Mark Cuban is Against Day-And-Date Releasing?

Got this from the Chicago Tribune...

Cuban smokes IFC (while Comcast plots movie world domination)

A few more intriguing points on this IFC-Comcast deal to debut films in theaters and On Demand simultaneously:

1) Landmark Theatres operates many of the country’s top art multiplexes (including one on the North Side and one in Highland Park), and Mark Cuban, a Landmark owner, warns that the chain may not play the IFC films being debuted simultaneously on Comcast’s On Demand.

"[O]n the IFC thing, they jumped the gun on Landmark support for their efforts," e-mailed Cuban, who also owns the cable network HDNet and Magnolia pictures, which simultaneously launched Steven Soderbergh’s "Bubble" in January. "Comcast doesn’t carry HDNet and HDNet movies, and that’s a requisite for Landmark support of their day-and-date efforts if Comcast is involved."

When told of Cuban’s comments, IFC President Jonathan Sehring said, "Mark Cuban said that?...They’ve told me separately that if the movies work, they’ll play them. I don’t know that we’ve jumped the gun. We’ve had extensive meetings with them. Mark’s Mark. He’ll say what he has to say."

2) Comcast absolutely sees the IFC deal as paving the way for studios big and small to close the windows between when movies are released in theaters and on pay-per-view.

"I think this deal with be the beginning of a move toward day-and-date [releases] generally," said Matt Bond, Comcast’s executive vice president of programming. "The earlier you put a film into release on a particular technology, the more you increase the revenue from that technology."

Certainly, IFC isn’t the only distributor that Comcast is encouraging to release films more promptly on demand.

"We’re in discussions with all the studios about various distribution models related to their products," Bond said.

Which is not to say that all of the studios think day-and-date releases are a good idea. (Most have said they don’t.) But, again, "Walk the Line" has been in theaters just more than two months, and it came out Tuesday on DVD, so studios are narrowing those windows all by themselves.

3) IFC isn’t applying the day-and-date model to its biggest releases.

The company, for instance, picked up the audience-friendly crossword puzzle-solving documentary "Wordplay" at the Sundance Film Festival in January and will give it a "traditional theatrical release," Sehring said.

IFC basically has two labels now: its regular IFC Films (for movies such as "Wordplay" or "My Big Fat Greek Wedding") and IFC in Theaters, generally made up of films too small or low-profile to get distribution through the ever-growing specialized companies.

These are "critically acclaimed movies coming out of film festivals that were going without distribution," Sehring said, and they’re the ones that will premiere simultaneously on Comcast’s On Demand service.


"We just saw this as an opportunity to take some critically acclaimed films that may not play outside the top five markets and create a national art house through this digital technology," he said.

Before the Comcast deal, IFC had worked out a similar arrangement with Cablevision of New York, which simultaneously premiered the IFC in Theaters film "CSA: Confederate States of America" on Feb. 15.

The movie, a Sundance 2004 premiere that envisions the U.S. if the South won the Civil War, rang up strong box-office numbers at its sole New York engagement, grossing more than $17,000 the first weekend with a 2 percent drop for the second weekend.

"We feel strongly that the video-on-demand aspect of this will benefit theatrical moviegoers as well because it will generate word of mouth," Sehring said. "Not everybody has a set-top box."

Not yet, anyway.

Very interesting read. I like where things are headed. And I get Cuban's reasoning behind not playing with Comcast - but I bet he does in the end.

-Blake

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Coming Soon To A Cellphone Near You

Want to watch a movie on your cell phone? Well, maybe not a movie, but perhaps a short film or music video? One Hollywood company is banking we will (at least kids will).

The
New York Times has a good piece on News Corporation's new cell phone entertainment company Mobizzo.

In what is the boldest venture yet by an established media company to insinuate itself into millions of cellphones, the News Corporation has created a mobile entertainment store called Mobizzo and a production studio to focus exclusively on developing cellphone entertainment in much the same way that 20th Century Fox creates movies and television.

Analysts predict that the number of global mobile phone customers will double to four billion in five years. And that has spurred a wireless gold rush among media companies that, as in the early days of the Internet, do not want to be left behind.

This is to me the obvious next step in the "new world of distribution". I have actually encoded the movie trailer for my new film "
Killing Down" to play on my Motorola Razor phone (soon I'll post it to my movie's website for anyone to download). It's very cool technology.

Only problem is most people in the U.S. don't have video capable phones yet. A lot of folks in Europe and Asia do though. And I never understood that? Why does most of Europe, often Korea, Japan, etc. always get the newest toys and technology before the United States? Don't we invent half this stuff? Didn't Al Gore invent the Internet (or that's what he claimed - although his new "invention"
Current TV is doing some cool things). In Korea they have web bandwidth double or triple the speed we have. I know it's actually their governments that embrace and make this newer technology available, but it still is odd to me that we (the United States) often lag behind these other places when it comes to the latest and greatest techno toys. But, I digress...

Mobizzo looks like a pretty good idea. They are going to sell content directly to consumers, in lieu of going through a third party company such as the cell phone service provider. You'll be able to download content directly to your phone on a per use basis (for $1.99 to $2.99 per show) - or subscribe to the service for $5.99/month. This pricing structure is very new and I'm sure will change, as I'm sure the entire model will too as it's embraced or not embraced.


I'm sure too that sources will come about (if they're not already there) allowing indies to make content available for mobile phone download.

Of course as a filmmaker I find it rather ironic that all the latest "distribution" opportunities are coming in the form of the small screen. We all tout the unbelievable high resolution picture quality of HDTV and all the acquisition formats to achieve this look (HDCAM, HDV, DVCPRO HD, and even 35mm film). But where are most of the newest outlets for distribution popping up? Places like Google Video, Apple's iTunes, Sony PSP and now Mobizzo. All interesting models, but with one main thing in common - a small screen to watch your "HD wide screen production". Note though that Google Video actually does play it's content "full screen" - but it's streaming and is definitely not high resolution - albeit not the size of an iPod Video screen or a mobile phone (and to me, PSP screens are actually pretty good size and the image quality is great).

