Category Archives: film video or TV

A little lesson in Kickstarter and in screenplay selling

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Screenwriter Ashley Scott Meyers of “Selling Your Screenplay”  interviews director/writer Jody Wheeler from “The Dark Place”  (my Blogger review was here  ) (See also April 18, 2014 here) with executive producer Steve Parker.

Wheeler does talk about getting jobs writing screenplays for other people’s projects. One of these turned out to be a script that the production company could modify to make two movies, one for a heterosexual and one for a gay audience.  You seem to have to get outside of your own narrative to “write what other people want”. But in “Dark Place”,  one of the selling points of a “mainstream mystery” with gay male characters was that the characters are likeable and inspire rooting interest.  The film is closer to Truffaut than Hitchcock.

He does talk about the Kickstarter process (or similarly Indiegogo) which he says works best for budgets under $200,000.  More than that amount you need to find investors who feel they are accomplishing something by helping you with your project.

In the second video above, actor Timo Descamps “pimps out Kickstarter” for this film (released in late 2014).

Here’s a glossary of all the personnel involved in film production.

On Sunday, March 20, the Washington Post Business Section ran a story bt Asha Bhattrai, “Crowdfunding by day, cleaning by night“, about freelance artist Brianna Mercedes Weidner.

(Published: Friday, March 18, 2018 at 11 PM EDT)

Three films about nuclear Armageddon from the 80s

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A few films in the 1980s, the Reagan years, do recall the horror we used to feel at nuclear war.

In November  1983, ABC aired a two-part “The Day After” on a Sunday and Monday night. It was directed by Nicholas Meyer and written by Edward Hume.

The US has maintained an underground SAC base near Lawrence, Kansas and the University of Kansas (where I went to graduate school).  After international tensions, the US launches them within sight og the campus, and the Soviets nuke Kansas City.  People are shown turning to skeletons in the blast downtown, as the first part ends.  In the second half, people search through rubble. Jason Robards, JoeBeth Wiliams, and John Lithgow star.

People were told not to watch this alone.  I watched in my apartment in Harvey’s Raquet in Dallas with a medical resident next door I had befriended.  He had gotten used to treating PWA’s already.

 

Another film in 1983 was “Testament”, directed by Lynne Litman (Paramount).  A mom (Jane Alexander) in a suburb in Marin County and her kids learn that San Francisco has been nuked from an emergency news broadcast, and they await the end of their lives from radiation sickness.  (It’s a little hard to believe the broadcast could have gone off in the first place.) The film is available to rent on Amazon.

 

In 1982, NBC aired a 3-hour, 2-part “World War III”, by David Greene and Boris Sagal, written by Robert L. Joseph.   In retaliation for a grain embargo, the Soviets attack the US oil pipeline in Alaska.  This was a big deal in the years after the Arab Oil Embargo of 1973.  Rock Hudson, to die of AIDS five years later, plays the president.

(Published: Wednesday, March 16, 2016 at 1:30 PM EDT)

ABC’s series’s on Herman Wouk’s World War II novels

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I do recall being somewhat “swept” by the two big ABC miniseries on Herman Wouk’s massive novel duet, “The Winds of War” (1983) and “War and Remembrance” (1988)., giving a complete chronicle of World War II.  I even recall the majestic D Minor opening theme by Bob Cobert, and the montage of images from around the world subsumed by the War.

The first series aired in 1983, while I lived in Dallas.  It ran for 15 hours and was divided into seven episodes.  The first episode was titled “The Winds Rise”, and the second was “The Storm Breaks”.  The final was “Into the Maelstrom”.  The hero is commander Victor Henry (“Pug”), played by Robert Mitchum. He learns of the Hitler-Stalin pact, and travels the world meeting world leaders. His middle son, the idealistic Byron (Jan Michael Vincent) works for a member of the Jastrow family that will always be fleeing the Nazis. The series ends with the attack on Pearl Harbor, the way the 2001 movie by that name begins.

