OT: Dallas Dust

Is this Iraq? Nope. It's Dallas. We had a major dust storm a few days ago. Eerie, eerie shots...


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Bambi Vs. Godzilla

Interesting and funny interview with David Mamet about his new book (about the movie business) called "Bambi Vs. Godzilla".

Here's an excerpt...

Warner: You love movies but seem to hate the movie business.

Mamet: I don't hate the movie business. I'm fascinated by the movie business. It's the only absolutely essential intersection in the history of mankind between art and commerce. You could paint the picture and sell it or not. You can put on plays in your backyard. But you have to have a distribution process for movies.

Warner: You have a special contempt for producers. What makes them so despicable?

Mamet: Everybody is a producer in Hollywood, and there are a lot of people who produce nothing.

Warner: Screenwriters seem to be dispensable in Hollywood, or even interchangeable. Why is there so little regard for them?

Mamet: A lot of people in the business end loathe screenwriters because it looks like they aren't doing much of anything. And if they do it well, it looks like anybody can do it.

Definitely check it out. I'm planning on buying the book too.


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Quote of the Year (so far)

In relation to viral video success (from the Cinematech blog)...

"Anybody can become famous for 15 megabytes."


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The Status of No-Budget Filmmaking

Filmmaker Magazine has a good article in their "Industry Beat" section about the status of no-budget filmmaking...

"With digital-video cameras, credit cards and Final Cut Pro, any aspiring director can make a movie for $100,000. But few producers can earn a living helping directors make these no-budget productions. "

"This month, for example, InDigEnt, the eight-year-old low-budget production arm famous for its digital output and profit-sharing model, officially closed shop. "

I thought (and actually still think) the InDigEnt model can work. The idea was to make these no-budget movies - although most of thier's ended up being $300K or more - and make everyone, that's EVERYONE, on the cast & crew owners of the film. They all share in the future profits. In return, everyone works for very low wages - including any name acting talent.

My personal opinion is the reason InDigEnt didn't work out was their recent slate of films. They may have been "too indie" - if that makes sense. It's been said before, but this is show business, and that means that more "commercial" films will likely do better in the marketplace. Now understand, I'm now talking "selling out" or anything like that. I'm just talking more mainstream stories, etc. will do better. InDigEnt's most successful films were Tadpole, Pieces of April and Personal Velocity. All very much indie spirited projects, but with commercial sensibilities.

Definitely check out the article though, it's a good read and it does have a happy ending - much like most Hollywood movies. :)


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Matt Tompkins New Movie

Congrats to Matt Tompkins (the star of Killing Down) who just landed a co-starring role opposite Dolph Lundgren (pictured left) in the new Sony Pictures film Missionary Man.

The project shoots in Dallas for four weeks starting February 28th.


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An Inconvenient Movie

I'd been looking forward to seeing the Al Gore documentary "An Inconvenient Truth". Heard good things about it. Rented it from Netflix about two weeks ago, and it had been sitting around unwatched until last night.

Kinda wished it had stayed that way.

Well, maybe not. I'm glad I saw it to see what folks have been talking about. Of course I don't understand the praise. And BTW, I'm not talking politics here at all. Purely filmmaking.

This movie was a SNOOZE FEST. As boring of a film as I can honestly recall. My wife actually wanted to turn it off - but I rarely will do that - if ever. Once I start a movie I finish it.

If you haven't seen the film it shows Al Gore giving his "slide show" (his words, not mine) in front of a live audience. Then, inner cut throughout segments are these little "transitional pieces" of Al walking through airports, driving his car, sitting at his desk, etc. - all with voice over from Al. Is this supposed to be interesting or even remotely entertaining?

The subject of global warming is undoubtedly interesting. But could they have presented it in a more boring way? Come on. This is a MOVIE. Please make it visually interesting and at least partially entertaining. To me the best documentaries do just that. While I do not agree with much of what Michael Moore has to say, I do find him a good storyteller and filmmaker. He's stuff is at the very least presented in an entertaining way. Or take Morgan Spurlock's "Supersize Me". Again, a very engaging and interesting documentary that also entertained. Of course my favorite documentary filmmaker is Errol Morris. ALL of his films are very well done on every level. They are MOVIES. Anyone ever thinking of making a documentary should go a rent one of Errol's films ("The Fog of War", "Mr. Death", "The Thin Blue Line", etc.).

"An Inconvenient Truth" was just dull. I mean any Discovery Channel doc is better. Imagine listening to your 8th grade science teacher give a lecture and that's what this movie feels like.

My only guess as to why this film is getting lots of attention are the following:

1. Al Gore
2. The subject matter
3. Politics

Let's take them one at a time:

1. Al Gore should be renamed Al Bore. How can a man who has been in politics his entire life be such a boring and uninspiring public speaker? Now I really know why he lost the presidential race in 2000. At least Bush has a personality whether you agree with his politics or not. But Hollywood and the American left can't let go of his loss. And they want to honor him in any way they can. This is ironic of course. Remember oh, 20 years ago or so? Tipper Gore? Remember the recording industry's vitriol towards her (for the "censorship" labels on CDs) and indirectly at Al? Funny how things turn around. While I do think his intentions for this project are VERY NOBLE, I again just think it was a very failed attempt as a film (the director's fault).