Maybe in the future indie filmmakers will not dream of seeing their movie on the "big screen". They'll dream of seeing their movie throughout the entire world on a "billion small screens". Maybe even simultaneously? Man, talk about a wide release. :)

-Blake

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So, You Wanna Produce Huh?

Last weekend I watched Sunday Morning Shootout on AMC and they had a very interesting discussion with Don Cheadle about PRODUCERS. Who should get a producer credit on a film? Who should not?

They were primarily referring to Cheadle's Oscar nominated movie "Crash" and Bob Yari who put up the money. Yari wanted a producer's credit, but the Producer's Guild wouldn't allow it. There ended up being two true producers on the film and the others being co-producers, associate producers and executive producers. Don Cheadle got one of the producer credits.

It's common place in Hollywood for famous folks - especially other directors, actors or even producers to lend their name to a project to get it made. You'll find Martin Scorsese does this some. Kevin Smith also "executive produces" a lot of movies. Even "Shootouts" Peter Bart (he's editor of Variety too) was an executive producer for Jim Carey's latest movie "Fun With Dick and Jane". On the show he said he had nothing to do with it (although I believe he used to own the rights to the original script).

What does all this mean? Well, that the PRODUCER CREDIT often gets diminished. Producers do an incredible amount of work to bring a project to life - in the indie world and in Hollywood.

What does a producer do? Well...

- Finds a script they like
- Or writes (or hires it written) a script about an idea they have
- Finds financing (sometimes they actually provide the financing)
- Hires a director (in the indie world more often than not they are the director too)
- Hires the film crew
- Schedules the shoot
- Liason between investors (or studio) and director
- Manages the shoot
- Hires the post house (video editing, audio post, DI, color correction, film out, etc.)
- Manages post
- Hires graphic artists (for website, one-sheets, postcards, etc.)
- Approves artwork
- Enters film festivals
- Manages entire project

Most of these are general items - they all have detailed layers that go within them. It's a heckuva lot of work to produce a feature film (or even a short film).

So, when "producer credits" are just handed out it makes some folks mad, and rightly so in my opinion. But I'm talking PRODUCER - not the other forms of the credit...

I'm not against the "Scorsese" (and the like) executive producer credit. I did that myself with my latest film "Killing Down". I have Sheree J. Wilson as an executive producer. This was part of her deal and helped us get the movie made. I also think executive producer applies to money folks. Give them that credit - or a co-producer credit. There's also of course the dreaded associate producer credit (it's mainly dreaded in Hollywood). People like to be recognized for their contribution. Just make sure the credit fits what they brought to the table.

Really credits are more important (or at least they think they are) in Hollywood. About half the indie films you see have one person listed in pretty much every job. But I do think it's a valid point not to diminish the PRODUCER credit by giving it to your best friend's mom because she loaned you the family's 1971 Falcon to crash in your movie.

Now I've got to go finishes producing my darn movie (yeah, I am PRODUCING). :)

-Blake (Producer, Director, Editor and Various Other Credits)

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Wow! A Win for HD-DVD?

The CinemaTech blog has linked to a NY Times article by Ken Belson about the continuing Blu-Ray / HD-DVD format war. It appears now HD-DVD is gaining steam (again):

"Hewlett-Packard withdrew its exclusive support of Blu-ray. This month, another member of the Blu-ray camp, LG Electronics, hedged its bets, too, signing a deal to license Toshiba's [HD-DVD] technology.

And earlier this month, one of the main reasons underpinning Microsoft's move to shuck its neutrality [and join the HD-DVD camp] — the complexity of producing Blu-ray technology — led to Sony's acknowledgment that it might delay this spring's scheduled release of its PlayStation 3 game console partly because the needed technology was still being worked out.

The possible delay and the Blu-ray group's loss of its once-commanding lead are not encouraging developments for Sony in its attempt to revive its electronics group after a series of bungles. PlayStation 3 is crucial to Sony's future, and not only because the latest version of its gaming consoles could generate billions in revenue; the new machines will include disc drives that will turn them into Blu-ray DVD players as well."

----------------------------------


Belson notes that HD-DVD players will hit the market first, with the cheapest selling for $499. Blu-ray players will follow, selling for about twice as much. Sounds like a real recipe for success...

Later, Belson quotes a retailer saying the format battle will undoubtedly hurt consumers:

"Both sides are digging in their heels and stupidity has prevailed," said Joe McGuire, the chief executive of Tweeter, a high-end electronics chain. Mr. McGuire called the failure of the two camps to agree on a single format "criminal" and said he would have a hard time advising consumers. "The answer to which is better is: 'We don't know,' " he said. "I'm tempted not to sell anyone these machines."

-----------------------------------

This is very surprising info to me. All along and especially recently it looked like Blu-Ray was going to be the "winner". Now we'll have to wait and see (again)...

-Blake

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MySpace

I know several filmmakers, actors, etc. participating in the "MySpace Revolution". For instance, Frank Ford and Shane Estep have a MySpace page, and so do the guys in Four Day Weekend (which Frank is a member of).

But, I'm just not sure I get it from a filmmaker's POV? I understand the music angle completely - being able to listen to and download songs from unknown artists, etc. is easy and makes sense. But, promoting a feature film or short film is a little different to me. Maybe it's not though?

I've considered creating a MySpace page for "Killing Down" and my previous feature "Hit". One thing I've noticed is the Hollywood films that do this often include (and market) the soundtrack of the film - which in turn of course markets the actual movie. I have no soundtrack (yet) for "Killing Down", although I do have a song or two I could upload and include. But for "Hit", I have a complete soundtrack (all composed by the great Paul Slavens - who by the way - has a MySpace page).

Another filmmaker and contributor to the Indies Features 06 blog posted a story from the LA Times about a guy who made the short "MySpace: The Movie" and has landed a development deal with MTV from it. Pretty interesting and exciting for that kid.

Eric too points out that he doesn't completely understand the whole MySpace thing...

"(it being) ...a bunch of kids flipping each other off and commenting about how much their lives suck."

I couldn't agree more. That's what it looks like to me too. But, I guess these kids then talk about all the songs (and movies I assume) thus creating a buzz or at least more visibility for the material.

