Posts Tagged ‘DGA’

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We tried to keep our crew small enough [on The Florida Project] where we weren’t a big presence that would suddenly bring artifice to the scene that we were shooting…they were ready to go and improvise behind the camera, and sometimes throw the schedule away. As long as I was proving to production and my financiers we were going to make it. [Meaning avoiding overtime or adding additional shooting days, and getting the film shot within the budget.]

…One of the scenes that kind of goes with this sometimes documentary style way of filmmaking is the scene with the cranes that a lot of people actually think might be one of the best scenes in the film. I wanted to shoot Willem interacting with the cranes and we were going to workshop a scene right there one morning. It was one of his last days I believe, and I wanted to make sure we had enough of the Bobby character before he left to go on to another show.

So these three cranes lived on the property. They would come up every morning and tap on the window of the lobby and the real clerks of The Magic Castle would come out and feed them Cheetos—they were addicted to junk food. The morning of my Steadicam artist is setting up rig and suddenly we all get emails and we look at it’s like ‘Do not shoot the cranes. They are an endangered species, if anything goes wrong this is a federal crime and this will shut us down our whole production.’ And I look over and the production offices are on the other side of the The Magic Castle—I knew it was going to take a while to get to me, so I said ‘Guys roll camera, Willem go inside the lobby, come out and do something, I don’t know what to tell ya.’

So he comes out and he has that wonderful interaction with the cranes, and he comes up with that line ‘No harm, no fowl.’ And my great Steadicam artists Mike McGowan, who worked on Moonlight, did that really nice move into him and suddenly it was like ‘Cut—alright, sorry.’ They made us move on, and that was the one take we got.”
Writer/Director Sean Baker
DGA podcast #98 The Director’s Cut


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Since yesterday I found a couple quotes from screenwriter Bob Gale about he came up with the idea for Back to the Future in his parent’s basement in St. Louis, I thought I’d find a quote today from the other half of that screenwriting team, Robert Zemeckis. Zemeckis also directed the film as well as  Romancing the Stone, Forrest Gump, and Castaway.

“You have to hope that you can get your investment back, which is what we [filmmakers] all try to do. What we really want to do is make one dollar profit back, so that nobody gets hurt and the movie exists. Anything else is arrogant and unrealistic. All of us in this business are a bit superstitious as well. We don’t really talk about that, although I must say that [Paramount Motion Picture Group chair] Sherry Lansing would always talk about what she thought the success of the movie would be. And she was wrong by about $150 million. Nobody in their right mind is going to say a movie is going to make $300 million.”
Robert Zemeckis
DGA Interview with Ted Elrick

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Hollywood has a problem and it’s not my fault. Really it isn’t. But if you’re a screenwriter living outside L.A., L.A.’s problem is your opportunity.

Don’t blame me if Hollywood is the new Detroit. I just started “Screenwriting from Iowa” last year. L.A.’s runaway problem has been going on for the last decade. Runaway production is the term used to describe movies not being filmed in L.A.

The Directors Guild of America (DGA) breaks this down into two catagories; Creative Runaway and Economic Runaway. The first being those movies that are filmed outside L.A. because the story actually takes place outside L.A. and the second is movies that are filmed outside L.A. because for whatever reason it is cheaper to shoot on location.

This is where the window of opportunity comes for writers outside L.A. I think production companies are combining creative and economic reasons to film outside L.A. That is they are looking for scripts that take place outside L.A. because they are cheaper to producer there, a large part due to tax incentives given by such states as Iowa and Michigan. (Not to mention the dent already made by Canada.)

There is a lot of finger pointing going on right now in L.A. as people are watching jobs disappear (unions, traffic and hassle of filming on location in L.A., cost of living, etc.),  There is even talk about a L.A. film czar that will help reign business back to L.A. and time will tell how effective that will be. But how bad is it? Let’s look at the numbers.

According to The Wrap, back in 1996 there were 71 major film permits given in L.A. for shooting in L.A. county. (Films budgeted over $80 million.)  In 2008 the number was down to 21. This year there have only been 3 major films that have applied for film permits.

Of course, one way in which Hollywood is not like Detroit is that people still want American movies. And I think the  USA still makes the best movies. So movies are still being made and there is still an audience. It’s just that they are being made less and less in L.A.

But some even in L.A. see the positive aspects of this trend. John Nolte writes on his blog, “While people losing their livelihood is not something to cheer about, there is a silver lining. Anything that helps the film industry become less L.A.-centric will only be a positive. Maybe you have to live out here to feel this strong about it, but Los Angeles as a shooting location is played. The downtown skyline, Santa Monica Pier, Griffith Observatory, same freeways, same bridges, same Miracle Mile, etc… There’s only so much you can do with a sprawling one-story ghetto. Every once in a while a director comes along and shoots the city in a unique and imaginative way, but this is happening less and less.” 

Films have always been made outside L.A. and if you go to the section here called “Screenwriting Road Trips” you’ll see how I’ve covered many states and how many wonderful films have been made outside California. And Alexandyr Kent of USA TODAY has an excellent overview of films made in other states in his article 50 niffty filmmaking states.

L.A. and New York are the core of the industry and that won’t change.  But like almost everything else in this new economic shift people are reinventing how things are done. Will big Hollywood productions return to the streets of L.A.? Who knows? But I think this is the greatest time in the history of the film business to be a creative person living outside L.A. So keep writing those off-Hollywood stories because Hollywood is starting to land in the fly-over zone. (As of this writing four features are crewing-up in Iowa alone. And while they’re not $80 million + films, I see it as a good sign.)

And while the auto industry in the USA is in trouble I do want to say my 2004 Dodge Durango has been the best (and most dependable) vehicle I have ever owned. And I’ve had Toyotas, Nissans, and Hondas.  It’s got 82,000 miles and hasn’t had a single repair. I just load it with equipment, put gas in it, change the oil now and then. Thanks to all the good people at Chrysler Corp. who designed and built my Durango.


copyright 2009 Scott W. Smith

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