Friday, August 27, 2010

How did Sci-Fi Trump my Comedy Week?

Yesterday I went to my local indie-video store and tried to rent independent feature films in the comedy genre, but ended up taking home 2 comedies/dramedies (Slacker & Bottle Rocket) and one sci-fy - Primer.  I'm looking for inspiration by watching other no-budget/low budget films.  I've already watched Primer twice in the last 24 hours, and while I don't want to make our first feature film a sci-fi flick, I do really appreciate all the geeks out there that make these kinds of movies. I loved Lost (until the ending - what a disappointment!), and enjoy a good Alien and Cloverfield type movie, as well as Battlestar Gallactica and Firefly.  So I probably should have known how much I'd love Primer.

So much so that I'm going to watch it 3 times in 24 hours by watching the movie with the Director's commentary tonight.  I'm seriously confused by the science & the plotlines which revolve around time travel and twists that die-hard fans pull apart in online forums that yes, I consulted today.  It only cost $7000 to make in 2004, which is about the budget we're working with.

I'm also keen to watch Bottle Rocket again today, but Jen just suggested "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" which I'm always up for.  Oh man, I love that "who pooped the bed?" episode.

We've been working on Jen's plot and characters for our first Elgin Road Production Company movie, which Jen says she will need a few weeks to really hash out.  Her kids return to school in 2 weeks (thank FRACK! I love my nieces & nephews more than the sun, but dang, they need to go to school so Jennie can write), but I'm really hoping that Jen manages to at least get the treatment done before September kicks off. 

Thursday, August 26, 2010

This week's Self-Directed Film School Assignment: Low Budget Comedies

Last weekend I watched a few movies that are beloved in the indie-film world - El Mariachi, Paranormal Activity &  Reservoir Dogs.  My sister and I watched the flicks to inspire & educate ourselves after taking Dov Simmens' 2 Day Film School in NYC and reading a few great books about being independent producers and filmmakers.  We're starting our own production company and are still in the initial research stages.

I noticed that many "low-budget" indie flicks are action or horror and while I appreciate them, I'm more interested in making our first movie a comedy.  But before we start, we like to do our research and find others that have already made their first movies on low budgets in the comedy genre.
At first it seemed impossible!

Until Jen put out a box of VHS tapes on the curb and discovered a long-forgotten favourite - Bottle Rocket. It was Wes Anderson & the Wilson brothers' first film, which started as a short & they later developed it into a feature film.  We love these guys, and Bottle Rocket was an all 'round awesome movie.  So, my assignment for this week's self-directed Film School is to find a copy of Bottle Rocket and watch it again.  Woohoo!  I am seriously loving film school.

Do you know of any other great first movies in the comedy genre?  Ideally, they would cost less than $20,000 so we can see what others have done with similar budgets.  Please share your thoughts below.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

So You Want to be An Indie-Filmmaker? Watch what I learn...

Yesterday I posted my Summer To-Do List (aka my version of Film School for Dummies - meaning, me!).  Last night I rented 5 movies as part of my own personal assignment for this weekend:
  • The Swedish film based on the book by Stieg Larsson, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (because I just finished reading his three books which, by the way, are fantastic.  I wanted to see what the original film was like before the American version with Daniel Craig is made - not so much "film school" but pure film student joy)
  • Paranormal Activity - because we it's all the buzz in indie-filmmaking these days.
  • El Mariachi - the famous first movie by Robert Rodriquez, who wrote "Rebel Without a Crew" - one of the many amazing books about making movies on a limited budget but with loads of style.  Not that I'll be making action movies right away, but it's cool to experience his point of view as a writer/director/producer/editor and everything else in between.
  • Reservoir Dogs - Tarantino's first biggie, which I know I should have seen by now.  I'm embarrassed to admit that I still need to see it.
  • the Coen Brothers, Burn After Reading - because again, I haven't seen it yet.  It wasn't their first, and really, I should rent their first, but I usually love these guys & just felt like a good ol' comedy to balance out the action & horror above. 
I enjoyed watching The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and will be seeing the second in the series, The Girl Who Played with Fire at my local indie-cinema next week.  It's dark & depressing material, but dang, that Lisbeth Salander keeps me coming back for more.  She's so bad-ass-autistic-crazy-punk-rock and refuses-to-be-a-victim-cool.

Paranormal Activity is indeed a scary flick, and I was impressed at how this computer-geek put together the whole movie, but ... well, it's no Blair Witch.  That movie kept me from camping out for years.