I commented on Eric's entry that perhaps one reason I don't get the whole MySpace phenomenon is that I was a teenager in the 1980's. :)

I think I'm going to go and relive my youth right now and create a MySpace page of my own.

-Blake

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Google Video Success (finally...)

I had some initial issues uploading video content to Google Video. To read in detail see my blog entries at the Indie Features 06 blog.

But, low and behold, the technical stuff worked itself out (with a little help from their support) and now the "Hit" trailer and "Killing Down" trailer are online there...

"Hit" Movie Trailer:
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=1265865879186464161

"Killing Down" Movie Trailer:
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-7189917251048913094

As I've posted before, I'm pretty excited about the possibilites of Google Video. It's in Beta testing mode right now, but I feel it (and others) are going to be very important for indie film distribution and promotion.

-Blake

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Playing Dead

Good article in the Fort Worth Star Telegram on Julio Cedillo who stars in the new Tommy Lee Jones film "Three Burials" and also my new film "Killling Down"...

http://www.dfw.com/mld/dfw/entertainment/13940891.htm










Check it out. There's a nice plug for me and my movie in the piece too! :)

-Blake

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New Sopranos!

Nothing to do with indies... BUT the new season of the "Sopranos" starts March 12th on HBO and the trailer is online now.












Can't wait...


-Blake

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More Internet VoD (good stuff!)

Okay, I'm surfing around today reading other folks blogs (I do that a lot). And today over at Scott Kirsner's CinemaTech blog he has done a lot of leg work (as he usually does) for us lazy types. :)

He has links to several great stories from the LA Times, Wall Street Journal, etc. on new Internet video distribution (i.e. video on demand). Click the above main link to read his articles.

Here are a few highlights I found especially interesting...

Based on consumer surveys, Points North Group estimates that 50% of Internet users watch video online, with 9% of users watching full-length movies downloaded from the Internet and 8% watching current TV shows at least occasionally.

and...

Parks Associates estimates that 3.7 million Americans will pay for video online by the end of 2006, with that number rising to more than 51 million by the end of 2010. The Dallas research and consulting group predicts such payments will rise to $1.8 billion by 2010 from $111 million this year.

This one is really cool from Brightcove - I recall their name from the web series "The Strand". They have some kind of involvement with that (from one of the creators of "Blair Witch")...

The biggest idea Brightcove has - and the way it's different from, say, Google Video - is that anyone can become what I call a "video dealer." If you have a site about windsurfing, for instance, you can offer a selection of videos from Brightcove on that topic. If one of your site's visitors chooses to pay to download one of the clips (or simply watches an ad), you get a cut of the revenues.

I just posted a blog entry over at Indie Features 06 talking about Google Video. Check it out to hear about my first experience with it.

I must say that I am really excited about the possibilities of all this! If you are an indie filmmaker and every tried to sell your film you know how hard it can be. This, my friends, will change the way ALL movies are distributed - but especially independent ones.

-Blake

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Sunday Morning Shootout

If you haven't seen the AMC original show "Sunday Morning Shootout" you've got to watch it. Set your Tivo now! It's probably my favorite movie-related show on TV. It's not your typical "entertainment" show - not at all. It's about the movie business. It's not the stupid celebrity gossip crap.

"Shootout" is hosted by Peter Bart, the chief of Variety, and Peter Guber, one of the most powerful and famous Hollwood producers in recent memory. It's a good format too - a roundtable discussion.

They have top talent on the show from both sides of the camera (and suits too). Writers, directors, producers, actors, studio heads, etc. Last week they had a great segment with Terrry Semel the CEO of Yahoo!. He used to run Warner Bros. for 25 years before he took over Yahoo! back in 2001. They talked about extremely relevant topics including day-and-date releasing and Internet distribution, etc.

It's very interesting to hear two Hollywood insiders talk openly about their business and with the movers and shakers in the industry. It's not all Hollywood though. A lot of the talk centers around independents too.

If your interested in filmmaking this is one show you can't miss.

The first season is available on DVD too. I haven't seen it (I started watching the show a few months ago), but I'm going to buy it myself! :)

-Blake

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Cool..."V.I.P" is coming out on DVD

This has nothing to do with indie filmmaking or new technology - BUT, my
good friend and one heck of an actress Natalie Raitano starred in this show with Pamela Anderson - and I'm very happy for her (and all the "V.I.P." fans in the world - and there are a lot of them) that the DVD of season one is finally hitting the stores on March 14th.

If you pre-order from Amazon you save almost $15.00 (it's only $34.99).

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000E33VZY/103-4420793-5579826?n=130

I know what you're thinking, but come on, you know this show is fun... it's definitely one of those guilty pleasures! I know I used to watch it... a lot. :)

-Blake

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Frank and Shane at Sundance?

The clip I shot with Frank and Shane is up on their site now. Check it out. They were the talk of the Sundance film festival this year... ;)

http://www.frankandshane.com/sundance.html

-Blake

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New "Indie Features 06" Blog

Check out this new indie film blog:
http://indiefeatures06.blogspot.com

It's a cool blog discussing indie filmmaking and distribution of current projects (that do or will have distribution this year).

I'm a new contributor to the blog too - so definitely check it out! :)

-Blake

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HD DVD's Ready for March Release

Finally it appears that both HD camps have agreed upon the copy protection aspects of the new formats...

A critical hurdle to the launch of both the Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD formats was cleared late Wednesday when negotiators reached agreement on an interim license for the AACS copy-protection system slated to be used by both high-definition formats...

Read the entire article:
http://www.videobusiness.com/article/CA6308373.html

Well, good deal. I'm glad. Because I'm ready to completely redo my DVD collection. You know what I mean? Heck, I'll be first in line to get my brand new "Snow Dogs" HD DVD enhanced-directors-cut-wide-screen-with-no-sugar-added version.

Seriously, it is cool this stuff is happening now. Mainly from my point of view for my own projects! I'm looking forward to shooting in HD, or HDV, etc. and being able to actually distribute it to folks (clients, friends, etc.) so they can watch in true HD resolution.

