Saturday, May 26, 2007

Guillermo del Toro leads the Mexican Invasion.

In the past seven days I've done two notable things: quit smoking and watched both Guillermo del Toro's movies, Pan's Labyrinth and The Devil's Backbone. Like the smoking, I'm sure I'll go back to the movies again and again. [editor's note: he's already back smoking...]

Why? Simply because del Toro (director of the under-rated Blade II, Mimic, and Hellboy) is doing what a lot of Hollywood filmmakers aren't: crafting movies from the ground up with good scripts that employ simple - yet elegant - themes; superior cinematography and set design; and, an appreciation for the psychology of montage and mis en scene . Companion pieces, PL and TDB are both set in post civil war Spain, dealing with BIG ISSUES (such as, oh... life...) from the perspectives of 9 - 11 year old children. As Stephen King used to say, good horror fiction has the capacity to take us back to when we were kids, wondering just what really was hiding under the bed at night. Del Toro does the same to his audience via making children his main characters; it is through their eyes that we see the world for what it is: a cold, calculating place filled with war and evil people.

Oh yeah, they also see the world as fantastic and beautiful, with saints among the sinners and a capacity to understand that there really are no "grey" areas between right and wrong until you get past the age of 12 (and then you justify things like wanting to own the Paris Hilton CD, even though you personally can't stand the chick).

For me, I just can't get enough of the guy's stuff, 'cuz I think he's brilliant. But don't take my word for it, take David Greven's:

"Del Toro’s persistent talent rescues him from critical oblivion. If we piece together moments from his films, we have an impressive body of cinematic statements. The little girl rescuing her grandfather from death in Cronos; Susan’s raised, slashed hand of defiance at the climax of Mimic; Blade’s embrace of the dying vampire woman at the end of Blade II—all of these images taken together amount to a profound and beautifully limned statement about moments of profound generosity and courage from embattled heroes in the face of evil. As a message, it’s utterly simple and awesome, like those in most myths and fairy tales. Del Toro’s work forces us to recognize that part may often be more significant than whole."

(You can read the rest of Greven's article here.)

Insofar as how del Toro's films affect the Boise community... well, they don't, other than they serve as quality studies on how to make a movie look awesome and not suck in the story department. Granted, del Toro has focused on horror/fantasies - but to cubby-hole him into that category as, "something I'm not interested in emulating" would be a mistake. If nothing else, how he achieves Hollywood level (and better) looking movies on minimum budgets - PL cost 13.5 million and TDB cost 4.5 million to make; chump change in la-la land - should be a sign to us that having money in the coffers doesn't necessarily make film making easier; just more expensive.


Real Filmmakers. No Tourists.

Booty Shake part two

So what DOES POTC3 mean for Boise Filmmaking, anyway?

Damn fine question, glad I asked it.

When any monster budget franchise such as Pirates of the Caribbean or Lord of the Rings or even Back to the Future (remember that one, and how much part two REALLY sucked?) come out, the people with nice offices in Hollywood do a couple of things:

1) sign everyone on to multiple sequels, "just in case".
2) wait for opening weekend to arrive, hoping everyone else has done their job.
3a) if opening weekend tanks, fire assistants and move on to next project.
3b) if opening weekend doesn't tank, celebrate while someone else's assistants are being fired, then plot to make bukoo bucks on next two pictures in franchise.
4) realize that if franchise flops, you'll be looking for a new assistant.

Having checked out the world B.O. lists over at, I've noticed a few things: fantasy/sci-fi films really rake in the bucks if they're done right. And by, "done right" I don't mean, "having a great script." Here's the top ten worldwide money makers:

1) Titanic
2) The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
3) Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
4) Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
5) The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
6) Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace
7) Shrek 2
8) Jurassic Park
9) Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
10) Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Hmm. Not exactly David Mamet quality dialogue ripping off the pages of these movies, y'know? BUT... these are all very sexy looking popcorn films with big, epic cinematography/sfx and big, epic soundtracks by people we never hear on the radio. And these are the movies that people talk about when they talk about how much fun they had at the movie theater, whether we like it or not.

AT THE WORST... POTC: AT WORLD'S END is going to continue to foster in the common Mr. Moviegoer's mind that, for a movie to be REALLY GOOD, it's gotta emulate one of the above 10 movies - none of which would ever come close to cracking my personal top ten list. As lower-budget filmmakers in Boise, we haven't a chance at making these movies; Jurassic Park's production budget came in at $63 million alone (add another $20 mil for advertising, etc.,), and I'm pretty sure I don't know Michael Crichton or Steven "Big Daddy" Spielberg.

