of a film. I don't know how many times I've been thrown out of the authenticity of a film by the sudden appearance of a recognizable actor - bringing with them the baggage of what we know about them from other stuff. I don't want to be lost in a film just to be pulled out when Paris Hilton shows up for a mise-en-scene-chewing cameo.

And really, what is a "star"? Or a "name"? Does it really benefit your film to have a world famous socialite or minor regular from a popular T.V. show (which is what most emerging filmmakers are lucky to have access to) in your film unless their acting ability truly benefits the film creatively? Answer: No. Instead reframe the whole star thing in your head.


First, make your film the star. Think of the film as a whole as the marketing hook that will attract investors and audiences. Your distinctive ideas and creative energy will "sell" the film. If you look at the Sundance successes over the past several years, almost none had "name" actors. From "Chuck and Buck" to "Blair Witch Project" to "Napolean Dynamite." Think of some the great films in world cinema history - DiSica's "The Bicycle Thief", Resnais' "Hiroshima, Mon Amour" or Lynch's "Eraserhead." Now, name the "stars" in them. Good luck.

Second, think in terms of casting the actor that will bring the most CREATIVELY to your film. Yes, there are plenty of "name" actors whose work you love and would be great for your film. If you can get 'em (and they won't make you pull your hair out), go for it. But always make the film, and the process of making the film, your priority in terms of deciding which actor is appropriate to cast. There are plenty of brilliant/and or perfectly appropriate actors for your film who are not "stars" or "names". Have the courage to champion them. Take advantage of their accessibility and collaborative energy. Keep your film authentic. Use them to make your film great and you will then have your "star."

Again, I completely agree with him in theory and wish it were the case. And I do definitely agree that cameos don't do much for a film. I also really like the idea of "making your film the star". But in today's marketplace it just makes sense to protect your investment by using at least a recognizable face, if not a "star", in one or more of the principle roles (if you can afford it and if the role is right for the actor).

Just use your head and don't cast the 60-year-old male cowboy "star" in a role written for a 25-year-old female lifeguard. :)

-Blake

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Been Busy...

Haven't posted anything in a while. Been busy trying to get final version of "Killing Down" wrapped up. Hope, I repeat, HOPE to have finished movie in my hand second week of July.

What do we have left to do?

1. A couple music cues and then the final sound mix
2. Two tweaks on two of the last VFX shots
3. Exporting all the HD reels for final color correction at Color Cafe in Austin (we're putting the footage on three 400GB Seagate firewire drives - it's just shy of 1.2TBs)
4. Once color correction is done, we'll re-import the footage back into the Avid DS to add the necessary effects and titles - then output the final movie to D5-HD tape.

I'll also make a simple version of the DVD (movie and trailer only) for marketing and giving to potential distributors. Plans are to arrange some industry screenings in LA and possibly NY in late July and into August.

If I've learned anything about independent filmmaking it's that everything always takes longer, costs more and doesn't go as planned - but that's what makes it fun too! :)

-Blake

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Kinooga Film Financing

Has anyone seen this?
http://kinooga.com/index.php?option=com_frontpage&Itemid=1

Basically you presell downloads to your film via Kinooga to actually finance the project. Similar concept to foreign presales, but on a smaller scale...

Kinooga lets you raise finances for your film project at any stage of its conception. You could be looking for development money for a script, looking for another few thousands bucks on an overspend, or simply trying to get the cash together to edit what you've already shot.

Interesting concept. My guess would be though there are a lot more people looking for money than there are people investing.

Check out their site for detailed info.

-Blake

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First "Real" Review of Killing Down

Brian Abrams of the Fort Worth Weekly called me last week requesting a screener of "Killing Down" to do a story/review of the film. I must admit I was hesitant because the film is NOT done and I prefer to put our best foot forward when we go out to the public. But, I did screen the movie at the USA Film Festival so it is in pretty good shape - just not completely finished (mainly the score, some visual effects, color correction and some final editing tweaks).

I decided to go ahead and send it to him warts and all, primarily to piggy back off the USA Film Festival screening and the press we received from that. So I sent it and here's a link to the review (it's at the bottom of the page).

I typically don't put a lot of weight on reviews - positive or negative - filmmaking is very subjective and so are audiences responses. I tend to fall into the camp of "any press is good press just as long as you spell my name right". Of course I prefer positive reviews and in this case Brian liked the work, which I'm happy to hear.

BTW, still waiting to get pictures from the photographers from the premiere and the after party. As soon as I get them I'll post them to the blog.

In the meantime, please check out the review and remember he saw a "work-in-progress" version of the film. :)

-Blake

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FAQ for Blu-ray DVD

Came across this info on the new HD Blu-ray DVD and thought it was useful...

What's the capacity of a Blu-ray disc?
A single layer 12 cm (4.72") diameter Blu-ray disc (BD) holds 25 gigabytes (GB) of data. A double-layer BD holds 50 GB of data.

Where does the name "Blu-ray" come from?
The name Blu-ray is derived from the blue-violet laser which is used to read and write Blu-ray discs. DVDs and CDs, on the other hand, use a red laser to read and write discs. The shorter wavelength of a blue-violet laser is one of the factors that enables more data to be written in the same amount of space versus a red laser.