Of course now I'll just need everyone to buy a new HD DVD player (and an HDTV too)... oh well, maybe the next new super HD format will be out by then. ;)

-Blake

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"Variable" Movie Ticket Pricing?

I agree with a lot of the bloggers out there that routinely talk about how movie theater chains have got to do something different (and better) to attract customers. This article is from the New York Times and explains what "variable" pricing is and how it might work with theaters.

I like the concept - except for the part about pricing "dogs" lower (i.e. bad movies). I don't think that should happen. I think you could lower the price for any movie after it's run for a while though... read my thoughts at the end after you read this. As usual, I've bolded some text that I think is important...

Changes Ahead for a Theater Near You

LET'S say you decide to take a break tonight and go out to a movie. It's Wednesday, of course, so when you walk up to the ticket counter, there is not another person in line. You settle on "Glory Road," an inspirational basketball movie that has been out for a month. The theater is so empty that it almost feels as if you are watching it in your den. Your ticket costs $8.

Now it's the weekend. You meet up with some friends to see "Date Movie," a spoof that has just opened to good buzz. You have to stand in a long line to get a ticket, and the only seats you can find are in the third row. It is clearly a hot ticket. Yet it costs the same $8 as "Glory Road." This isn't the way much of the American economy works. It's not how airlines sell seats, the Gap sells shirts or eBay sells anything.

Soon, it won't be the way the movies work either. You will pay more for a ticket on the weekends and less on weekdays. You'll be able to buy a reserved seat in the center of the theater for a few extra dollars. One of these days, you may even have to pay more for a hit movie than for a bomb. The changes are under way, and they are long overdue.


The theater industry's attempt to ignore the laws of supply and demand is as good an example of corporate inertia as you will find. For decades, going to the movies was one of the rituals of American life, and competition among theaters revolved mainly around trying to land more hot films than the theater down the street.


But now theaters face a very different competitive landscape, thanks to DVD's, high-definition TV's, Netflix and TiVo. Family night at the movies, meanwhile, can cost $60. It's no wonder that the share of disposable income spent on moviegoing has fallen a stunning 17 percent in just the last three years.

There is no easy fix for industry. But it's clear that it can't afford to leave easy money sitting on the table any longer, which is why executives are finally thinking about a more sensible business model. It is called variable pricing, and the first step is likely to be extending the old matinee discount to weeknights. "I predict we will see it within a year," said Peter C. Brown, who runs the nation's second-biggest theater chain, AMC Entertainment, which invented the multiplex in the 1960's and the armchair cup holder in 1981. "There are people looking at it. I'll leave it at that."

VARIABLE pricing has been around as long as outdoor markets, but the modern version of it really began at American Airlines more than 20 years ago. Robert Crandall, the chief executive, was trying to beat back a discount airline named People Express, and he devised a computerized system he called "yield management" to adjust prices constantly.

American sold cheap tickets to vacation travelers who were willing to fly when planes weren't full and expensive ones to last-minute business travelers who were never going to choose People Express anyway. The goal was figuring out exactly how much somebody was willing to pay to fill a seat and then selling the person a ticket at that price. It worked.

The Internet has basically recreated Mr. Crandall's system across the economy. Businesses can tweak prices to maximize revenue, and consumers can shop around. We are now comfortable with the idea that books, concert tickets or, yes, movies can have very different price tags, depending on convenience and demand. On
Amazon, the new two-disc "Harry Potter" DVD set costs $6 more than the two-disc "Rent" set.

But this is a tricky game, which is why so many companies are still struggling with it. You may recall that
Coca-Cola announced in 1999 that it was thinking about installing thermometers in its vending machines and charging more on a hot day. Economically, it makes perfect sense that a cold soda is worth more when the temperature hits 90. But consumers thought they were being gouged, and the ensuing uproar caused Coke's executives to insist that the plan was never serious.

It is not entirely rational, but shoppers usually need to be tempted with a discount first. Companies can sneak in a surcharge later, as part of a broader price increase. Or they can offer obvious benefits to people willing to pay more. That is how the theaters are proceeding: slowly and quietly, so that people won't notice the change until it's too late.

The chain that probably has the best understanding of this is National Amusements. It has recently opened 10 upscale multiplexes, mostly in the East and Midwest, and has plans for more. In each, at least two theaters have wider seats and sell only reserved tickets. Every ticket costs about $2 to $3 more than in the other theaters.

Last fall, the company also started advertising "Bargain Tuesday" at many of its theaters, when all tickets cost just $5, even less than matinees do on other days. (Other theater chains that use weeknight pricing usually offer a discount of $1 or less, which doesn't make enough of a difference.)

The idea, on either end of the spectrum, is that people should be able to buy the product the way they want it — or they might not buy it at all. A theater can't sell marked-up popcorn to someone who doesn't buy a ticket first.

The toughest job for the industry will be putting different prices on different movies, and we are not likely to see much of it anytime soon. If a theater cut the price of a movie on its opening weekend, it would announce that the film is a dog, turn off the audience and offend the studio. But theaters are starting to tinker.

In December, the Ziegfeld theater in New York charged more for the first week of "The Producers." Another option, Mr. Brown of AMC points out, is to mimic the old second-run movie houses and cut the prices of most movies after they have been in theaters for a few weeks.
"It's a bit of a slippery slope," he said, "when you start to be someone who would be suggesting that, say, 'King Kong' is a product that should be priced differently from 'Memoirs of a Geisha' or 'Capote.' Because ultimately it is art."


Fair enough. But the next time you're in an art gallery, check the price tags to see if all the paintings cost the same.

I really like the quote that "people should be able to buy the product the way they want it". This ironically is one of the same arguments for "day-and-date" releasing (releasing the movie in theaters, on DVD and TV on the same day). Of course, theater owners hate this idea pertaining to "day-and-date".

It'll be interesting to see what happens.


