Monthly Archives: October 2014

Let’s Talk About My Movie

In case you haven’t heard, I’m making a movie. Not just that, but I need your help to make it happen. Here’s why.

Ghosts That We Knew” is a story about not being alright. Becca, the protagonist, isn’t where she thought she’d be in her life Things haven’t been going the way she’d hoped they would and she’s stuck. With all that comes the nagging doubts in the back of her head, voices that remind her of how life’s not working out.

I wanted to make a movie about that, about that insecurity and fear. With that, I wanted to keep it emotionally honest. There’s more to say about it, but I’d rather not give away plot points. Suffice to say, it’s not a story where life gets better overnight, but it’s also one about the beginning of a way out.

I can say more about production. My crew was amazing. I simply can’t stress this enough. Everyone did their jobs and did them very well. I owe the film to them. I could tell my Director of Photography, McKenzie Zuleger, what I wanted and she’d set it up and go. I’d worked with Richard Kim before on a few shoots and this time as my Assistant Director he took care of my crew and as Gaffer he got some incredible light setups. Meanwhile, my Producer, Natalia Rivas, was wonderfully helpful during preproduction and was indispensable on set, ensuring that everything behindbehind the scenes went smoothly. I could go on and on about them and everyone else too (wait till you see the costuming and dressings the art department did), but there’s more to write about and only so much essay space.

The cast made my script come to life. There’s this persistent fear I have as a writer that what I’m writing won’t quite work out. But hearing it said by these actors, wow, they nailed it. They dove right in and really took on the roles in a way I could only dream of. I owe an incredible wealth of gratitude to them, in no small part because four of them spent shooting in masks under hot lights and the other two had to carry some intensely emotional scenes. The results are stunning and I can’t wait to share it with you.

So why am I asking you for money? Like I said in the Kickstarter, movies cost money; I’ve got to pay for food, costumes, transport, and the like. Things as obvious as a meal for Becca to eat or as tiny as fashion tape all costs money. NYU gives me a small budget to start off with, but I needed more to cover it all.

An obvious point here is that I’ve already finished shooting; the movie’s in the can, why then do I still need money? I’ve put my own money to support the deficit, but I’m not in a financial position to pay for all of it myself. Furthermore, any additional funding will go to getting some professional post-production work, such as color correction and some visual effects touch ups. As a crew we’ve gone to lengths to keep the production’s budget as low as possible, making sure every dollar you give to us helps.

Ghosts That We Know is a project I believe in. Not only that, but I intend to shop the finished project around to short film festivals. Since some of these festivals rule that you can’t submit a movie that’s been screened online, the only way to see the finished film before (which could be almost a year down the line) is to give $5 to my campaign. There’s also some other cool things in there, like a credit and even a copy of the script signed by me (with or without notes, your choice) as well as a mini-poster a friend of mine’s working on. I’m $90 away from my goal and funding ends in a few days; if I don’t reach $222 by then I don’t get any of it.

Help me fund this project.

 

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Superhero Overdose

If you haven’t heard, DC recently announced their cinematic plans for the next six years. We’ve got a Justice League movie, a Wonder Woman movie, one with the Flash, one with Aquaman, a Green Lantern movie, and so on. It’s DC’s answer to Marvel’s Avengers. They’re looking to emulate Marvel’s formula, releasing two a year. Not only that, it looks like most of the Justice League roster from the cartoon is getting their own movie (except Martian Manhunter which is its own infuriating can of worms). Between Marvel and DC, we’re looking at four superhero movies a year — and that’s not even counting other studios with rights to Marvel characters, like Fox with X-Men and the Fantastic Four. That’s a lot of superhero movies, a lot of men in proverbial tights (and one woman, so far) running around doing superhero stuff.

Now, with so many superheroes flying around, it’s likely we’re looking to get a glut of that genre. Woohoo, there’s Age of Ultron, Ant Man, and Fantastic Four next year, but after that there’s gonna be Batman v Superman, a new Captain America, a new X-Men movie, and Suicide Squad. And then after that comes Wonder Woman, and Justice League (so far). Genres can become tired, look at how few Westerns there are as opposed to a few decades ago. With all these superhero films coming out, and with superhero movies usually following a specific pattern we could end up watching the same darn movie over and over again. If that happens, then people get tired, people stop watching these movies, and people stop making superhero movies.

Thing is, we’ve seen the superhero movie a hundred times. The hero gets powers, the hero figures out what to do with powers, the hero fights bad guys. Sequels have been playing with the follow up, but we’ve seen the super-powered-hero-fights-evil formula over and over again. Superhero movies as we know them has happened.

So how do we keep it interesting? So far the trick has been genre blending. The Dark Knight was a crime movie with Batman. It was different and it was big (though I’ve heard the argument that it wasn’t a Batman movie, but that’s another issue). More so now than ever, superhero movies have to stand out. The Avengers was a heroes-fighting-villains narrative, but did it better than anyone else and threw in some internal conflict and hints of a war movie for good measure. Unless a new movie surpasses it, doing the same thing will be repetitive.

Marvel Studios, and Joe Quesada, know this. Look at the most recent releases from Marvel. Iron Man 3 was as much Lethal Weapon-y as it was Iron Man, The Dark World was borderline pure fantasy, The Winter Soldier was a spy/espionage movie, and Guardians of the Galaxy was pure space opera. Looking ahead, Ant Man is planned to be a heist movie, which there are never enough of. Marvel’s keeping things varied. In fact, I think one of the reasons Winter Soldier and Guardians were so well received is that they were so unique. Both tapped genres relatively unheard of at the moment, and both executed them incredibly. If Marvel Studios can keep making movies that challenge the idea of a ‘superhero’ movie they’re in good shape.

