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Posts Tagged ‘Billy Corben’

“In my mind and in my car, we can’t rewind we’ve gone to far.”
The Buggles/Who Killed the Radio Star

I thought it would be fun to revisit a post I wrote way back on November 15, 2009 called Cocaine Cowboys & the Future of Film. I wrote it the day after I watched my first Netflix movie online.

Before that most DVDs were mailed to you, or you went to a video store. I remember after viewing that film thinking, how long until Blockbuster video stores are out of business? According to Wikipedia, in 2010 Blockbuster had 4,000 videos stores in the U.S. and 2,500 international stores.  That year Blockbuster went through a world of change. They filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy production in September of 2010 with $900 of debt.

After that Blockbusters began closing stores and I think there are a few stores scattered around the world. There still is a Blockbuster website with a link of some kind of deal they have with dish.

But its retail store days of being a regular part of American pop culture are long gone. Like record stores before them, just a reminder of how the times keep changing.

Cocaine Cowboys & the Future of Film
(blog post from 11/15/2009)

Yesterday was an important day personally. I got a glimpse into the future. And, yes, it did involve illegal drugs.

I watched the documentary Cocaine Cowboys on immediate viewing online through Netflix. The movie has been out for few years but I had never seen it before. Having attended the University of Miami in 1981-1982 the topic alone was of great interest to me. It was impossible to live in Dade County in the 80s and not be acutely aware of the drug trade and the murders that followed in its wake.

In 1981 there were 621 murders in Dade County. (A record that still stands there.)  I distinctly remember the news at that time where each murder seemed more bizarre than the next.  One official on the documentary called Miami at that time, “the most dangerous place in the world.”  (In reality, I think Medellin, Colombia, as in the Medellin drug cartel, in the 80s  technically had the highest rate of murder per capita in the world.)

I personally didn’t see any of the crime (I was safely editing my first 8mm film in my Mahoney-Pearson dorm room) though it was hard miss all the Ferraris & Porsches kicking around Cocount Grove.  And it didn’t take much for a film professor to show us A Clockwork Orange and connect it to Miami. Stanley Kubrick’s futuristic look at a chaotic culture full of brutal violence and murder without remorse was a daily realty in Miami.

But as fascinating as that era was it’s not what caused my mini glimpse into the future. It was simply because I could watch the movie immediately online. Legally. While I have watched LOST online before this was the first movie I have ever watched online.

It was an epiphany of sorts. I had a flashback to standing in line to see the movie ET, 15 years of renting VHS tapes (and paying all those Blockbuster late fees & rewind fees), to marveling how Netflix revolutionized things by having DVDs delivered to your home. Supply & demand and distribution channels seem to be changing quicker than ever.

Now I’m a mid-level tech savvy guy and try to somewhat keep up with where things are heading. I edit every day on Final Cut Pro. I Twitter, blog, and use Facebook yet I just learned yesterday that the push this Christmas will be TVs that are interconnected to the web. This will make your TV more like a computer, stereo, photo gallery and movie theater all in one.  There you’ll link to You Tube, Twitter, Facebook and the like.

Just as people are dropping their land phone lines you have to wonder what internet connected TV will do to regular cable TV. If all you do is push a button and watch the movie of your choice, what will it do to DVD sales that have been in decline for a while? There’s talk of streaming videos the same day they open in theaters.

The battle is on. And some would say its getting bloody. On production as well as distribution.

Anne Thompson wrote a post on indieWIRE called Toronto Wrap: Indie Bloodbathwere she said this year’s Toronto Film Festival marked the end of the old independent market.

There were few sales made at the festival leading producer Jonathan Dana to say, “It’s a massacre.”

Thompson explains, “Fox Searchlight, Overture, Summit, Focus Features, Lionsgate, Sony Picture Classics and Miramax all wanted to buy in Toronto. While they may buy later, at fest’s end, they walked away empty handed.”

It’s one thing for independents to raise the money to get a film made and to get it into the key festivals (Telluride, Venice, Tornoto & New York) but what happens to those films if they don’t get a distribution deal?

Thompson explains, “Most of the 145 films on sale at Toronto will wind up streamed, downloaded, and viewed on a small TV or computer or mobile screen.”

At the end of Cocaine Cowboys one of the ex-girlfriends of one of the drug runners asks, “What I want to know is what happened to all that money?” That’s what filmmakers are wondering these days.

Actually, Cocaine Cowboys may be a good template for the small and micro-budget films made outside L.A. It was produced by rakontur in Miami, premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2006, got picked up by Magnolia Films and had a limited theater release ($150,000 domestic), then a cable run, good DVD sales, and eventually streamed onto my computer last night. Don’t know if anybody made any money along the way but I have read rumors that  HBO television is developing a dramatic series based on the players in the doc.

Hollywood in 2009 is not a more dangerous place than Miami in 1981, it just feels that way. I imagine the film industry is going to follow the path that Miami took after the city was declared DOA. It emerged as a thriving city and a land of new opportunity to those who embraced the change.