-Blake

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MovieBeam

Interesting piece at CinemaTech about Disney's foray into simultaneous release strategies - for DVD and Video-On-Demand - NOT theatrical (at the moment).

http://cinematech.blogspot.com/2006/02/in-depth-look-at-moviebeam_114006641894230607.html

You have to BUY A BOX to get this service and it only works as a "download" device with your television. It's not a "Tivo-like" technology (no pausing, rewinding, recording, etc.). I don't think this is going to fly with consumers. I think it's a great step in the right direction (and smart on Disney's part), but having to buy a $200 box to go with your other $200 Tivo, $150 DVD player, your old VCR and (soon) your new HD DVD player - I don't see MovieBeam fitting in based on it's limited capablities and cost.

Read the article though and see what you think.

-Blake

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Chris Penn 1965-2006

Man, I hadn't heard about this. I'm very saddened by Chris Penn's death:

http://www.eonline.com/News/Items/0,1,18352,00.html

-Blake

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"Bubble" Fails to Rock Tinseltown

Interesting article about the day-and-date release of Steven Soderbergh's new film "Bubble" and why it didn't have much effect on Hollywood or the viewing public...

http://www.wired.com/news/technology/0,70202-0.html?tw=wn_index_4

My personal opinion is it didn't do much business because it was a bad movie. I still can't believe some of the critics like Rogert Ebert called "Bubble" a masterpiece! This has got to make him loose considerable credit among film folks and especially general audiences. Maybe he saw a different movie that I did (see my earlier post)???

I do like the day-and-date concept though. Especially for indie films (and perhaps all films one day)...

-Blake

[via CinemaTech]

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Oscar Roundtable: Prize Fighters

Fun and insightful interview with the five nominated Best Directors for this year's Oscars...




Speilberg for "Munich"
Clooney for "Good Night, Good luck"
Haggis for "Crash"
Miller for "Capote"
Lee for "Brokeback Mountain"





http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/11077661/site/newsweek/

-Blake

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Home Video Profit Growth to be Flat in 2006

This is interesting stuff. Plays right into the ongoing debate about new distribution models. I've made some text bold to emphasize statements...

According to a recent report issued by investment bank Goldman Sachs, the four major media conglomerates will see zero profit growth in the home entertainment marketplace in 2006, and a high-single-digit decline in total home video revenue for 2007, Gamedailybiz.com reports. The report describes several important factors regarding the rapid decline:

1. DVD players penetration will be at 79.7% next year, reducing the number of "library builders."

2. Late adopters are less likely to purchase large number of DVDs.

3. The quality of releases will decrease as much of the quality titles in the studio's back catalogs are exploited.

4. With demand waning at the box office, sales of new release DVDs may also suffer at retail.

5. Sales growth from new formats will be hampered by format disputes.

We believe that these factors will also contribute to DVD profit growth decline:

1. Downward pricing pressures will squeeze margins -- the average price per disc in the typical multi-disc set has fallen from around $20 dollars per disc in 2000 to approx. $8 per disc today. Due to the sheer number of buying options available to the consumer, DVDs are quickly becoming a commodity product.

2. Shady marketing tactics will turn off customers -- continually reissuing titles to fleece and re-fleece consumers (aka "double dipping") has become rampant in the business. Some studios are getting lazy and simply changing the packaging without adding any value. This tactic is merely hastening the onset of buyer fatigue. Studios should embrace the notion of high-value special editions (like the Criterion Collection) which results in brand loyalty and repeat purchases.

3. Much like they did with music five years ago, consumers will quickly become accustomed to owning digital versions of video content.

Just look at the year over year decline in packaged music sales (and the rampant growth in digital music sales) and there's no question in anyone's mind where this business is headed.

Naysayers who think that the era is "five years away" should take a hard, fast look at the 1,000,000 video downloads at iTunes over a 20 day period last month. Apple, or some other company, will likely come on board with an Ipod-like device to carry hundreds of hours of HD-quality video that can be jacked right into a TV set. Those companies who don't get their digital ducks in a row will be on a raft of unsold DVD product floating in a sea of red ink by the end of 2007.

As I've posted previously, I do think downloadable movies will be the norm sooner than later - especially when you can play them on a portable device, a computer, and most importantly on a real television with a high quality image (preferably HD).

-Blake

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"Killing Down" Update

Just a quick update on the final stages of post on "Killing Down"...

Sound design is moving forward. Should have an ADR list soon and will be scheduling the necessary actors for this. For those that don't know - ADR is also called "looping". It's where new dialogue is recorded either to replace original bad audio, or to add a line to help the story. Also, the score is underway and I'm excited to hear what composer Roy Machado has in store. We're going for a "Latin" feel throughout (since the story centers on events that happened in Nicaragua).

While the sound and music are being finalized, we're also working on the "online" version of the movie. This is being done on a very high-end finishing system called Avid DS Nitris. This is not going as smoothly as I had hoped, but we are making progress (more updates on this later). Next step is to marry the new sound (when it's finished) with the online picture and finally output for color correction (TBA on where we're doing this).

So, we're getting close, but not quite there. I should know more in another three weeks or so as to when the movie will be totally finished. It's a long process - especially in the indie world! :)

-Blake

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Make your Own Version of a Movie

Got this from the Camcorder Info blog:

Here’s an interesting idea: movies that you can remix yourself. Michela Ledwidge made a short sci-fi film called Sanctuary, but she wants to take it a step further. In February, she’ll be offering up all of the film that she shot, the sound effects, the storyboards and other production documents and allowing others to make their own version of the film: the director describes it as a “re-mixable live action graphic novel”. The stuff isn’t available yet, but you can register as being interested for when it is. It will be released under a creative commons license, so you can chop or change it as much as you like, and even use it in your own (non-commercial) films.

This is a great idea: I’ve watched loads of films that have inspired me (either by being very good or very bad), and it would be a fascinating to try and make my own version. I'll be posting more on this as the project develops.


I too think this is a cool idea. Especially for folks learning filmmaking or seasoned pros wanting to refine and test their skills. Plus it might just be fun!

-Blake

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Waterborne: A movie debut success on Google Video?

Got this from the CinemaTech blog:
http://cinematech.blogspot.com/2006/02/waterborne-movie-debut-success-on.html

I'm very interested and excited about this new distribution model. It could (and probably will) really democratize indie filmmaking and distribution. If you haven't heard about this or checked it out do so.