So what do we do?

Well... AT THE BEST... these movies perpetuate themselves in Hollywood; it seems that everyone in la-la land is trying to make the next Two Billion Dollar franchise. Hey, I don't blame 'em. BUT... it does allow for a whole world of errors that the consumer ends up paying for. For every Lord of the Rings movie, there are twenty Pitch Black sequels that all seem to suffer from the same thing: crappy scripts.

Anyone rush right out to buy Caddyshack 2 on DVD lately? Me neither.

Ultimately, this massive amount of effluence and dreck makes Hollywood look bad, and that's when the doors open for the indie filmmaker. BUT: the indie filmmaker can't be a lazy bastard, oh no he and she cannot! They have to hustle and work their networking craft all over the place, and even that's not going to get them very far unless they have one of three things:

a) the treasure of the Sierra Madre.
b) whatever's in the briefcase Jules is delivering to Marcellus Wallace.
c) the best script possible.

Desire, heart, talent - all these things account for tons in the everyday world, but let's remember something: making movies isn't about living in the everyday world. It's about living in a fantasy land where we get to pay (hopefully) people to hop around according to our whims while cameras roll.

So. I say let Hollywood have their blockbusters. When it comes time for movies with good scripts - and it will again - the doors will be that much more open for the likes of me. Err... us. Uhm... whatever.


Real Filmmakers. No Tourists.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Shake your booty.

Johnny Depp & Co. are here to take even more of your money back to Disneyland.
Went to the early Friday AM 12:35 showing of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, mostly because:

a) I wanted to see it to get the bad taste of PTC2 out of my mouth.
b) Shrek the Third left bad taste in my mouth too, so I had to get SOMETHING done about it...
c) All the previous showings (from 8 pm on) were sold out.
d) Fewer teenaged bastards in a super-late night showing.
e) I figured I'd be up anyway.
f) All of the above.

If you answered "f", that'd be the correct answer. First off, lemme say I'm a fan of the PTC franchise, if not so much the films themselves. Damnit, these movies are so insanely huge undertakings, the only thing bigger seems to be the stories they try to tell and the way they tell them. My biggest problem with PTC2 was that, when watching it in the theater for the second time, I realized as the FISH HEADED FREAKS came out of the water that I was watching a really expensive and elaborate Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers movie, and that kind of thinking really sucked the entertainment out of the picture for me. Needless to say, PTC was bloated, under-acted, under-written, and over-long; but still a solid "B" movie due to the sheer spectacle of it all.

PTC3, however, is a different story. Not as tight as Numero Uno, and still a good 30 minutes too long, PTC3 takes spectacle to a whole 'nother level, with CGI shots that would win best animated picture Oscars for everyone - if only we could tell where the animation ended and the reality began (or vice-versa). Add to that a script that is so ludicrous that it only makes sense if you don't think about it too much, and we're talking one of the first movies I've seen that doesn't give a flying rat's ass if you WANT to willingly suspend your disbelief; it grabs you by the knickers and shouts, "DEAL WITH IT!" at the top of it's lungs.

Curiously enough, it seemed to work. And, amid all of this chaos and confusion there were moments of surreal beauty and (gasp!) script depth.

Script depth? Yeah, I wrote that. And, yeah, I wrote it in conjunction with PTC3. Why? Because the movie does a curious thing nearing the end: it takes what would normally be an opportunity for sugar and honey - staples of a Disney flick - and gave us an honest moment that came off as neither contrived nor a cop-out. Is PTC3 an overwhelming clunker of a movie with truck-sized logic holes, too many characters, too much counter-Esperanto, too much everything? Yep. And it's still damn entertaining (with the exception of a 20 minute lull that ends the second Keith Richards shows on the screen to steal the show for awhile), with one big difference between it and its predecessor: the crazy in PTC3 is honest here, while in PTC2 the crazy was a thinly veiled lie.

So what's this got to do with Boise Filmmaking? Hunh. Well, that's the subject of my next blog...

... but right now I need sleepy.


Real Filmmakers. No Tourists.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

You mean films are made in Boise, Idaho??