Update 4/25/17:  Cocaine Cowboys director Billy Corben (a University of Miami grad) of Rakontur has a new film coming out this year (or next) called Cocaine Cowboys: Los Muchachos.  He also is active and interesting on Twitter @BillyCorban.

And just yesterday, the Orlando Sentinel reported that former Cocaine Cowboy Gustavo Falcon was arrested in Central Florida where he’d been living the last five years under an assumed name. He evaded authorities for over 25 years. He’s now in a Federal Detention Center in Miami and I’m sure Corban and he’s team would love to interview him. But regardless, the new press helps keep Cocaine Cowboys in the news. And as Bill Murray says in Scrooged, “You can’t buy this kind of publicity!”

Related Posts:
Postcard #24 (Coral Gables) Billy Corben also directed The U doc
La La Liberty City
Postcard #25 (Miami Beach)
Miami vs. Florida 

Scott W. Smith

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“Never quit. It is the easiest cop-out in the world. Set a goal and don’t quit until you attain it. When you do attain it, set another goal, and don’t quit until you reach it. Never quit.”
Coach Bear Bryant

Tonight’s BCS game between the 13-0 Alabama Crimson Tide and the 13-0 Texas Longhorns is high drama. Two long-standing, unbeaten college football programs battling for the national championship. (Mini-screenwriting lesson; Drama is conflict and there’s nothing like putting two equal (and successful) opponents against each other and taking them to the end of the line in a battle that will crown one as the victor.)

Over the years I’ve been to both Tuscaloosa, Alabama and Austin, Texas and found them both have their own unique vibe.  The University of Alabama has played college football since 1892 and has won 12 National Championships and has had a cast of characters over the years including Bart Starr, Joe Namath, Ken Stabler as well as the coach of coaches, Paul “Bear” Bryant. (Heck, even Forrest Gump played ball there.) This year’s team has Heisman Trophy winner  Mark Ingram on its side.

But in the last decade or so Alabama’s football teams have not shined so brightly. They’ve  shuffled through five coaches over that time trying to get back that winning tradition. They brought Nick Saben in to get them back on track and gave him a $32 million contract. The September 2008 cover of Forbes magazine asked about Saben,  “Is he worth it?” Even if the doesn’t win tonight, the answer is yes.

The University of Texas at Austin on the other hand has won four national, has had two Heisman Trophy winners, and their legendary football coach is Darrel Royal.  If you want to read a knock your socks of book on college football read Gary Shaw’s Meat on the Hoof, about his days as a player at the University of Texas.

The championship game tonight pitting #1 against #2  in Pasadena should be a great game. Drama at its best.

This week is the first time since 1954 where Bobby Bowden is not coaching college football. Last week he won his last game as the head football coach at Florida State University, where he had been head coach since 1976. Bowden also has an Alabama connection having been born in Birmingham, played his freshman year at the University of Alabama before transferring to Howard University (now Samford University in Birmingham), where he also began his coaching career.

Bowden led FSU to two national championships and is the second winningest coach in Division 1 college football history.  Congrats on a great career Coach Bowden–one that is not only  measured in wins, but in respect and appreciation. He also helped change how football teams from Florida are perceived. Since 1984 teams from the state of Florida have won nine national championships in football which is a staggering number. Bowden probably would have had a couple more national championships if they would have made a couple field goals against the University of Miami.

Speaking of the University of Miami, when I was in Florida last month I happened to catch Billy Corben’s documentary The U that was featured on ESPN’s 30 for 30. One write-up on the documentary said, “For Canes fans, this will be a reminder of what they loved about this team. For Canes haters, this will be a reminder of what they hated about this team.”

Many don’t know how controversial the documentary is in Miami. In the film, the Miami football program is not always shown in a positive light and it’s been reported that the school made it known to former players and coaches they would rather they not participate in the documentary. Corben definitely played up the bad boy image of the program (yes, rapper Luther Campbell is featured so that gives you a hint), but I think he also did a fair job of showing the rough areas where many of the players were from. They were playing for respect and they got it. (Well, respect mixed with a little hatred. Is calling a program “classless” its own form of trash-talking?) Miami’s program hasn’t been around since the 1800’s so it’s still working on being refined like those southern gentlemen in Alabama.

The U also takes time to show how Howard Schnellenberger was the architect for building a championship program out of a school that just a few years earlier was thinking about dropping football. The football program has not been without its scars, which makes it all the more amazing that in the last 25 years they have won five national championships—more than any other school during that time.

And who was Schnellenberger’s mentor? That happened to be none other than Bear Bryant. Schellenberger was an assistant at Alabama and helped Bryant lead the school to win three national championships in the 60s. Schellenberger was also an assistant on the 1972 Miami Dolphins Super Bowl championship team that is the only pro team to ever go undefeated in a single season. In fact, I’d love to produce a documentary on just Schnellenberger.

