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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How Do I Break Into Hollywood?

THE eternal question for us "outsiders" - by screenwriter John August:

http://johnaugust.com/archives/2006/how-do-i-break-into-hollywood

I love his ending quote...

So I’d ask everyone to disabuse themselves of the idea of “breaking into Hollywood.” It’s not like pledging a fraternity, losing one’s virginity, or pulling off a heist. It’s just getting a job, which is boring and real, and difficult enough without any inflated imagery.

Have a great Memorial Day Weekend!

-Blake

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Decisions...Decisions....

In all the films I've made - short films and feature films - there comes a point in the process where you have to decide if it is "done" - and this is a very subjective term.












One person's idea of a great film is another person's idea of something awful. That's one reason (among many) that making a good movie is sooooooo hard to do ("good" being subjective of course). Even the "best" films have parts people don't like. In the end you simply can't make everyone happy. So you just have to make the best film you can taking into consideration the opinions of folks you trust (by doing preview screenings early and often).

I just saw an interview with Ron Howard and Brian Grazer at Cannes where they talked about the fact that they didn't do any early public press screenings of "The Da Vinci Code" - or any public test screenings. The key word here is "public".

Ron Howard says he had at least 10 advance screenings of the movie - all done in private though - and several of them at his house for about 25 or so people. He would get folks he could trust not only to not talk about the film, but to relay HONEST opinions about the movie. Not sure how well this worked of course based on the early critical response to the film (although it's doing gangbusters at the box office).

We've only had one truly public screening for "Killing Down" (so far) and the response was very good. I did have three private preview screenings along the way for some key cast and crew - and we fixed several problems and made things better.

Getting feedack is crucial. But, you have to take some with a grain of salt. Again, it's all very subjective. Generally speaking, if I have at least three people say the same thing I'll take a look at it and likely change it. For instance, if three people say a scene is slow, I will often times take a look at it and tighten it up. Sometimes I won't. But I do listen to the feedback.

Right now "Killing Down" is not done in the true sense of the word. As mentioned in previous post - we're still finishing the score, sound design, a few visual effects and the final color correction. However, after screening the film (and showing it to a few other folks since then) I do feel I want to make the film tighter too.

So when is done "done"? Maybe never. Look at George Lucas revising "Star Wars" 20 years later. Heck, I'm considering adding a scene back into my last feature "Hit" for the DVD release we're doing later this summer (I'll speak to this in more detail in another post). But for "Killing Down"? I'm not sure. I just want the film to be as good as I can make it. Subjectively speaking of course...

-Blake

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Quick "KD" Update

Still coming down from the high of the premiere at the USA Film Festival... it was a really good screening and I can't say enough how thankful I am to Mike Bird at MLD Equipment Rental and Doug Thompson at Sound Ideas for their help securing an HDCAM deck and a kick-ass 8000 Lumens DLP projector. Cool stuff!

The projector throw to the screen was 103 feet and the screen was just shy of 60 feet across!!! The HD held up great and it really looked amazing.

Funny thing - and I know for a lot of folks might already know this - but it's wild how much stuff you see on the big screen, especially in HD. I noticed all kinds of "imperfections" that on my 19" NTSC monitor I NEVER saw, and even on a 19" Ikegami HD monitor (a $15,ooo one at that) I really didn't see.

You always hear of Hollywood DPs and directors (and higher end indies too) wanting to screen their dailies and later their offline edits on the big screen and now I really understand why. It's just never been a real option for me. Best I've ever screened on the big screen is DigiBeta, even when we shot 16mm (it was transferred to DigiBeta). So standard def didn't really translate many bad things, but HD, woah... a completely different animal.

Okay, so to the update... we're just waiting on the last few VFX shots to be tweaked and then we're off to Austin and Color Cafe (colorist Omar Godinez's new company). We are doing a quasi-digital intermediate for our color grading using FinalTouch HD. Omar has over 20 years experience on the DaVinci and other high-end systems and has recently opened his own boutique shop using this new desktop software. I compare it to the way desktop NLEs have taken over and virtually eliminated the big linear online suites. One day the desktop DI suites will rule (and they're really starting to come on strong now actually).