2. Global warming is real. I do not doubt this at all. It's a good topic for a doc. And, I think this is a great thing to discuss and get solved. But, this movie does not do that. Sure, it shows lots of stuff that has happened over time - and it projects things that might happen in the future. But what this film does not do is tell us WHAT WE CAN DO TO HELP. In the ending credits it lists a handful of elementary things we can do to stop or reduce global warming. This list could have been created by a kindergarten kid. This is a huge filmmaking flaw on the director's part. Tell us what's happened; what's possibly going to happen if we don't fix things; and then tell us HOW to fix the problems (or at least what they think we should do).

3. This is a political hot potato, and really I don't think it should be. But it is nonetheless. So my belief is Hollywood will reward this film (and has been cheer leading it along the way) at the Oscars. This film in NO WAY SHAPE OR FORM deserves to be an Oscar contender. But it's a film that has political clout - especially on the left. And as most folks know Hollywood is very left leaning. And BTW, I have no problem with this at all. For me take politics completely out of the picture - this is just not a good movie. And should not be up for Oscar contention.

The best thing about this movie is that is has reignited the debate on global warming and hopefully our government and others around the world (it's not just us remember) will take action. This summer Al Gore is putting on a global concert to raise awareness on the topic - supposedly U2 will head line. Sounds kinda like a "Live Aid" concert. I'm sure every band will want to lend their talents to the event. I think this is a good idea.

My only hope is they keep Al behind the curtain so the show can somewhat entertaining.


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Killing Down in Indie Slate

There's a piece on Killing Down in the new issue of Indie Slate...

You can buy a copy at most Borders Books and Barnes & Noble. I haven't seen it yet myself, so I hope it's good (I did help write it after all). :)


UPDATE 2/20/07: Finally saw the article and it turned out very well. If you get a chance definitely check it out. I will try and get a PDF version of it and post either here on the blog or the main Killing Down website.

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Fissure on FOX

I've been helping consult on a indie film shooting in Dallas called Fissure. It's being directed by Russ Pond. They're first day of shooting they were visited by the local FOX affiliate for a story on Texas filmmaking and the lack of tax incentives (to help bring more productions here).

You may recall I was on a panel a few weeks back for TXMPA, an organization who is trying to get new tax incentives passed this year.

The video of the news story can be seen here.

If you look real close you might just see some crew from my last feature film Killing Down.


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My First P2 Experience (Part 1-The Shoot)

This article concerns my first job using P2 with me as producer/director/editor. I have worked on one other shoot as a shooter, but it wasn't my project - I was a hired gun - and all I did was shoot. I did not handle the P2 aspects involved.

If you don't know what P2 is then this info will likely not do much for you. But, if you're a filmmaker and been thinking about shooting P2 or been reading about it then my experience will be worth the read.

P2 of course is the new solid state recording format (fairly new anyway - been around just over a year or so) introduced by Panasonic. P2 is not tape. It is a memory card that replaces tape and allows instant access to recorded footage. The most common camera that shoots P2 is the HVX200, although there are several others now. The HVX is the $6000 "do anything" camera. It shoots virtually all flavors of video including 720p HD, 1080p HD, DVCPRO 50, and even Mini DV.

The biggest knock on P2 is that the largest capacity card is only 8GB. And they cost $1200 each. And they did cost $2000 when they first hit the market. Supposedly 16GB cards will come out at NAB this year (in April). This will be a good thing. Of course there are a few hard disk recorders available that offer plenty of room, but they do make the rig bulkier, etc.

8GB cards will give you 30 minutes of DV recording, 16 minutes of DVCPRO 50 recording (at 24p), and around the same for 720p HD (in the native 24p mode). There are obviously a lot of technical aspects that go into shooting with the HVX, and a lot of choices - but this article is reallly more about P2 - so that's where I am going to focus.

My two main concerns with P2 were and still are:

1. Shooting capacity
2. Archiving

The recent shoot I utilized P2 on was for a LASIK surgeon in Florida. My company was hired to produce two patient information videos and four 60 second TV spots. The patient info videos are mainly the doctor talking into the camera using teleprompter. Both these videos will be around 20 minutes long. Of course this means shooting probably two to three times that much footage (with flubs and redos, etc.).

For the patient videos we actually decided NOT to shoot on P2. The HVX will also record Mini DV to tape and due to the long running times we opted to go this route (and I'm very glad we did).

For the TV spots we shot on P2. These spots were made up of the doctor on camera and 12 different testimonials (that will pick soundbites from). We shot this stuff on P2 in 24p DVCPRO 50 (standard def). We decided to go SD instead of HD for post-production reasons.

As I mentioned earlier, you get 16 minutes of 24p DVCPRO 50 on a single card. So once that card is full you take it to the "download station" we created. This was made up of the Panasonic 60 gig P2 Store and a Mac G4 laptop with a 160GB external Lacie firewire drive.

