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Posts Tagged ‘El Mariachi’

One thing that is not going down in price is the cost of going to movies. While you can buy a classic movie on DVD for $5, going to a mediocre one in the theaters can cost just about twice as much. And by the time you add drinks, snacks, gas (and sometimes parking), a family of four can spend over $70 bucks going to a single movie.

Heck, for $70 you can make a movie these days. A feature film, too. That’s how much Welsh director Marc Price spent making his film Colin which made it to the Cannes Film Festival last month. According to an interview with CNN the film took 18 months to shoot and most of the money according to Price went to, “A crowbar and a couple of tapes, some tea and coffee.” Remember when low-budget filmmaking used to be a couple hundred thousand dollars?

Blame it on the Blair Witch guys and their $40,000 film, Kevin Smith’s Clerks for $27,500, then Robert Rodriguez and his sub- $10,000 film El mariachi. Welcome to filmmaking in the new economics. If you can get your hands on the latest cameras that shoot digitally you should be able to cut the tape costs out and maybe cut Price’s budget in half.

The film’s press release says, “Without funding the filmmaker’s goal to make an explosive feature length production fuelled by the creativity and inventiveness of those involved that would not be restricted in any way by lack of funding.”

Casting was done through Facebook and MySpace where 50 people answered the call to “Who wants to be a zombie?”And what sets this film apart from other no budget films is that it not only played at Cannes, but it may be the first one to pick up a distribution deal. It’s another piece of a growing trend.

Another piece of new school filmmaking is Twitter. A couple months ago I said someone was going to write a screenplay on Twitter. Well…Killer Green is reported to be the first screenplay written on Twitter to have been optioned. Writer David Niall Wilson began the script in February 2009 and it was optioned this month by Ambergris Films. Wilson has been writing since the mid-80s and has had over 150 short stories published. He lives in North Carolina and you can follow him on twitter @David_N_Wilson.

Interesting things happening outside L.A.

Things a lot more interesting and original than The Proposal which happens to be number one at the box office this weekend. Really, is that the best that Hollywood can do? Think of the years it takes to sift through thousands of scripts to find the few that will be produced by a studio. Think of all of the creative, talented, and experienced cast and crew that it takes to make a film. The tens of millions of dollars that it takes to produce a Hollywood feature. And we get …The Proposal.

A movie that Rolling Stone critic Peter Travis wrote, “A romantic comedy so numbing it feels like Novocaine,” and that Michael Phillips at the Chicago Tribune wrote, “The problem is not the acting. The problem is what these actors are required to say and do.”

Now Sandra Bullock could make eating an apple interesting to watch for an hour and a half, my point is simply this — The Proposal reflects the best Hollywood has to offer. My case for this whole blog is the cure — fresh scripts and movies from places far from L.A.

Nov.’09 Update: Story in New York Post of guy who started to Twitter funny thing his dads says and lands a TV deal.

March ’11 Update: In 2010, CBS began airing the sitcom  $#*! My Dad Says starring William Shatner based on the Twitter feed @ShitMyDadSays written by Justin Halpern (and which I referenced in November ’09).

Scott W. Smith

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Orson Welles? Sunset Boulevard? Diablo Cody? None of those posts have done what quoting Kevin Smith has done–basically double my number of views. Maybe there are other factors at play but I’m staying on the Kevin Smith gravy train for a couple more days. I should point the way to Stephen Lowenstein’s book My First Movie; 20 Directors Talk about Their First Film as the source of the quotes I’ve pulled from Smith.

So far Kevin Smith’s magic formula starting out is:

1) Watch Slacker and decide to make movie
2) Write a script

There are basically just three major pieces of the puzzle left. Fundraising, production & editing, and distribution. So how did Smith raise the money to make Clerks? First he did a little research and learned Robert Rodriguez had done medical experimentations to raise funds for El Mariachi, and that Sam Raimi went to dentists and doctors to raise money for The Evil Dead, and that Robert Townsend had made Hollywood Shuffle using credit cards.

Smith went the credit card route and sold his comic book collection for $2,000. in credit which he in turn sold the credit to a friend which helped to make the minimum payments on his credit  cards. He also had a little cash from FEMA after a flood destroyed some old beat-up Volkeswagons he had. He was living with his parents and did have jobs at a convenience store and a video store.

“The option was to continue working at the convenience store for the rest of my life, until I got fired. And if not that convenience store, some other convenience store. And I was just no good at labour. I was just a very lazy, lazy person, and still am to a large degree. But when it came to this, I never felt lazy because it didn’t feel like work. It’s my passion; it’s what I want to do. So I guess it was a gamble and when I told my parents, I think they figured, this’ll get it out of his system. Now he’ll settle down and get a good job like his bothers. But they were very supportive.”
Kevin Smith
My First Movie
page 78

Now it’s worth pointing out that probably 99.9% of all filmmakers who make a film using credit cards never see a return on their investment and at best take years to pay it off and at worse end up filing for bankruptcy. We only hear about those who succeed going the Robert Townsend way because it makes for good press. But I imagine one could make a compelling documentary about failed movie makers who leveraged credit cards to make a movie.

Smith made Clerks in 1993 shooting film on an Arri SR camera which ended up being a large percentage of budget. Certainly these days you can find people with a digital camera, lights, an audio package and a Final Cut Pro editing system that will join you on your quest to make a film and spare you the risk of leveraging your personal credit.

The key thing to learn from Smith is it was not his credit cards that made the film it was his passion. His passion is what made him write the script. His passion is what allowed him to make a film using unpaid actors and an unpaid crew. His passion is what kept everyone going when shooting at 2 in the morning. His passion is what made him work his day jobs and edit his film at night.

Passion–that stuff is contagious.

Speaking of passion…check out a video I did a couple years ago on an aerosol artist who spray painted his version of the Sistine Chapel on a ceiling here in Iowa. This video ended up making front page news on Yahoo back in 2006. Watch the video at pacorosic.com.

And keep in mind when Paco came to America about ten years ago he was an 18-year old Bosnian who had no money and didn’t even speak English yet. Today he owns a restaurant, sells his artwork around the country, has appeared on the TV program Rachel Ray, and has a 60 piece showing coming up at an art gallery in St. Louis.

Scott W. Smith

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