The second series started in late 1988, which I could watch shortly after I had moved back to Arlington VA from Dallas, with a downsized lifestyle.  Mitchum continues as Pug, but Vincent is replaced by Hart Bochner.  For Aaron Jastrow, John Houseman was replaced by John Gielgud.  I remember the entire series being rebroadcast in the mid 1990s, around 1996, when I was living in a larger place in Annandale and working on my first book.  The mood of the series often inspired me.  I would sometimes watch an episode before going out on a weekend evening (like to “Tracks”).  The series is much longer, with twelve episodes.  As it progresses, the plight of the Jastrow family gets increasing emphasis. There is a long sequence in the “Paradise Ghetto”, Theresienstadt, in Czechoslovakia, where Aaron participates as an elder running the artificial “colony”.  But eventually, starting one chilly afternoon in late October, all are transported by train to Auschwitz. The journey takes longer that it should according to geography, and encounters early snow.  When the prisoners arrive, the scenes resemble those of the 2016 Academy Award winner “Son of Saul”. The women’s hair is cut (and the men’s bodies may have been shaved).  The next to last episode ends in a gas chamber.

The series also dramatizes the assassination attempt on Hitler.

Wouk’s earlier novel, “The Caine Mutiny” (Edward Dmytryk, Columbia), became a long-running film in 1954, at the RKO Keith’s in downtown Washington. I remember “hating” Lt Commender Queeg (Humphrey Bogart) who takes over command of a ship and is tried for mutiny (a touch of “Billy Budd”).

(Published Wednesday, March 2, 2016 at 3:30 PM)

Some notes about film color, value, saturation, and hue, as might apply to my own work

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Back in the 1998-2003 period when I was living in Minneapolis, IFPMSP held many forums on filmmaking technology, including film stock.

I wanted to give a few links about concepts regarding image color and focus, because they would become relevant to filming my “Do Ask, Do Tell: Epiphany”.

Of course, people pay tuition and get degrees from film schools to learn these things.

Leighcotnoir has some valuable links.

Look at this explanation of hue, saturation, and value, particularly the 3-D cone near the bottom of the page that gives an example based on “red”.

It’s also important to study the concept of “primary colors”, as explained here, along with color wheels.  Note how primary “additive” colors (red, green, blue) work, where as “subtractive pigments” (Yellow, magenta, cyan) work in tandem, because when paints are mixed, the light wavelengths that may be reflected are “subtracted”.

There is also the “hue-saturation grayscale”, as explained here.

And “Filmschoolonline”  explains the “attributes of the visual image”, including Brightness, Contrast,  Quality of Light, Focus, perspective.  Here, color is explained in terms of saturation, hue, and emphasis.

There is also the opportunity for 3-D without glasses, “autostereoscopy“, a kind of holography, as explained in Sciecemag,

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I do want to discuss the color scheme for the “flashbacks” or “backstories” of my Epiphany screenplay.

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The Final Draft document shows several color modes:

White — Black and white presentation (the embedded screenplay “The Sub”).

Blue — scenes at ashram, in mild color-blindness called green-weak deuteranomaly  (see a color blindness “simulator“).

Red — backstories in full color as they would appear in nature  (moderate value and saturation)

Orange– backstories known to and told by characters other than Bill, higher saturation.

Green — historical narrative told to characters other than Bill (higher value)

Purple — immediate, quick flashbacks (higher value and saturation)

Yellow — acted historical narrative (treat as red)

Gray — historical relative to “Sub” screenplay, black and white

Some directors change aspect ratio for different kinds of backstory.  I think this creates problems, because different theaters handle cropping different (in many auditoriums, 2.35:1 is accomplished by vertical cropping, so presenting some backstories in smaller aspect can require more cropping). I would prefer 2.35:1 for all scenes, but use different color schemes.

Much of the action takes place in an “ashram” which is envisioned as the inner surface of most of a cylinder mounted near the space station on Titan, about 2 miles in diameter and 10 miles long, rotation for artificial gravity, that  is, a “rama”.

I’ve talked about Clarke’s novel here before, but it seems that there have been few movies about societies of people raising generations while on an evacuation ark (like “Evacuate Earth“).  These situations certainly could explore the idea of “social capital”.