Google Video is offering downloadable full-screen size movies that can be bought or rented for the day. Prices vary, but it looks like $3.99 is a purchase price and $0.99 is a rental price (it's up to the filmmaker if I understand correctly). Google hosts the video files on their servers and takes a cut for this service.

My guess is Apple will be doing this soon too in the iTunes music fashion, but for movies. Although, they'll probably be offering "Hollywood" films more than indies (at least in the beginning). Google offers both right now. The content is fairly limited, and the quality is not the greatest - but it's pretty darn good.

I watched the first 20 minutes of "Waterborne" and was pretty impressed with the streaming image quality (and the movie was pretty good too). But once the resolution improves (and bandwidth) and more and more folks have the capability to download movies and then play them on their televisions - instead of only their computers - then this distribution model will rock. It's not far away now. Give it another year or so and I think this will be the norm, especially for folks already enjoying the video iPod watching first run TV shows, etc.

I'm definitely watching this trend closely and will quite possibly release my first two feature films ("Thugs" and "Hit") in this manner. We'll see what happens...

-Blake

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Indie Horror Film Spawns "Real Life" Horror

Man, I've always heard people will kill to get in this business... I didn't know they really meant it?

CENTRAL PA. - A first-time filmmaker was burning with ambition to make a blockbuster horror movie — the next "Blair Witch Project." Blaine Norris hoped his small film would really hit it big. And that's when this Hollywood dream turned into the worst kind of nightmare: The cameraman's wife was stabbed to death. But this was no random killing. Was someone willing to commit murder, just to make a movie?

Read the full story at MSNBC:
http://msnbc.msn.com/id/10950068/

And check out a documentary made about the movie & murder:
http://www.toddklick.com/roughcut/roughcut.html

-Blake

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Panasonic HVX200 (new HD camera)

Most detailed and best article I've seen on this new HD camera...

http://www.videosystems.com/mag/video_handson_hvx/index.html

-Blake

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Steven Soderbergh Interview

GREAT interview with Steven Soderbergh about "Bubble", new distribution trends, his early films, his recent films, his influences, post-production, HD video, new camera technologies, his favorite TV shows, etc... you name it and this interview has it! Enjoy...

http://www.studiodaily.com/filmandvideo/currentissue/5973.html

-Blake

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Robert Altman's New HD Movie

This is an interesting Q&A with Robert Altmans's son (Robert Reed Altman) who is a camera operator on his dad's movies. This is from HD Studio:







60-Second Q&A:

Acclaimed director Robert Altman's new feature film, A Prairie Home Companion, was captured on Sony F-900 HD cameras and three different Fujinon HAe10x10 (10-100mm T1.8) and two HAe5x6 (6mm to 30mmT1.8) HD zooms. Clairmont Camera supplied the HAe10x10 lenses while Fletcher Chicago provided the HAe5x6 lenses.

Altman's son, Robert Reed Altman, served as the A-camera operator (along with Pete Diazzi), and said his father chose HD video for this production because he wanted to shoot for 30 minutes straight without re-loading. The final scenes in the film range up to 23 minutes in length. Some of the environments, such as on the stage and backstage make-up rooms, involved lower lighting levels, which Robert said was another reason why Sony's HDCAM video cameras worked so well for this shoot.

The total shoot took six weeks in and around St. Paul, Minn. The HD video was transferred to film at Technicolor's facility in New York. Ed Lachman, ASC, served as DP while Ryan Sheridan was HD Engineer on the set.

Q: Being such a well-known film director, why did your dad shoot in HD?

A: We did The Company in HD back in 2003 because there were long dance scenes in it. We find that HD allows us to experiment with longer scenes and not have to worry about film stock. He decided to do the same thing on Prairie Home Companion so that he could shoot long takes. One scene was 9 pages long (about 23 minutes). We used four Sony cameras that were supplied by Panavision for The Company because we wanted the renders to match between the cameras, but we were not happy with the results. So we did a lot of research for this movie and chose the Sony F900s tied to two SRW-1 HDCAM SR VTRs, which allowed us to capture more information on the tape. We used two cameras most of the time and three for some of the scenes. My dad also liked the quality of the image of the Fujinon lenses and the wide zoom range that they provided us with. He likes to zoom in on his subjects a lot.

Q: How did this production differ from a traditional film set?

A: The whole film was shot on a stage in a theater or outdoors, so we were shooting at very low light level range. We think HD works a lot better than film in low light situations. Other than that, were able to be a lot more mobile than usual because we were using an Evertz fiber-optic cable system (configured by Clairmont Camera) that connected each camera to a centrally controlled engineering station where the DIT sat. This cut down the number of cables in the set to from about 15 to a single cable, which made a big difference between this shoot and the Company shoot. Another difference [was] my dad used two large 20-inch Sony monitors on set to watch the output of both cameras as we were shooting. He also had a mic which he used to talk us through the scenes. It was much better than watching a small video assist screen like we usually have on a film set. And it saved us a lot of time in post because we got what we wanted on the set.

Q: How did the Sony F900s perform?

A: They were great. We did a bunch of tests and realized that shooting in 4:2;2 was fine for what we needed. The nice thing was we could record video in the camera as well as to the SWR-1s at the same time. This gave us our dailies and a back-up tape in the camera. The SWR-1 tape became our master because you get one-third of the color information on the deck while you get about one seventh of the color on the tape inside the camera. This allowed us to produce the best image possible with the Sony cameras.

Cool stuff. I never saw "The Company" (my girlfriend did though and said she didn't like it - and since it was about a dance company and she didn't like it - I could only imagine I wouldn't), but I find it interesting that it was shot on HD. I don't recall hearing that at the time. I'm always glad when I hear of an A-List Hollywood director choosing to shoot on HD, thus making it more acceptable in the eyes of distributors, the public, etc.

Altman films though are always hit or miss in my opinion. I loved "The Player" and enjoyed "Mash" (sort of), but a lot of his other films don't do much for me. Nonetheless I do think he is an innovative director and I'm very glad to see him embracing the HD revolution. Slowly but surely we're getting there...