The other thing we have left is the music. Our composer has a few more cues to create and then we'll do the final sound mix. This will be a lot of work (and a lot of fun though).

HOPEFULLY, these final things will be done in the next 4 to 6 weeks. Then our plans are to have an industry screening (or two) in Los Angeles for acquisition execs, etc. We'll post all future screenings here and on the main "Killing Down" website.

One other thing too - I should have more pix from the USA Film Festival screening and after party uploaded soon. I've had lots of request for more Natalie Raitano shots! :)

-Blake

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FAILURE Is An Option

I read this today and thought it was very well stated, and I completely agree with the idea. You only really learn about yourself through your failures. And you won't fail if you don't take risks....

From Jacques Thelemaque at withoutabox.com:

My suggestion to you can be summed up in a word - FAIL!

More precisely, give yourself permission to fail. As I've said in previous Enotes, the best way to create awareness for yourself as a filmmaker is by doing brilliantly distinctive work. And the best way to evolve to and exist in that space is to give yourself permission to fail. Like many of my comments, this plea to you may seem insultingly obvious. But I go to a lot of festivals and see a lot of films. Many are very professional, very competent, but very safe - been-there/done-that kinda work. While I often admire the production value in such films, there is nothing about them that allows me to remember one second of them (or the filmmakers who made them).

Those filmmakers need to embrace risk, and therefore, failure. They should, in fact, try to fail. Then there's no going wrong because if you fail to fail, you've succeeded. Make sense? Probably not, but you get the idea. Failure is part of life and especially inescapable in terms of invention - creative or otherwise. If you aren't failing, you aren't taking risks, and therefore not growing creatively. Also, the sense of creative freedom that giving yourself permission to fail gives you is immensely satisfying in and of itself.

And how do we come to a consensus definition of failure? We don't. One person's failure is another's stroke of genius. Creative failure is simply whatever isn't working for YOU after you've tried it out, which gives you the opportunity to learn from it, clean it up or try something new - perhaps something even more daring and exciting. There are so many of you filmmakers out there with jaw-dropping skill that once that skill is married to the original ideas that embracing failure will bring to you, your films will be, quite simply, AMAZING!

Again, I totally agree with this and highly suggest taking creative risks!

-Blake

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Musings From Francis Ford Coppola

Take a moment to read the diary entries from Coppola on the website for his new film (first film he's done in NINE years)...

http://www.ywyfilm.com/

This takes you to the home page. From there click on "Diary" at the top of the page, and then you'll see his several entries.

Interestingly, this is not about the making of the film or really even about the film. It's about youth and how some artists never live up to the great work they did when they were young.

He mentions many folks, but he's obviously referring to himself too. He gets a pass though (for his later work) in my book when you have The Godfather, The Godfather II, The Conversation, and Apocalypse Now on your resume. :)

One guy he doesn't mention that came to my mind is Orson Welles?

From his site:

I've been thinking about what seems to be a repeating pattern: artists who distinguish themselves when they are young, and then never can quite reach those levels again. There are many examples, especially in literature, the theater, and of course in film.

...I've begun to think that the only sensible way to deal with this dilemma is to become young again, to forget everything I know and try to have the mind of a student. To re-invent myself by forgetting I ever had any film career at all, and instead to dream about having one.

Go ahead, click the link above and read the entire thing. It's good.

-Blake

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All Digital All The Time

Cool story from Yahoo about a movie theater in San Diego that is showing ALL their movies this weekend DIGITALLY. Even the new "Mission Impossible III". That's pretty impressive and very exciting...