In fact,  to the University of Miami officials and/or alumni who didn’t care for the documentary The U and want to produce another angle to the story, give me a call. I was a briefly a walk-on player in the early 80s (still have my letter from Coach Schnellenberger), was a film major there, and have a couple decades of experience producing, directing, writing, shooting and editing many award winning projects.

The Miami football team doesn’t need a sugar coated version of the program, but their are other dimensions that could be covered that were missed on The U documentary. A good start would be  interviewing players like Jim Kelly, Warren Sapp, Vinny Testaverde and coaches Bowden, Larry Coker, Steve Spurrier and Mark Richt (the Georgia coach who was also a player at Miami, and an assistant at FSU). Corben and his rakontur production team covered a lot of ground, but Miami football  is its own mini-series & soap opera rolled into one, and you can only cover so much ground in an hour and a half.

Anyway, many eyes will be on Southern California tonight, but not because of USC, UCLA or the latest movie—but for two teams from fly-over country who have risen to the top of their field.

Scott W. Smith

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Yesterday was an important day personally. I got a glimpse into the future. And, yes, it did involve illegal drugs.

I watched the documentary Cocaine Cowboys on immediate viewing online through Netflix. The movie has been out for few years but I had never seen it before. Having attended the University of Miami in 1981-1982 the topic alone was of great interest to me. It was impossible to live in Dade County in the 80s and not be acutely aware of the drug trade and the murders that followed in its wake.

In 1981 there were 621 murders in Dade County. (A record that still stands there.)  I distinctly remember the news at that time where each murder seemed more bizarre than the next.  One official on the documentary called Miami at that time, “the most dangerous place in the world.”  (In reality, I think Medellin, Colombia, as in the Medellin drug cartel, in the 80s  technically had the highest rate of murder per capita in the world.)

I personally didn’t see any of the crime (I was safely editing my first 8mm film in my Mahoney-Pearson dorm room) though it was hard miss all the Ferraris & Porsches kicking around Cocount Grove.  And it didn’t take much for a film professor to show us A Clockwork Orange and connect it to Miami. Stanley Kubrick’s futuristic look at a chaotic culture full of brutal violence and murder without remorse was a daily realty in Miami.

But as fascinating as that era was it’s not what caused my mini glimpse into the future. It was simply because I could watch the movie immediately online. Legally. While I have watched LOST online before this was the first movie I have ever watched online.

It was an epiphany of sorts. I had a flashback to standing in line to see the movie ET, 15 years of renting VHS tapes (and paying all those Blockbuster late fees), to marveling how Netflix revolutionized things by having DVDs delivered to your home. Supply & demand and distribution channels seem to be changing quicker than ever.

Now I’m a mid-level tech savvy guy and try to somewhat keep up with where things are heading. I edit every day on Final Cut Pro. I Twitter, blog, and use Facebook yet I just learned yesterday that the push this Christmas will be TVs that are interconnected to the web. This will make your TV more like a computer, stereo, photo gallery and movie theater all in one.  There you’ll link to You Tube, Twitter, Facebook and the like.

Just as people are dropping their land phone lines you have to wonder what internet connected TV will do to regular cable TV. If all you do is push a button and watch the movie of your choice, what will it do to DVD sales that have been in decline for a while? There’s talk of streaming videos the same day they open in theaters.

The battle is on. And some would say its getting bloody. On production as well as distribution.

Anne Thompson wrote a post on indieWIRE called Toronto Wrap: Indie Bloodbath were she said this year’s Toronto Film Festival marked the end of the old independent market.

There were few sales made at the festival leading producer Jonathan Dana to say, “It’s a massacre.”

Thompson explains, “Fox Searchlight, Overture, Summit, Focus Features, Lionsgate, Sony Picture Classics and Miramax all wanted to buy in Toronto. While they may buy later, at fest’s end, they walked away empty handed.”

It’s one thing for independents to raise the money to get a film made and to get it into the key festivals (Telluride, Venice, Tornoto & New York) but what happens to those film if they don’t get a distribution deal?

Thompson explains, “Most of the 145 films on sale at Toronto will wind up streamed, downloaded, and viewed on a small TV or computer or mobile screen.”

At the end of Cocaine Cowboys one of the ex-girlfriends of one of the drug runners asks, “What I want to know is what happened to all that money?” That’s what filmmakers are wondering these days.

Actually, Cocaine Cowboys may be a good template for the small and micro-budget films made outside L.A. It was produced by rakontur in Miami, premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2006, got picked up by Magnolia Films and had a limited theater release ($150,000 domestic), then a cable run, good DVD sales, and eventually streamed onto my computer last night. Don’t know if anybody made any money along the way but I have read rumors that  HBO television is developing a dramatic series based on the players in the doc.

Hollywood in 2009 is not a more dangerous place than Miami in 1981, it just feels that way. I imagine the film industry is going to follow the path that Miami took after the city was declared DOA. It emerged as a thriving city and a land of new opportunity to those who embraced the change.

Side note: Cocaine Cowboys director Billy Corben (a University of Miami grad) has a new film coming out next month on the Miami Hurricane football team called The U.

Scott W. Smith

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