(Published Saturday Jan. 23, 2016 at 7 PM EST)

 

 

Regarding debating diversity at the Oscars: for my scripts, not all casting can work if race-blind

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There has been some “whining” about the supposed lack of racial diversity in Oscar nominations, as in this Washington Post Style article by Lonnae O’Neal, “Only role reversals will end all-white Oscars lists” — online, it’s “Maybe Hollywood’s not racist; it just has a processing disorder”.

Later MLK Day, in fact, Spike Lee (and maybe others) announced boycotting the Oscars under the “Oscars so White” (#Oscarsowhite) hashtag on twitter.

My own experience at the movies (and with television mini-series) is that I see plenty of black actors in favorable roles — especially as police detectives, politicians (especially presidents), athletes, and physicians.  No one would quarrel with Viola Davis’s effectivness as a  law professor in “How to Get Away with Murder“.  It would have been well to nominate Will Smith for his role in “Concussion“, no argument there. I recall Morgan Freeman’s role in David Fincher’s “Se7en” (1995) alongside Brad Pitt  (remember the “chest shaving” scene before they both wear a wire for the climax).  And, by the way remember the climax, “What’s in the box?” (maybe an inspiration for Richard Kelly’s “The Box”), with Kevin Spacey as the satanic villain.

There is a problem, however, in my own mind, with some scripts.  Suppose I get my novel “Angel’s Brother” published and it gets interest, or I get some traction for my “Do Ask, Do Tell: Epiphany” screenplay.

In both of these, it’s important that some of the leading characters be attractive young white males, for what I have presented as “gay sexual tension” (however stereotyped and potentially prejudicial) to work.  I wonder if films like “Judas Kiss” or “The Dark Place” could have worked with African-American young actors in at least one leading role, for the same reason.

“Epiphany” particularly has some supporting characters in the “ashram” scenes where the characters can be cast in a race-blind way.  And, for example, in “Angel’s Brother”, the leading characters (Randy, about 40 and Sal, about 21) are conceived as white, the CIA chief could very well be cast as African American (Morgan Freeman would be perfect).

Don’t forget, by the way, that Morgan Freeman has been trying to produce “Rendezvous with Rama”.

(Published: Monday, January 18, 2015, 10:45 AM EDT)

“The Hateful Eight” recalls the history of aspect ratio in movies

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I found a writeup of the history of Cinema aspect ratios that I thought I would pass along, “The Changing Shape of Cinema: The History of Aspect Ratio“.  A couple of the embeds in this link seem to have gone dead.  Another link that gives more detailed technical information on the specific ratios is “The Letterbox and Widescreen Advocacy Page“.

The Changing Shape of Cinema: The History of Aspect Ratio from FilmmakerIQ.com on Vimeo.

Remember all the different innovations since the early 1950s: CinemaScope (“The Robe”). CinemaScope 55 (“Carousel”), VistaVision (“White Christmas), Cinerama (with its three projectors — “This Is Cinerama” and then “Cinerama Holiday”), and ToddAO, and then the practice, often used in the 70s and 80s, of making high-profile films with a lot of outdoor scenery in 70mm format (as with “The Hateful Eight” roadshow release from The Weinstein Company).

Let me add, I remember crying at the end of “The Robe” at a suburban CinemaScope premier at the Jefferson Theater on Rt. 50 in Falls Church VA in 1953.

Vox weighs in with this discussion by Charles Bramesco, “Film v. Digital: the most contention debate in the film world, explained” with illiustrations.

(Published:  Friday, January 1, 2016 at 4 PM.)

“Alien Interview”, rogue video of 1989 (and 1957) interviews with captured “aliens” leaves questions open

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I came across a rogue YouTube video, slightly over an hour, called “Alien Interview” (or “The Is a Real Interview with an Actual Gray Alien“),  published in 2013, apparently directed by Art Bell. The film sounds like it has NatGeo footage.