-Blake

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Grizzly Man

A few nights ago I Tivo'd the broadcast premiere of Werner Herzog's "Grizzly Man" on the Discovery Channel.

I just had time to watch it last night and it is a really interesting documentary. I'm surprised it got snubbed at the Oscars (of course I am also surprised that "Three Burials" was snubbed too).

Anyway, if you get a chance to see this doc definitely check it out. It's not at all what you think it is.

Yes, it is about a guy living amongst bears in the Alaska wilderness who gets killed by the bears he loved - BUT it's a whole lot more. It's a mystery, it's a character study into the state of this guy's mind, and it's a story about finding something in life that really makes you happy.

I highly recommend this film.

-Blake

UPDATE: There's a lot of buzz on the web about this doc being a fake. Kind of like "The Blair Witch Project". I don't buy into that camp, but there are some odd things that aren't explained very well by the film.

For instance, Tim lives in the Alaska wilderness for many months at a time in only a tent with very limited supplies - so how did he charge his video camera batteries? Also, how did he keep his food away from the bears and other critters (and have enough with him for months on end)? I also read an article that said he had a satellite phone on at least his last trip - again, how did he keep this charged? Also, in the documentary a lot of the "scenes" were obviously staged and the real folks involved were trying to act or recite lines given to them by the director. This was done to add drama and interest to the film, but it did come off as "bad acting", which helps fuel the fire that this documentary is not real.

If this is a fake, it's the best PR job I've ever seen. I mean, Tim Treadwell went on the David Letterman show and was also on Rosie O'Donnell's show. He was a real guy. So there would have to have been a lot of people involved to pull this off. I don't believe that it was a fake. It was and is a real story and a real documentary, but there are some very strange things involved that keep you guessing. Kind of makes it more fun actually! :)

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Oscar Trailers from Apple

This is pretty cool...

Apple has ALL the Oscar nominated films on one page where you can watch the movie trailers and listen to the sound tracks, etc... GREAT marketing on their part and also nice for people to have easy access to the stuff.

http://www.apple.com/trailers/awards/2005/

-Blake

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Other Cool Blogs

Check out the new links on the sidebar to other HD and film related blogs that I read. They are very informative and often entertaining (Cuban can be especially entertaining)...

http://www.hdforindies.com/
http://www.blogmaverick.com/
http://freshdv.com/
http://cinematech.blogspot.com/

-Blake

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Movie Review: Three Burials...

What does Tommy Lee Jones' directorial debut "The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada" have to do with my new film "KIlling Down"? Well, they were both primarily shot in Texas, they both were made by Texas filmmakers, and they both feature a great performance by Texas-based actor Julio Cedillo.

Last night was the Texas premiere of the movie at the Angelika Theater in Dallas and Julio was in attendance (and I was there as one of his invited guest - thank you very much Julio!).

Let me first say that I had no idea what to expect from this film. I have been following it for a while though. When I first cast Julio in "Killing Down" he was wrapping "Three Burials" (this was in the fall of 2004). So I was introduced to the film then, but really didn't have many details on the project. The only real tidbits Julio shared were his experiences living on Tommy Lee Jones' ranch for four months of his life (in Van Horn, Texas near El Paso) - and his time spent with Tommy and the cast and crew. So I knew little of the story except for what I had read on the Internet (which wasn't much).


In May 2005 the film played at the Cannes Film Festival in France and ended up winning two awards - one for Tommy Lee Jones as best actor and the other for best screenplay by Guillermo Arriaga.

So, I got the scoop on the screening there (very cool stuff) - Julio attended the festival with Tommy Lee Jones and gang - but I still didn't really know much about the movie itself. I had heard it was a story about friendship and redemption, but you could say this about a lot of movies.

After Cannes, a trailer was finally posted online and I checked it out. The original trailer almost played like "Three Burials" was an action movie... I asked Julio about it and he said the trailer didn't really represent what the movie was about. But, the trailer was good nonetheless. Just before the Christmas holidays I saw a different version of the trailer that showed more of the real depth of the film and more of the real story. So now, all these months later, I was finally getting an idea of what the film was about.

Boy, was I wrong.

The movie starts out with the discovery of Melquiades' body being eaten by coyotes. So you know right off the bat that he was killed, but by who?

The story then unfolds in a non-linear fashion. We're introduced to Pete Perkins (Tommy Lee Jones) and to sheriff Belmont (Dwight Yoakam) as they find out about the killing. Pete is Melquiades good friend and employer (we learn this through a series of flashbacks peppered throughout the first half of the film) and wants to know who killed him. Belmont doesn't really seem to care who killed him and ventures to call Melquiades just another dead "wetback". I couldn't decide if the sheriff was just an asshole, or if was just stupid. Probably a little of both.

Mixed into the discovery of the body and Pete trying to find the killer, we're introduced to Mike Norton (Barry Pepper) and his wife Lu Ann (January Jones). They've just moved into town from Cincinnati. Mike has a new job with the Border Patrol.

The couple buys a new mobile home (in a great scene with a very funny salesman) and tries to settle into their new life. It's obvious they are not happy. Not just with their new surroundings, but with their life in general (i.e. marriage). But they are here for Mike's new job. A job that I'm not sure he likes either. Most of the time he sits alone in his Border Patrol truck looking at dirty magazines. When he does get a call to confront some illegal border crossers he completely over reacts and beats the hell out of a couple Mexicans. It appears he's taking his aggressions out on them.

The two stories collide when we learn that Mike was the person who killed Melquiades (this is NOT a spoiler by the way - it's actually known in the trailer). From here the story gets quite interesting.

Pete wants the sheriff to arrest Mike. He won't do it and tells Pete to just let it go. So Pete decides to take matters into his own hands. He kidnaps Mike at gunpoint and takes him on an insane journey (on horseback) to bury Melquiades in his home town in Jimenez, Mexico.

I don't want to give away any more of the story here, but suffice it to say the journey is a wild one.