So the onus is on DC to do the same thing. It’s hard to judge how they’ll do, especially given the kinda mostly alright Man of Steel, but if they can make Aquaman feel very different from The Flash and not just in subject material, then there’s hope. We don’t wanna keep watching the same movie with swapped out details.

But I cannot overstate how freaking excited I am about all of this. In the next two years I’m getting a second Avengers movie, a new Star Wars, a movie with Batman and Superman, and what’s reportedly a movie about Captain American and Iron Man. Heck, they just announced a movie featuring The Lego’s Movie glorious riff on Batman! All this is the twelve-year-old in me’s dream come true. I don’t like not liking things, it’s tiring and it’s not fun to hate everything you watch. I want these movies to happen, I want to like these movies. I just hope these movies are good.

 

Also, I’m making a movie! Help me get it funded!

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Financial Teamwork

One of my favorite things about the internet is the democratization of media. Anyone can do anything and put it out there for a wide audience. Where once upon a time either no one would see it, now you can put it on YouTube and spread it around. There’s not just an audience, there’s a mean to one.

Recently, it’s also meant the ability to do bigger projects. This is crowdfunding, where a project is funding by a, er, crowd. Because hey, if there are a thousand people who want to see something happen and they all give $5, that’s $5,000 with which to do something awesome.

So bands have taken to sites like Kickstater and PledgeMusic to raise money for the recording and distribution of new music; forgoing labels and all that entirely. It also gives fans a personal stake, they want the project to happen so they get involved. Then there’s the fact that it allows the band to not only have greater creative control but are also to make more daring creative choices.

Similarly, moviemakers are able to make films outside of the studio system and all the hangups therein. Blue Like Jazz was finished despite initially not having enough money; Veronica Mars came back as a feature film years after the show ended. By rights, this shouldn’t be possible. There’s a way things are done. But that’s what makes crowdfunding cool; it puts the power in creators, be they for games, events, or movies. They become passion projects rather than carefully calculated business maneuvers.

All this to say, I’m using Kickstarter to fund my new movie, Ghosts That We Knew. I love making movies and Ghosts is going to be my biggest one yet. I’ve got a great crew with me who are all eager to make this movie happen. I’m really proud of my script and the cast is shaping up to be something incredible. The story is one I’m passionate about and I really want to get this made.

Help fund Ghosts That We Knew

Yes, it’s a super-short post. But that’s cause I’m doing a lot of preproduction work.

 

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Metanarrative, Cervantes, and The Princess Bride

The Princess Bride is (probably) my favorite movie. It also happens to be based on a book, which I first read in my mid-teens. Now, the book caught me off-guard. It was far more cynical than the film and there was this whole mess about William Goldman’s personal life. I read it again a few years later and finally understood it. See, the novel The Princess Bride is a postmodern exploration of metanarrative wrapped in with a deconstruction of adventure narratives. Like Cervantes’ Don Quixote.

Wait, what?

Let’s break this down. Much of The Princess Bride is William Goldman telling us about his life, his psychiatrist wife, disappointing son, and his quest to find the book his grandfather read him as a kid. Sadly, the book (by S. Morgenstern) is long and filled with boring bits. So Goldman skips them, interrupting the narrative every now and then to tell us what he’s skipping and why.Really, who wants to read three chapters about economics anyway?).

Of course, this is all fabricated. There is no S. Morgenstern, Goldman’s wife isn’t a psychiatrist, and he has two daughters. But within the book it makes for a beautifully postmodern story; Goldman is fully aware of how stories work and merrily draws attention to it in the metanarrative. At times it’s a story about stories. Meanwhile, he pokes fun at the conventions of the adventure and fantasy genre, deconstructing a lot of what we take for granted in them.

A few hundred years earlier, Cervantes did the same thing in Don Quixote. Like Goldman, he presents the central story as one that he’s researched extensively and is relaying here for us. But the ‘research’ often interrupts the story. A memorable moment early on sees Quixote in a duel with a Basque, they’re poised to deliver fatal blows and then the narrative stops and the narrator informs us that that’s where his copy of the story ends. We’re then treated to a few pages of how he got a hold of the next chunk of the story.

Cervantes is playing with the very idea of fiction and stories. He’s messing with the narrative, blurring the lines between fiction and reality. It’s a lot of fun and lends Don Quixote’s story an almost mythic quality, which is further enhanced by the style of the narration.

Throughout it all, Cervantes is endlessly making fun of the chivalrous novels that were popular at the time. How? He takes someone who gets caught up with the notion of being a knight errant and, taking the books as gospel, sets out in an attempt to have a grand adventure and sees what would really happen.. It doesn’t go well, one because books don’t mention these knights bringing changes of clothes, money, or provisions; and secondly, someone who goes around meting out his own brand of justice while violently defending any insult of his honor actually looks a lot like a vigilante bandit. Naturally, hilarity ensues and Don Quixote and his squire wind up being attacked in response (all to our amusement).

Stories like The Princess Bride and Don Quixote are important. They take what we know and play with it; not just be deconstructing the tropes of the genre they’re using, but also by playing with the idea of stories themselves. It’s not just books that do this; the famous “Duck Amuck” cartoon not just demolishes the fourth wall (postmodernism) but uses the very metanarrative of animation as a plot. Actually, if you want a good representation of what I’m talking about, that’s a great place to start.

I love postmodernism and metanarratives in stories, mostly because I love stories in the first place and it’s wonderful when they play with it. It’s fantastic and often adds an additional layer to already great narratives.

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