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For most of the film, someone whose face is blacked out named “Victor” describes an interview somewhere at Area 51 with a captured alien in 1989.  There is reference to an earlier such interview around 1957, some years after the Roswell incident in 1947.

Victor seems to believe that the beings view the body as a temporary repository for consciousness that lives forever, maybe in other dimensions (like “angels” or “devils”).


Giving some credibility to the claim is the apparent incident in 1989 where South Africa reportedly intercepted a crashed saucer and shipped specimens to both Wright Patterson in Ohio and to Area 51.

The alien shown in the film seems to be the elongated head-only shot of what could be a puppet.  The 1957 alien body in black-and-white is full and comports to the popular idea of a “gray”.

There are well-know versions of the Roswell “Alien Autopsy” also.


It’s well to mention a few of the more important commercial films on the subject  These include “Roswell” (1994)by Arthur Kopit, and “The UFO Incident” (1975), by Richard A. Colla, about Betty and Barney Hill, “Fire in the Sky” (1993), by Robert Lieberman, about the Travis Walton abduction in Arizona in 1975 based on Walton’s book, and “Communion” (1989), by Phillippe Mora, with Christopher Walken playing author Whitley Strieber.

In May 2000, I drove along the Extraterrestrial Highway, state route 375, heading west from US 93, about 100 miles due north of Las Vegas, Nevada.  I stopped at the UFO shop (“Little A’len’in”) in Rachel, Nevada. I didn’t really see anything “suspicious”.

My own perception is that the depiction of aliens as “grays” is a bit trite.  The idea that an alien could look and act and perform as one of us (like the teenager Clark Kent in “Smallville”) is a lot more challenging.

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Little A’Le’Inn Rachel NV 2” by Cooper, in Wiki Commons known as Cooper.ch 18:45, 7 August 2006 (UTC) – scanned from own paper print. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Commons.

One of the casinos in Las Vegas does have a small Area 51 exhibit.

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Wikipedia attribution link for image (owned by X51) of  “No photography” sign on border of Area 51, under Creative Commons 3.0 share alike license.

(Published Friday Oct. 23, 2015 at 3:45 PM EDT.)

 

“Full Metal Jacket” (1987) somewhat captures the world of Vietnam-era mandatory military service

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There have not been many films that really present the Vietnam era military draft, with the controversial student deferment system (and subsequent lottery), but one that comes somewhat close is Stanley Kubrick’s “Full Metal Jacket“, from Warner Brothers. As I recall, I saw this film at Northpark in Dallas shortly after release. The large film is based on Gustav Hasford’s novel “The Short-Timers” (1979).

The plot is in two parts.  The first section deals with basic training in the Marine Corps in 1967.  (It was possible to be drafted into the Marines at times, but not on the day in February 1968 when I was inducted.) There are three main characters:  The misfit Pyle (Vincent D’Onofrio),  Joker (Michale Moldine), and Sgt. Hartmen (R. Lee Emrey), and some others such as Cowboy (Arliss Howard), Sgt. “Animal Mother” (Adam Baldwin) and Eightball (Dorian Harewood).

Pyle’s problems would have put him in Special Training Company in the environment I experienced at Fort Jackson in 1968, but they come to a head at the end of part 1 when he commits suicide (after shooting Hartmann).

Joker gets journalism as an MOS, and that does sound like an odd idea for a military occupational specialty — given today’s ideas about journalistic objectivity. Most of the other grunts get infantry (as had Pyle).  The second half of the film happens in Vietnam and covers the Tet Offensive, which had been launched Jan. 30, 1968, just before I went into the Army myself.

(Published Sunday, Oct. 18, 2015, 2:30 PM EDT)

 

“Cinema of the Street” in Washington DC, QA

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On Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2015,  a group called “Street Sense” held a second session of “Cinema of the Street”, produced by Bryan Bello, with two forty minute films made as video diaries by homeless women.

The first film was “Raise to Rise” by Sasha Williams, and the second was “Who Should I Be Grateful to” by Cynthia Mewborn.

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(Published Friday, August 28. 2015 at 11:15 AM EDT)