What are the differences between Blu-ray and HD-DVD?
Capacity. Even though both use the blue-violet laser technology, BD offers greater storage capacity, 25 GB versus 15 GB for HD-DVD.

Support.
Blu-ray is backed by the Blu-ray Disc Association which has over 170 members. Companies included are Apple, DELL, Hitachi, Panasonic, Sony, TDK, 20th Century Fox, and Buena Vista Home Entertainment. HD-DVD is approved and endorsed by the DVD Forum, which includes over 230 companies. Some companies in the DVD Forum endorse both formats, but the major HD-DVD supporters include Toshiba, Memory-Tech, Microsoft, Universal Pictures, and New Line Cinema.

Structure.
The thickness of both Blu-ray and HD-DVD discs is the same, 1.2 mm. HD-DVD, like a DVD, is composed of two 0.6 mm substrates with the record layer sandwiched between them. On the other hand, a BD is composed of one 1.1 mm substrate and a 0.1 mm protective coating over the record layer. Therefore, the record layer (content layer) is brought closer to the laser in the BD enabling greater accuracy when reading the disc.

I'm now seeing ads on TV for release of Hollywood movies on DVD and Blu-ray. I'm not 100% sold on buying movies this way yet. Do I really want to buy all my favorite DVDs again? Do I want to spend $800 on a Blu-ray player? Pricing will come down, but I'm not so sure that downloadable movies won't be prevalent by the time they do. Then, you can just watch them on your computer OR your TV (and PSP or iPod) and not worry about a DVD.

I see more value in Blu-ray as a storage device for all kinds of back-up data (video, audio, etc.). But time will tell...

-Blake

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IMDb Rules!

If you are in the film business it is VERY LIKELY you are familiar with the website IMDb.com a.k.a. The Internet Movie Database.

I personally visit this site all the time. I use it not only as a fan of other people's work, but as a tool to research films and primarily to research actors I'm interested in for future projects. This is one reason anyone who is an actor and has done any short film or feature film work should list their name on the site. Or, have the producer or director of the film you were in list it for you (they will be listing the project I assure you). It's actually very easy to do and a great way to get some publicity. AND, it's actually the main site that everyone (including Hollywood folks) use to look people up - from grips to actors to directors. If you are in the entertainment industry you should be on IMDb.

This brings me to the main point of this post. The NY Times has a really good article on the relatively unknown founder of IMDb. His name is Col Needham. I have been using the site for at least 8 or 9 years and I had never heard of him. All I knew was that the site originated out of England - and sure enough - that's where Col is from.

From the article:

As the founder and managing director of the Internet Movie Database, Mr. Needham might just be the archetype of the telecommuting Web-head. The site he founded and runs, http://www.imdb.com/, ranks as the 10th-most-popular entertainment spot online, according to ComScore Media Metrix. It had 18.6 million unique visitors in April, a 67 percent surge from a year earlier.

Internet Movie Database began in 1990 as a bulletin board database of movie credits. It was started by Mr. Needham and some film-buff friends. At the time, Mr. Needham was working as an engineer in Bristol at Hewlett-Packard (or, as he says in his native Manchester lilt, "Hewlett Pa-Cod") and had only a rudimentary strategy for financing the site.

"We didn't sit down and think, 'What's the best way to make money on the Internet?' " Mr. Needham said. "This is very much a labor of love. When we started the company, there was no commercial use of the Internet."

By 1998, the database had established itself as a favorite on the early Internet, and Mr. Needham was amused to receive a number of buyout approaches.

One was an invitation to a London hotel in January to meet with Jeffrey P. Bezos, the founder of Amazon. Mr. Bezos told Mr. Needham that he thought the movie database could help Amazon sell VHS cassettes and DVD's — Mr. Needham points out that it was in that order in those days — but also recognized that the site would need to be run separately to maintain its personality. Amazon, of course, could handle the technological end and pour resources into upgrades.


I didn't know that Amazon OWNS IMDb. I've always seen the links to Amazon, but they are very subtle. This might be changing soon though. In the article it mentions that Amazon might start using IMDb as a "front door" to their new movie download service that will allow users to burn their own copy of a DVD at home. Details are still being worked out, but there are several Hollywood studios involved. Sounds interesting for sure.

I just hope they keep IMDb the same. Without it no filmmaker or actor would have proof that they even existed (except of course their films, and they may not want to show them). ;)

Read the full article from the NY Times (you might have to register to read it).

-Blake

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Who Am I?

I'm a filmmaker who's produced & directed five feature films including the comedy SPILT MILK (available on iTunes), the new horror/thriller PHOBIA (on iTunes) and the action/thiller KILLING DOWN (which you can buy or rent at pretty much all the usual places).

I also created the Streamy and Webby award-winning web series PINK, which to date has been viewed online around 10 MILLION times at places like YouTube, Hulu, Koldcast and TheWB.com. And speaking of TheWB.com, I also produced and directed an online thriller for them called EXPOSED. It was released summer 2010. And most recently I created a new online sci-fi series called CONTINUUM, which is part of the online indie TV network JTS.tv - Just The Story and NOW available via VOD through indie platform Distrify.

Oh, and I don't shoot weddings. Thanks for asking though.

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