Monday, September 7, 2009

Labor Day Weekend Film Log

I had a chance to cram in a good amount of movies this weekend. Here's what I saw and thought.

District 9: Though the CGI was what I was worried about going into this film, it ultimately ended up being the best part. I don't care for the shaky hand held style but it seemed to make the effects look more realistic. People rave about this film's originality. I thought the premise is original since it turns the table on the usual aliens invading earth science fiction standard, but the story and plot are completely cliche. It was definitely nice to see what can be done with a small budget (by Hollywood standards) but this film didn't live up to the hype.

Lord of the Flies (1963): The acting in this film was great considering that the actors were a bunch of kids. But I don't think it did the book much justice. The style bugged me too. There were too many edits that broke my concentration. Something just wasn't right.

The Apartment: I'd never seen this Best Picture winner before and didn't know what to expect going into it. I was pleasantly surprised. The acting was spectacular, it was shot beautifully, and the satirical story was refreshingly original. I recently read a quote about comedy, where the writer said they like knowing that the film is getting away with something. This is surely the case with The Apartment, and it worked.

Robinson Crusoe On Mars: I'll admit it, a good looking DVD case is enough for me to give it a chance. And considering that it was part of the Criterion Collection, I had high hopes for this old school science fiction film. It wasn't that I hated it but it seemed like the only difference between this film and any other sci-fi b-movie was a bigger budget and some advanced (for its time) special effects. I know this film has a bit of a cult following, but it has not aged well.

Amadeus: Everything about this film was perfect. Excellent direction, music of course, and delightfully playful performances made it work. I usually hate bio-pics, but the fact that its subject died long enough ago helps. But what really seals the deal is that the story is told from another person's point of view and not that of Mozart's. Its one of the few movies over two hours long that's written and paced so well that it plays faster than some films half its length.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Massive Update

"For anyone who wants to direct but hasn't made a first movie yet, there is no decision to make. Whatever the movie, whatever the problems, if there's a chance to direct, take it! Period. Exclamation point! The first movie is its own justification because it's the first movie." - Sidney Lumet

Thanks for the advice Sidney, I think I'll take it. Its been a while since I've blogged but here's a big update. I'm working on a feature length film "Republic of Pete". I've spent most of the summer working on the script and pre-production for this project. The script is a loose and I mean loose adaptation of another script. So its basically written from scratch based on a great premise I was originally pitched. A grandpa is getting sued so he puts all his money into his grandson's bank account. The grandson Pete and his friends buy an island, then grandpa goes after them.

Nate and I got the offer to do this by Extreme Akim, the television judge of the show "Eye for and Eye". Low and behold I'm directing a film... a low budget wacky comedy about killer lawnmowers, an evil grandpa, and a bunch of kids that buy an island.

Exciting as it may be, its an uphill battle. Shooting on the beach is going to be rough on the photography and sound fronts. Luckily our casting call has yielded some really funny people. We're still in need of our lead actor though, which is slowing things down.

But this gives more time to work on the script. It still has some problems to be worked out, but I think the overall story is there. Its been great getting ideas from a lot of funny people I trust. Writing with the knowledge you have no budget causes you to focus more on characters because there's not much else you can afford. I've written two long form scripts before. You're supposed to burn the first two. Reading up on screenplay theory helped a good deal and I definitely broke through a writing plateau with this script.

I've also been watching a good deal of movies and reading all I can about directing. Comedy is going to be tough for me. Not the making things funny part (hopefully) but the shooting it part. The biggest problem is that the acting is going to be spontaneous as certain points. So scenes have to be shot so that a little improve isn't going to kill the editing continuity. Its not the biggest thing in the world, but shooting scenes with a lot of actors will make this difficult. My goal is to find solid ways of economizing and shooting as confidently as possible... aka not too many setups. This approach seemed to work fine in Last Rites, but that was 2 actors max in each scene. So we'll see. Once we find our Pete, I'll be able to do some minor rehearsals and hopefully work on some of the stagings we'll be using. Now usually, I'd say rehearse the hell out of it. But too much rehearsal is really bad for comedy acting. If we rehearse too much, it will kill the energy.

I'll try to use this blog as a sort of journal of the whole process. There's so much going on its hard to thing what makes for a good post subject.

And finally, my internship at Carolina Studios pushed me back into making music. I set up a myspace band site up to host some tracks here it is: myspace.com/avantgrademusic