Anna's Storm

On June 2nd set your Tivo's to record "Anna's Storm" on the Lifetime Movie Network. Sheree Wilson, the star of my recent film "Killing Down" is starring in this new movie-of-the-week.

Here's a link to the show on IMDb:
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1029097/

-Blake

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Only 90 Seconds?

I pulled this article fromt the LA Times. A good read re: Web TV Series...

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Eisner wants 90 seconds from you
The former Disney chief's super-short format soap 'Prom Queen' gets the hits.
By Margaret Wappler, Times Staff Writer
May 20, 2007

"PROM QUEEN," a flashy teen-aimed soap opera, wouldn't be out of place on the CW or MTV. Tribes of teens trade quips and barbs at their lockers. Snatches of rock or hip-hop underscore most of the drama, and there's a blink-of-an-eye edit about every three seconds.

But "Prom Queen" is an Internet show that according to Media Week has gotten nearly 3.7 million views on MySpace, the show's leading distributor. With 80 episodes, each clocking in at a lean 90 seconds, and a new episode airing every day until the show's finale June 14, "Prom Queen" shrinks and shellacs high-concept drama for the text-messaging-while-driving-and-eating-a-burger attention span. Episodes can also be downloaded to a video player or watched at Veoh, sponsor ElleGirl and old reliable YouTube.

What separates "Prom Queen" from scores of similar click-hungry projects is, of course, its financing, which comes courtesy of Michael Eisner's Internet production company, Vuguru.

Eisner was burned by Web-based entertainment during his tenure as chief executive at Disney — the company's disastrous Go Network was shut down in 2001 after losing millions — but those were different days. Speaking on a cellphone from a Manhattan sidewalk between meetings, the 65-year-old executive, who started his investment firm Tornante Co. in 2005, said that for the first year or so, the rewards would "be more in education than economic." The money, he hopes, will come later.

Eisner waved away any distinctions between Old Hollywood and New Media. "Old Hollywood at one point meant motion pictures, and then Old Hollywood had Jack Warner and Leonard Goldstein to make the first deal for Old Hollywood to make broadcast television. Old Hollywood and New Hollywood became one.

"It's simply new ways of doing things…. Old media, new media, it's just labels put on older people and young people. I don't think it really means there's a fine division."

Big Fantastic, the Santa Monica-based Internet video collective behind "Prom Queen," first caught Eisner's attention with their self-funded video podcast "Sam Has 7 Friends," the flagship vehicle for their 80-episode, 90-second format. The Valley-based murder mystery about a struggling actress finished with a strategically open-ended resolution in December.

"Like a lot of things in my life, I was attracted to the content," Eisner said. Internet entertainment, he finds, "is not that different than the beginnings of the Movie of the Week that Barry Diller and I were toying with in the '60s…. We were dealing with a new form in an old platform. Here's a new form in a new platform."

As technological hurdles are cleared, Eisner thinks the Internet will become a primary platform.

"Actors realize they can get discovered here," he said. "Is it better to do off-Broadway theater in New York or an Internet show based in L.A. that gets 8, 12 million views and opens the eyes of agents and TV producers?"

Although the financing for "Prom Queen" is fancy, you wouldn't know it from visiting the set at Valencia's College of the Canyons. On a Saturday in April, the shoot buzzed with the scrappy, hustler energy of a low-budget student movie. Production designer Helen Harwell's appropriately cheesed-out prom set with silver drapes, balloons and a disco ball was cobbled together from loans from vendors Harwell knows in the industry, she said. The nonunion actors, palpably giddy about being on a set — any set — joked around in tuxes and strappy dresses.

Big Fantastic's four director-writer-editor hybrids, Chris Hampel, Chris McCaleb, Ryan Wise and Douglas Cheney, all in their late 20s and early 30s, were multitasking to the extreme. Wise and his assistant director lighted the next scene, the crowning of the prom queen. Hampel and McCaleb, former assistant editors for "Miami Vice" director Michael Mann, were outside shooting video for one of the character's MySpace blogs. Cheney, tucked away in a classroom piled with clothes and makeup, was editing an episode on his Mac using Final Cut Pro.

Working with a 10-person skeleton crew, "Prom Queen" is all about running fast. The shoot knocked out four episodes in 12 hours. Filming from a 1 1/2 -page script per episode (whittled from a whopping three to four pages), they often take an episode from script to screen in five to six days, Hampel said. Each of the Big Fantastic members, who met at Washington State University, write and direct 20 episodes and maintain several MySpace pages for the characters.

"We want messages left from character to character on MySpace. We want to hit that viral energy," Hampel said. "It's about what we like to see on the Internet…. YouTube is filled with images like skateboards to the face, girls jumping on their beds. We want things to pop to the camera."

"Prom Queen" is loaded with of-the-minute high school behavior gleaned from Hampel's recordings of his teen brothers and their friends. Plots are heavy on texting, instant-messaging, updating MySpace pages, and recording video diaries with a hand-held recorder.

As an artistic experience, "Prom Queen" doesn't break many rules. The dialogue runs from smartly glib to perfunctory. The displayed rebellion is safe enough for Hot Topic. But to the show's credit, "Prom Queen" doesn't run from teen sex, though it's mostly rendered in soapy, steamy overtones.