We'd copy it to the Lacie drive first. This took just under one minute per gig - so about 7 minutes or so to copy. Then, we'd do a back-up copy to the P2 Store - this took about 10-12 minutes. So the total copy time was just shy of 20 minutes. We had two P2 cards. We really needed three. The overlap of copying and shooting caught up with us once or twice during the testimonial interviews. One person had to wait about 10 minutes while we copied the data.

But we had to do this. We had to make back-ups. This is vital and worth making someone wait. Remember, we're talking data here. If something goes wrong with the drive it is gone.

Other than those few instances the card swapping went well. The client very much enjoyed being able to play back a clip instantly. Then I enjoyed not having to worry about recording over something (if I forgot to cue the tape back up). No worries like that with P2.

In the end we shot around 70 gigs of footage. The shoot went well. I'd do it again. I've actually been considering a P2 camera or the Sony XDCAM HD setup. I like the idea of going tapeless, although it is a different way of thinking. So this was a good test (on someone else's dime too - can't beat that). :)

Now I'm starting my first post-production session with P2 using Avid Xpress Pro. Not sure the post side of things is going as well as the shoot. I'll report back soon with the results.


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New Project(s) News

I've mentioned here in the past a couple New Projects that I'm working on and one of them is coming together very well. The other one is moving forward, but there has been the usual hiccups along the way.

I don't want to give away too many details at this stage, mainly because if you're at all familiar with the film business you know everything can (and often does) fall apart.

I can say on New Project #1 (the one that is going very well) we have a first draft of the script done and we're now working on a 2nd pass. I'm very excited about the script (working with a good writer based in LA). All the content is there. This is the project that I optioned the Life Story Rights to a member of a famous Texas family. That's all I can say about that. So, again, the content is there... we're just trying to figure out the structure of the script. We do not want this to be a typical "boring" biopic: Hero is born, Hero lives and does something good/bad/crazy/exciting, then Hero dies, blah, blah, blah.

We want this to be interesting, emotional, engaging, and above all entertaining.

If all goes well I'd love to shoot this project in late summer or early fall. We'll see...

The second New Project is actually being financed by another production company. They are (potentially) hiring me to direct a script I've written. At one point about two months ago I almost had the greenlight. Then, things changed, and they wanted to produced a different project. One that fit thier "slate of films" better. So, that project (an action-comedy-heist script) got put on hold. But, they like another project of mine and we're now talking about doing it.

This one is an action-police-drama. I actually do not have a full script done - just a detailed treatment. So, I'm working on this script to submit to their production execs soon. They definitely are interested in producing it, but of course they'll need to approve the final screenplay.

This will be my first real "Hollywood" experience. Even though they are an indie production company, they run it like a studio. So, in other words, they call all the shots because they're paying the tab. Should be an interesting experience. It will definitely be nice to not worry about raising the funds to make a film. I'll actually be able to simply concentrate on directing. What a concept? :)


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New Blog Name

Same content. Same writer. Different name.

For 2007 I've decided to at least be clever if nothing else. ;)

And for those "non-filmmakers" out there a Martini Shot is the last shot of the day on a film shoot. Of course often times it turns out not to be the last shot (someone will think of something else to shoot, usually after the lights, etc. have been struck) and then you do the "real" Martini Shot.

Happy reading. :)


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Been busy this week, so I'm just now having a chance to talk about the TXMPA event from last weekend...

The event went very well.

It was an all emcompassing look at what is going on with the organization, the State of Texas, and the film industry within the state.

I had the pleasure of speaking along side the president of TXMPA, the head of the Dallas Producer's Association, the director of the Texas Film Commission, the director of the Dallas Film Commission, and the producer of the FOX Network TV show Prison Break (Gary Brown). I was there representing the independent side of things.

The event was covered by a few media outlets and I was interviewed on camera. As soon as I find out if or when the video will be online I'll post it here.

Go to the TXMPA website to see more about what they/we are trying to accomplish. But in a nutshell, TXMPA is trying to get legislation passed to create Tax Incentives for production companies producing films in Texas - thus bringing more business to the state. It's a win-win for everyone involved, so hopefully something good will happen this session.

At the event I played the movie trailer for Killing Down (the movie was produced in Dallas) and then spoke of the film industry infrastructure that exist in Texas, and more specifically Dallas.

Many folks do not realize you can pretty much turn-key a feature film in Texas. We have just about every possible part of the equation covered:

- Acting Talent
- Production Talent (i.e. crew)
- Equipment Rental Houses (we have a Panavision office in town)
- Only Film Lab in Texas (Video Post & Transfer)
- Literally hundreds of post houses for editing
- Many Effects Houses for CGI, etc.
- Several great audio post houses covering all aspects
- High-end color correction on DaVinci 2K, etc.

Really the only thing we don't have at the moment is a facility doing high-end DI (Digital Intermediate). Video Post soon will be offering DI via DaVinci Resolve - but only for short form projects (i.e. TV spots).

So a production company could come to Texas and produce their project from start to finish. That was my message, and that's what I have been doing since 1997 (three feature films now completed).

Of course, big Hollywood productons could come here just to shoot and that is fine too. We just want to keep the Texas film industry clicking, and I'm doing my part to make sure this happens.


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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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