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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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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