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Archive for April, 2018

“The key advice I’d give [any filmmaker] is when you’re starting out make things as cheaply as possible. There is a path for making things so cheaply that the minimal value that most independent films get can still help you to recoup your budget. And that’s a path that the Duplass brothers took really well, and I think it will always be a path. There’s always going to be an appetite for movies of a certain sort and if you can achieve quality with a very low budget you can find a path with an independent film.”
Indie film producer Keith Calder 
Interview with John August on Scriptnotes, Episode #342

Note: The keyword in the title of today’s post is “a.” This is a path, not the only path. But, as I mentioned yesterday, before Scott Beck and Bryan Woods had their names attached to the current #1 box office Hollywood hit (The Quiet Place), they made a bunch of low-budget films in Iowa.

“Throughout high school and our college years we just keep making movies and feature films for practically no budget.”
Writer/director Scott Beck
#AlwaysAHawkeye video 

Related posts:

How to Shoot a Film in Ten Days
The Ten Film Commandments of Edward Burns
Don’t Try and Compete with Hollywood

P.S. Yesterday I went to see the documentary film Long Time Coming at the Florida Film Festival. It’s the debut feature film of Orlando-based filmmaker Jon Strong. It was the second showing of the festival because the first one sold out hours after tickets went on sale.

I don’t know the budget of the film and Strong did say during the Q&A that the film was in the works for two years. But my guess is it’s an example of a film that was made without a large budget and one that will find a distribution path at ESPN or Netflix. Production-wise Long Time Coming reminded me of another baseball-centered film No, No: A Dockumentary (on picture Dock Ellis) which I saw at the Florida Film Festival a few years ago.

No, No was also very heavy on interviews of past players. And if my memory is correct,  the director said the bulk of the interviews with former Pittsburgh Pirates players was shot over a reunion weekend. Shaping those interviews into a story, finding archival photos and videos (and securing rights and funding to use them) is what can take months and years.

But No, No is a good example of a film that had a niche audience and found distribution.  It’s not a bad idea to find a film in your genre that you like and find out as much as you can about how it got funded and found distribution.

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Scott W. Smith

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“Growing up in Ohio was just planning to get out.”
Filmmaker Jim Jarmusch (who grew up in Akron)

At the end of Ted Hope’s book Hope  for Film he has an appendix that lists 141 Problems and Opportunities for the Independent World. The list flowed from a blog post he wrote back in 2010.  You can find the entire list here, but I’m just going to highlight one problem today.

124. Artists cannot afford to live in our cultural centers. It’s a real Catch-22. Artists make cultural centers, but these places become too pricey for their creators to live in. If you are in the middle class, you can only afford 14 percent of the currently available homes in San Francisco. The number drops to only 2.5 percent in New York City. I love both cities, but can’t see my future in either of them as a result. And I don’t really want to move to Akron, Ohio, either (no offense intended, Akron!).
Ted Hope
Hope for Film: From the Frontline of the Independent Cinema Revolutions (p. 285)

If you don’t have wealthy parents or a trust fund to support you for a few years until you get some traction in New York or L.A. what is one to do? Many articles over the years have talked about the struggle of creative people trying to pay their bills in the big cities. And if you tack on a large film school debt, forgetaboutit.

It makes me wonder where people like Jim Jarmusch (Stranger than Paradise) would go today if they were starting out in 2018 instead of the 1970s.

I started writing this blog in 2008 after seeing Diablo Cody’s Juno and learning that she went to school in Iowa City and wrote the Juno screenplay in the suburbs of Minneapolis. She went on to move to L.A. and win an Oscar for that script. A Midwest success story.

As of this weekend, we have another Midwest success story. And, yes, one also with Iowa roots.

‘A Quiet Place’ Delivers a Not So Quiet $50 Million Opening
Box Office Mojo headline
April 8, 2018

The original screenplay for The Quiet Place was written by Scott Beck and Bryan Woods. After the script sold to Paramount in 2016,  John Kraninski came on board to further develop the script, and direct and star in the finished version that this past weekend finished at top of the box office.

So which “cultural center” did these guys develop their filmmaking chops? I’m glad you asked.

“Scott Beck and Bryan Woods are two screenwriters you may not have heard of yet but surely will very soon. Scott and Bryan first met as sixth-graders in their hometown of Bettendorf, Iowa. After discovering a shared interest in cinema, the duo began making stop-motion movies together with their Star Wars action figures. This collaboration continued into high school, where they directed numerous shorts and their first feature films.”
Mike Sargent
Script mag

Like Diablo Cody they also attended the University of Iowa, which is where they first came up with the idea for The Quiet Place. Just this morning both Woods and Beck were back in Iowa City giving a talk on “Exploring Careers in Cinema.” 

They’re based in L.A. now but made their first short films and Nightlight (2015) back in Iowa.

Of course, this doesn’t exactly address Ted Hope’s question that I started off this blog addressing. But the drum I’ve been hitting for the past decade is there are filmmakers rising up all over the world finding support and inspiration from their communities.

Scott W. Smith 

John

 

 

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“When you end up creating a show with seven, eight, nine characters—ask yourself, how can you appropriately dramatize that many characters within the framework of an hour television show? And the answer is that you can’t. So you say, O.K., what we have to do is spill over the sides of our form and start telling multi-plot, more serial kinds of stories.”
Hill Street Blues, NYPD Blue Emmy-winning creator Steven Bochco
Writing the TV Drama Series: How to Succeed as a Professional Writer in TV
(H/T Vanity Fair article)

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MartinezIMG_5638.jpg

On Friday Washington Nationals manager Dave Martinez added another milestone to his baseball career. The Nationals beat the Cincinnati Reds 2-0 in his debut as manager. Before Martinez earned a World Series ring as a bench coach with the Chicago Cubs, and before he played 16 seasons as a MLB player, before he played baseball at Valencia College, he played high school ball at Lake Howell in the Orlando area.

I also went to Lake Howell and played baseball, but graduated two year before Martinez  so we didn’t play on the same team. (And if I recall correctly, I think he transferred to the school his junior year.) But the year after I graduated from high school I worked as a 19-year-old sports reporter and photographer for the Sanford Herald and covered several games when Martinez played varsity baseball. (The above clippings are from two of those games.)

Now 1981 was a few years ago, but they way I recall it is in Dave Martinez’s first at bat at Lake Howell he hit a home run over the right field fence. Like Tim Raines (also from Central Florida) you knew Martinez was special.

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Dave Martinez baseball card back in 1987

Way back in 1998 Martinez got the first hit in a regular season game for Tampa Bay Rays in their inaugural season.

Best wishes on his career as a manager in what’s already been a heck of a ride in professional baseball.

Scott W. Smith 

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