I watched El Mariachi today with Robert Rodriquez commentary.  He's awesome.  I love his "you wanna make movies?  Get out there and make 'em!" attitude.   I think there should be a film school class where the students just watch his film with commentary & read his book & discuss.  Then they have to make their own action films for under $7000.  That would be an amazing class.

Tonight I plan to watch the other 2 flicks above, although Jen (my sister, co-producer & creative side of our team) has already seen them and I suspect she won't be to interested in watching either.  I may have to watch them on my own tomorrow, after I put in a few hours at my day-job.  I'll let you know what I think and what the next assignments are for this week.

Any suggestions for other movies I should be watching this week?  Please leave your comments below & let me know your thoughts.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Movie Making for Misfits

We're making a movie!  I'm joining forces with my screenwriting sister to make our first feature film. I just need to make sure that we get everything for super cheap, pay & feed our crew and keep on budget. Jen will be the creative side of our team and I'll be the business-brain. Easy peasy right?

Here's my To-Do List for the Summer of 2010:  Hot pink text means that I've already accomplished the task.
  • Read: From Reel to Deal by Dov Simmens, The Guerilla Film Makers Pocketbook, Save the Cat by Blake Snyder and Rebel Without a Crew by Robert Rodriquez.  Read 'em all. They're awesome.  Now I need to re-read them, this time taking notes.
  • Read the 4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris so I can apply his principals to my day-job. Work about 3-4 hours/day, which gives me time to focus on movie-making. Love this new freedom & inspiration.
  • Attend Dov Simmens' 2 Day Film School in NYC.  It was awesome. Anyone interested in movie making should take this course, and listen to what he says. Sit in the front 3 rows if you want to ask questions, but be careful - he will blast you for stupid questions.  I didn't ask any, but I really didn't feel like I needed to. 
  • Buy Dov's DVD series.  On sale for $295 instead of $595 - score! Plus, I figure this is way better than film school tuition and certainly faster. 
  • Watch the DVD series, taking notes as I go.  Use his workbooks.   One DVD a day?
  • Set up business (Elgin Road Production Company) and blog.  Cost $75 for the name and $40 to register the business. I know blogger so it was easy to set up the blog. Don't like the colours, but will shell out cash for designer when I'm loaded.  It'll happen. One day.
  • Make business cards that say "Producer" and start telling strangers that I am a producer when they ask what I do.  So far so good.  The business cards cost $50 and only took a few days to arrive.  The first few times I told people I was a producer I felt like a real fraud.  Then I started to believe it - which is the point anyway.  A few people pitched their ideas to me.  It was pretty cool to be pitched to, especially considering the fact that I'm really just learning the ropes here.
  • Look into attending TIFF as an "industry" person.  Costs $610 + taxes, takes place in a few weeks...not sure if I can swing this.  Just want to be a fly on the wall so that the next time I come with a movie in hand I'll feel more confident.  Still looking into aeroplan miles, and have a free place to stay so may swing it after all.
  • Watch El Mariachi (Robert Rodriquez first film, made for $7000 without a crew.  Can't wait to see it after reading his book all about the process).
  • Watch Hitchcock's Rope & Lifeboat. Done.  Both good inspiration for one room, 90 minute script, low budget.
  • Need to find more films set in one room, with 90 minutes - stage plays basically, turned into movies.
  • Go through blogs from's 50 Best Blogs for Moviemakers & start following the ones I am most interested in. Read every day, for less than 30 minutes so I don't get overwhelmed by too much information.   Focus on a "need to know" basis.
  • Need to set schedule for the year.  Specifically: script completion (sister's job), auditions for actors, finding crew, etc.  Start with the treatment so we can copyright it before we launch into the social media action plan (which will involve using blogging, twitter etc - to show the process, adventures & misadventures in making movies - but we need to copyright the treatment & eventually script before we tell the world what we're doing)
  • Location - think we've found it, but need to ask for permission. Or just do it and apologize later? 
  • Product placement - think of businesses to ask (ie, drinks for cast & crew, food, etc - maybe even a hotel to house cast for the week?). 
I know there are a thousand more things to do but I'm pleased with my progress this summer.  We only really started thinking about the idea of making our own production company 2 months ago, and now that I've read a few great filmmaking books I am feeling much more confident in our abilities.  As my sister keeps saying, "Dumbasses make movies all the time!" so clearly, we'll be successful.  Fair enough.  We also refuse to listen to anyone who says how hard it is.  Frack that - it's easy!  Everything is easy if you look at it right.

If you've stumbled across this blog, please let me know what you think & share your two cents & advice.  Comments are loved!