Posts Tagged ‘Paranormal Activities’

“My work, I can do anywhere.”
Screenwriter Christoph Silber

One trend that I’ve noticed since starting this blog in January ’08 is there really is a growing trend of people writing screenplays and making movies outside Los Angeles. And some are doing quite well such as Paranormal Activities made by a writer/director living down in San Diego (still California, but really like another time zone to the people in the thirty mile zone) and then I just heard about a working screenwriter living in Huntsville, Alabama.

Now the south in general and Alabama in particular is no stranger to fine storytellers, but this one does have a twist. Christoph Silber not only lives far from Hollywood, but the films made from his scripts are made far from California—or even Huntsville. According to an article by Jon Buseker Silber is “one of Germany’s most soughtafter screenwriters.”

He’s had three films made in Germany  North FaceAranged, and the Golden Globe-nominated Good Bye Lenin!, and has written for the German crime show Tatort. Busdeker says that Silber met his wife in New York City but the couple moved to Alabama after they inherited a house and felt like it would be a better place to raise their family.

Silber said about the move south,”I think it benefits my writing. I feel there’s something about the land.” (Of course, it may have something to do with that land he’s living on being mortgage-free, but that’s another story for another day.)

Silber was raised in Germany and I’m sure he’s not the only German in town.  Huntsville has a history of Germans living there at least back to the World War II period when many of Germany’s top scientist fled Hitler and ended up working on the rockets that helped build the US space program (and why it’s called “Rocket City.”)

And this isn’t the first time Huntsville’s come up on this blog. Check out the post on Daytime Emmy-winning writer (and former Miss Alabama) Pamala K. Long.  Roll tide.

And a hat tip to Mystery Man on Film for the lead on the article. If you’re still looking for a good reason to join twitter then I recommend jumping into the game just to follow the Mystery Man on Film (@MMonFilm). (And follow me as well @scottwsmith_com)

Scott W. Smith

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“I learned a lot about the process of filmmaking and that if you’re totally persistent and want to follow through with something, you’ll get it done.”
Oren Peli

For Halloween day I’ll step away from my Once Upon a Time in Hollywood posts to interject an update about the movie Paranormal Activities. The seven day results fro Friday October 23 through Thursday October 29 had Paranormal Activities number one at the box office.   I wouldn’t call it paranormal but that is highly unusual. Especially for a movie that opened five weeks ago and had yet to have a number one week.

That’s the power of word of mouth and a great marketing plan.  On halloween night the film will also pass the $70 million mark. Keep in mind that the budget has been said to be between 10,000-15,000. No typos there. Less than most used cars. I saw the movie this week and they keep the budget down by shooting in just one location (the writer/directors house) and using just four actors (two of which are on the screen for just a couple minutes). And one of the actors doubled most of the time as the cameraman using just  a $3,000 video camera.

So the film made for $15,000 bringing in $70 million in the box office according to several sources is now the new box office record holder as the most profitable movie ever made. Ever. A film made by the  39-year old Oren Peli, a first time filmmaker who was born in Israel and living in San Diego. (Passing the decade old record set by The Blair Witch Project.)

I’d like to say it was in the spirit of what I’ve been writing about for two years hear at Screenwriting from Iowa. Something big happening by an outsider to the Hollywood film industry. The only problem is there wasn’t a screenplay written—at least in the traditional sense.

“There was no dialogue. There was only an outline of the story, the actors never received any script. They didn’t know about anything they were getting into. All they knew is they were going to do something about a haunted house and basically discovered everything as they were shooting. There were no lines for them to follow. Everything was spontaneous.”
Oren Peli

The film was shot in just seven days in 2006, but took 10 months to go through the 70 hours of footage. The first version of the film was made in 2007 and several different versions were completed and tested a various film festivals. The film hit the jackpot when a DVD found its way to Steven Spielberg. DreamWorks picked up the film first with the intention of Spielberg remaking the film but then it was decided that that wasn’t needed. Like The Blair Witch Project hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent to enhance the film that eventually made the theater. But essentially it’s the film Peli made for $15,000.

They did a masterful of using social media, most notably Facebook, Twitter and MySpace. While the success of Paranormal Activities is off the charts and against all odds, I think you will see more of its ilk in the future. Not just horror films, but films in general where lovers of film tap into the resources that are out there and make a film that finds an audience. I’ll talk more about those resources tomorrow in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood… (Part 9).

Scott W. Smith

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