BUT for all the tech savvy, mall-princess mentality and backseat relations, "Prom Queen" is still concerned with story continuity and character development. And perhaps surprisingly, it decently hangs together as a feature, bound by its dedication to the cliffhanger-a-minute style.

"You have to get people to watch more than one episode, so it's important that it works as a whole," Eisner said. "You start to understand the characters with the accumulation."

Hampel won't divulge how much Eisner invested in "Prom Queen," but he'll play ballpark: " 'Sam' was done for a little less than $50,000. We got more than that, but not much more."

"These guys are the most fiscally responsible people I've ever worked with," Eisner said. "We're going to make at least one or two more shows with them."

Eisner's support of Big Fantastic officially qualifies as a big break, but so far, Hampel said, "no one's upgraded their lives. We're just paying our rent."

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The show I'm developing we're looking at roughly 3 min. webisodes. 90 seconds almost seems TOO fast. Of course I realize that length is really for cell phone users since Verizon is a sponsor of the show.

And if Verizon wants to sponsor my show I'll make 90 second webisodes too. :)

-Blake

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Web TV Anyone?

In between everything else I have going on I'm now developing a new web TV series.

Hold on, let me back up.

We just finished the screenplay for my next feature film and are just about to start sending the script out to actors, etc. And, we're of course fundraising.

Also, I'm continuing to deal with the foreign ditribution of my latest feature "Killing Down", and we're still shopping the movie for a domestic deal.

And of course I'm still doing my bread and butter corporate and commercial video projects.

So anyway, yes, I am going to tackle developing a new web series. I have a good idea. Have some cast in mind. Already working with a writer. Even have a mock-up poster design done (yeah, I really do - on almost all my features I typically work on a poster look way before the movie even exist - helps me be creative).

Why am I doing this? Do I really think it can be successful?

I get wrestless if I'm not working on some kind of narrative project. "Killing Down" has been done for nine months. The next movie (we hope) will shoot in the fall. I need something to do now.

Can it be a success? Have no idea. Odds are definitely stacked against it, but I'm willing to try.

I really like the idea of the Internet allowing fimmakers to be their "own distributor". I also like the idea of keeping control. And keeping costs down.

So we'll see. Right now we haven't even written word one on the page. We've been bouncing ideas off each other and thinking of show titles, etc.

All I'll say now is if it goes as planned it will not be your "typical" web based fare.

Well on second thought, it will have sex and guns, so maybe it will? ;)

-Blake

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Cinetactics

Found this cool little company called Cinetactics. They make very affordable matte boxes and LCD screen hoods for video cameras (mainly the medium to smaller sized ones).

I bought a screen hood from them and it's pretty impressive. I will likely be buying a matte box too.

Great stuff for the budget minded indie filmmakers out there...

Check them out!
www.cinetactics.com

-Blake

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Dazed and Confused

I'm talking the Movie AND the Dallas Mavericks.

Last night's game was awful. I can't believe the way the overall team performed, but especially Dirk. He choked big time. Not sure what the deal was? But yes, the Mavericks definitely looked "dazed and confused". And so did Mark Cuban.

Speaking of the Movie... I watched "Dazed and Confused" two nights ago and forgot how much I like that film. It's one of Linklater's best movies in my opinion. It has that "Slacker" feel of no real story, but somehow it moves forward and you care about the characters and "the story" - even though there isn't one per se.

Seems everytime I watch it too I notice another familiar face that wasn't familiar when the film came out in 1993. On this viewing I realized Cole Hauser played the bully opposite Ben Afleck. Never realized Cole was in the film. First few times I watched it I didn't realize Afleck was in the movie. All the actors just looked so different - partly because of their real age at the time (very young), and partly (or mainly) because of the time period of the film being set in 1976 (and their costumes/looks).

At any rate, I really like the movie and it reminds me a lot of my high school daze, or days. ;)

-Blake

P.S. Of course I graduated a decade later in the 1980s, but we still listened to a lot of the same tunes from Boston, ZZ Top, Deep Purple, etc. and a lot of us still dressed the same as they did...

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Mark Cuban

So I'm sitting here right now watching the Dallas Mavericks play in Game 5 of the 1st round of the NBA playoffs (behind in the series 3-1). At one point we had a 21 point lead in the game. Now, we're behind by 6 points with only a few minutes left to play. I can't stand to watch. I've actually hit pause on the "Tivo" (satellite DVR). I'm debating on going to bed (it's almost 11:30pm anyway). Or, maybe I'll fast forward through the end. Can we pull it out? Not sure. I am pissed off for sure at how the Mavs are playing.

How does this post relate to filmmaking? Mark Cuban of course. He owns the Mavericks and HDNet, and HDNet Films, and 2929 Entertainment (with Todd Wagner). I'm watching this game in HD on TNT.

So there. I'm not completley off topic. I just had to vent. :)

-Blake

UPDATE: Well, we won! Yeah, I went ahead and hit play on the Tivo. We'll see you in Oakland...

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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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