The thing that surprised me the most about this movie was how funny it was. I mean laugh-out-loud funny moments. The dialog and the situations. I did not expect that at all coming from a movie like this. And it was my favorite kind of humor - dark. A black comedy treat!

Tommy Lee Jones is a funny guy. His rough exterior even makes him more funny. He showed this off very well in "Men In Black" and continues it here (only a lot darker in this film). But it wasn't just Tommy Lee Jones' character Pete - all the characters had their moments. Like when sheriff Belmont was just about to shoot Pete (as he was riding away on horseback through a canyon with his kidnap victim Mike). He aims his rifle, feels the trigger... Then can't shoot him. He's laid out on his back on top of some cliff surrounded by desert landscape - and his cellphone rings - pulling him and everyone out of the tense moment. I enjoy tense situations with sly humor (a lot like Tarantino movies). Good stuff!

And speaking of good... Julio does a great job in the film. Virtually all his scenes are in the flashbacks of the story. And almost all his lines are in Spanish (some people who have seen the movie don't realize he's actually American and speaks perfect English in real life!). For the rest of the movie his corpses is being carried on a horse or set on fire or dumped in a makeshift grave. Think "Weekend at Bernie's" in a desert (although not slapstick comedy of course). But when he's "alive" Julio is very, very convincing as Pete's good friend. They have a lot of chemistry and you believe they share a tight bond.

So, In the end, this movie is about friendship and redemption. It's about the bond that two friends can share for each other. The love if you will. I've read some reviews of this film saying there were "homosexual" undertones to Pete's fondness of Melquiades. This is ridiculous. Obviously these critics are confusing this film with another cowboy movie out there that is about gay love - but this one is NOT (or they're trying to justify the other movie by saying - "Hey, look, this film has gay cowboys too!" - of course not true at all).

"The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada" is about brotherhood. It's about forgiveness. And it's about redeeming yourself as you figure out what's good in life. And, it's damn funny!

Check out this film. It definitely made my life better.

-Blake

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Hands On Review: JVC ProHD Camera

Today I shot with the new JVC ProHD camera - actual model number is GY-HD100U. This is one of the several new HDV cameras on the market (others are from Sony and Canon, and Panasonic has a new 1/3" HD camera - similar specs to HDV).

This is my third time to work with the camera, but my first time to shoot with it. The first time we were capturing footage into an Avid, and the second time I helped set the camera up for a shoot, but did not actually do the shooting.

So anyway, on to the review...


The shoot today was really an ENG style shoot - I used available light and shot handheld. You could also call this "documentary style". This was a good way to "test" because A LOT of news, corporate video, indie films, etc. are shot this way.

To start off the camera is very sturdy and well built. I like the feel of it a lot (I should mention that I own the GY-DV500, which was the 1st DV-based "full size" camera on the market back in 2000, and I've been very happy with it over the years). The camera rests on your shoulder easily like a "real" camera. This is crucial to me when shooting handheld. A lot of the smaller prosumer cameras don't rest on your shoulder at all - you have to hold it out away from your body while shooting and your arm can definitely get tired.

The controls on the camera itself are nicely laid out and easy to find for the most part. They remind me of a watered down version of my DV500 (or a Betacam) with the white balance switch (with A, B and Preset), an ND filter (but no color temperature filter wheel), a gain switch, etc. One thing I don't like is there is no switch for the color bars - you have to turn these on through the menu (although there are User settings and I bet you can configure one to do this).

Speaking of the menu - it is easy to navigate if you have any experience at all using menu controls on any of these type cameras. It felt fairly intuitive to me. There are quite a lot of settings too, which is a good thing.

For this project I shot HDV 30p (the camera has a variety of SD choices too). I could've shot 24p, but to date no NLE will ingest the 720p24 footage over FireWire. This will change at NAB 2006 though.

My only real complaint during the shooting was that I do NOT like the viewfinder or the LCD flip out monitor. Neither one of them has very good image quality. They both looked kind of desaturated and focusing was a slight issue too. I hope on a future version they'll improve at least the viewfinder - maybe a higher end LCD with TFT display? They both definitely need to be better.

Oh, and the other thing is that the supplied battery sucked! It's a standard battery like you'd see with an XL1 or any Sony/Panasonic camera. Although it was the bigger size and it ONLY lasted 30 minutes! JVC is offering an IDX battery solution though (for free right now I think) that will remedy this - and I know Anton Bauer makes a rig for the camera too. Just be forewarned - you'll need to upgrade to the larger battery system!

Got back to my office and fired up the Sony LMD23WS HD monitor to view the footage. I watched it from the component HD outputs of the camera. Overall the footage looked pretty good. A lot better than I thought actually since it didn't look especially good in the viewfinder. Most of the stuff was in focus too! :)

In the future I will need to turn off the "detail" in the camera. I noticed the edges looked too electronic (to harsh, not soft enough). Also, quick pans or tilts caused some interesting effects. On pans the image looked like it was "stuttering with blended fields". I know this sounds weird - especially since I shot in 30p and not 24p. But it was definitely there. I think it has something to do with a JVC camera function that "smoothes" out jaggies. Not sure if I like the look. Might turn this off in the future too. Tilting caused these slight "bands" to appear and then disappear when the camera stopped. Not sure if it was just on my monitor (it is an LCD) of if it was generated by the camera. Either way, I don't like it. Although it was subtle and not near as noticeable as the panning issue.

Even with these image issues the camera produces some excellent results - especially when you consider it's only a $6000 camera. If you read the DV.com article (I posted earlier) on the HD shootout you'll find that the JVC stood it's ground nicely against the other competitors.


I personally think this is a really good camera choice for several reasons, but especially because you can change the lens (using 35mm film lenses) - and it has true 24p capabilities. Mandatory for shooting narrative films (the only other camera in this price range with 24p is the Panasonic).

I look forward to seeing the next version of this camera - hopefully at NAB 2006. I should be in the market for a camera then. :)

-Blake


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10 Year Old Indian Boy Directs Feature Film

Interesting story from Yahoo! News. Heck, at 10 I was watching movies, not making them! Pretty amazing....

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20060130/film_nm/india_bollywood_boy_dc

-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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