UltraStar Cinemas -- the first and largest theater chain in the nation to be 100 percent equipped with digital cinema capabilities -- marks another industry milestone this Friday, May 5, with the digital release of Paramount Pictures' "MISSION IMPOSSIBLE III." UltraStar's TownGate 8 in Moreno Valley, CA, will become the first in the world to have all screens showing films utilizing digital projection.

Read the entire article (reads more like a press release in reality, and it probably is):

http://biz.yahoo.com/bw/060502/20060502005849.html?.v=1

-Blake

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Texas Motion Picture Alliance

If you work in the Texas film business (or would like to or have thought about shooting here) on either side of the camera take a minute to check out this new organization - they need people to register and help spread the word...

TEXAS MOTION PICTURE ALLIANCE
http://www.txmpa.org/

(from their website)

Statement of Purpose

An organization of organizations, The Texas Motion Picture Alliance (TMPA), is currently being formed to significantly bolster and expand the existing infrastructure of the film/video production industry in the State of Texas. Its purpose is to support the creation of financial incentives to producers of all such media both from within and outside of the state.

The organization intends to accomplish this via funded legislative means as a result of the combined efforts of all subsequent participants in the TMPA. The potential gains to be realized by the Texas economy in establishing such incentives will amount to hundreds of millions of dollars and their impact will touch virtually every sector of business within the state.

Regional Meetings and the Statewide Leadership Meetings are being organized and will be opened to the officers, board members and designated representatives of ALL organizations that stand to benefit for the objectives of the alliance.

Each area film commission or appointee by the Texas Film Commission will organize Regional Meetings. These will precede the Statewide Leadership meeting so that all will be better prepared for the task at hand.

The seven regions are currently:

a) Austin
b) Dallas
c) El Paso
d) Houston
e) Rio Grand Valley
f) San Antonio
g) Texas Panhandle

This might sound kinda boring to you and very "business like", and well, it is. Remember of course that it's called "Show BUSINESS" and this is what really makes a film a reality.

All this stuff is very important to the future of filmmaking in Texas and actually the Texas economy in general, so please take a look and register if you want to help out.

I'll try and get more details soon too to further explain what the organization does and how you can help.

-Blake

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Soderbergh: Burn, Hollywood, Burn

Interesting story from Wired covering a panel at the Tribeca Film Festival callled "Downloading at a Theater Near You". The main panelist were Steven Soderbergh and Todd Wagner (who I blog about often).

"The economic model of the film business is broken," said Oscar-winning director Steven Soderbergh during a panel discussion Monday night...

"We learned this from the music industry -- you've got to give the people what they want or they'll figure out how to get from other means," Wagner said. "People like Steve Jobs (now the largest shareholder at Disney) will turn one revenue stream into three revenue streams. We need to rethink and get creative about how to exploit revenue streams in the digital (filmmaking) world."

Read the entire piece:
http://www.wired.com/news/culture/0,70795-0.html

-Blake

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USA Fest Pictures Round 1

Here's the first round of pictures from the festival screening and the after party. More to follow soon....















Natalie Raitano and Sheree Wilson in the theater
















About 25 minutes before screening in the 500 seat theater (picture doesn't do much justice - it was a HUGE theater)















Julio Cedillo and Oliver Tull before the screening















From L to R... Matthew Tompkins, Brett Miller (Sheree's boyfriend), Sheree Wilson, Julio Cedillo and Oliver Tull at the after party on the rooftop near downtown Dallas
















From L to R... Blake Calhoun, Natalie Raitano and Sheree Wilson in the loft at the after party
















View of downtown Dallas from the rooftop after party
















From L to R... Mara, John (friends of mine) and Natalie Raitano


More pix will be uploaded over the next several days...

-Blake

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USA Film Festival Wrap-up

The premiere went great last night. Thank you to everyone who attended the screening. The 500 seat sell-out was incredible!

I'll post pictures and some press soon from the event.

If you didn't make the screening, we will be taking the movie to Los Angeles sometime in the near future. I'll post info on that as well.

Right now, I gotta get some rest. I'm exhausted. :)

-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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