I like making movies... I like telling stories. That is why I chose to be a film maker. Boise is a great place to be to make movies too... To tell you a bit about myself, I started out recording sound for bands and playing music myself. I toured with several bands and then decided the constant travel was deterimental to family life. I have always been a filmmaker though. I have done or worked with others on a total of 14 music videos and several films in southern Utah before I ever found myself in Boise. I worked for KSL television as cameraman and sound mixer while trying to write my first original "good" screenplay. Friends of mine have made a go of it in LA and done okay(they are not rich by any means.) I have been writing and directing and shooting films since I was very young... This will reveal my geeky side when I tell you that the first full length (2 hour) movie I ever worked on was a prequel to star wars(yes we filmed our own version of what we thought needed to be in episode 2 of star wars back in 1985!!) I won't say our SW flick was good, but for a bunch of kids and a camcorder it turned out pretty awesome back in 1985!!! Making films that sell and making a living on them is a difficult venture. Without a lot of money to back you up front and to give you some clout with the studios and theatres you would like to release in it is difficult to get their attention, and that is even before you add to the equation that you as a writer or director have a vision and a story you want told. I believe in quality of production and of story line. I am not only a filmmaker/editor but also have my hands in colorist work and in special effects(CG and practical) There are good things happening in filmmaking around Boise(many of which recieve very little press) and I very much enjoy being a part of that. I would like anyone who considers a film in Boise to remember that Boise has a lot to offer. In my opinion the challenge in a film is bringing the vision and story to the screen in a way that will impress and draw viewers. Just to comment on the i48 observations briefly, i48 was disappointing to me as I saw many films that I felt more deserving of the "best of" than those that made it. Mine(like everyones) is a subjective opinion but I hope that people who make a difference to our filmmaking future in Boise will NOT think that i48 "best of" is representative of Boise, but only of the tastes of those who judged i48. I have attended 48 hour festivals elsewhere that blew my mind as far as quality and story telling go, it would be nice if we had that quality in i48 but I suspect it has more to do with a) how the judges view what is quality and b) the participants and how they chose to represent themselves. IE when quality is rewarded it raises the bar but only if said quality fits the tastes of those who have the power to reward... Whether that be i48 or a big studio... I will continue to make films because that is what I enjoy and because I have stories begging to be told and for no other reason!! If I make my living at it some day that will be nice. If you are a fellow filmmaker, let me know how I can help you... If you are an investor looking to invest give us a chance and let's talk!!!

Jaffe Zinn takes on the world

"NYU's Kanbar Institute Announces the Winners of 2007 Richard Vague Film Production Fund Award"

"The Kanbar Institute of Film & Television at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts has announced the winners of the 2007 Richard Vague Film Production Fund awards for alumni filmmaking. In the past, the annual awards were for 1st place ($100,000) and 2nd place ($75,000) and went to two recent graduates to make their first feature-length films. In a departure from previous years, this year’s panel decided to award three prizes totaling $175,000 due to the excellence of the submissions.
The 2007 Richard Vague 1st place winners ($75,000) are: Eric Linn ‘06, Graduate Film Division, for Why We Pull the Trigger, a narrative film that follows three friends who enter the strange world of the underground black market for body parts as a way out of their dead-end jobs and mounting debt; and Jaffe Zinn ‘03, Undergraduate Film Division, for Saturday, a narrative film about the small town of Buhl, Idaho as it slowly awakens during the course of one day to the tragic death of one of its young citizens..."

In the short time that I've known Jaffe, I've found him to be a truly engaging and decent person with an integrity I wish I could emulate. Unfortunately, I ain't got it. I also wish I was as damn cool as Zinn, but darn it, he's got me there, too. I'm proud of what he's accomplished coming out of Idaho, and look forward to hearing about his upcoming production. Hopefully, he will be able to use a number of area filmmakers to help him with his shoot; I know I wait with baited something or other to hear about how Saturday progresses.


Real Filmmakers. No Tourists

i48 - a compromise; a protest.

TDO makes an interesting comment in regards to "i48 2007" where he writes: "The i48 is a great EVENT, and a lot of fun, but it's no fun for me if I consider it a competition."

I have to agree. My team this year had - by far - the easiest, most laid back time playing in i48 possibly ever to be recorded in the history of the event. By 4:00 pm on Saturday, we had wrapped and were literaly sitting next to Pete's pool, drinking margaritas and talking about film with our two "interns". By 4:00 pm on Sunday, I had finished making DVD copies of the movie for the team members and was heading to the Flicks with all the material in tow. By Sunday 8:00 pm, we had watched our film at the Van Dam's pad and were pleased as punch as to the quality of our little film. At that point in time, we were all winners and had drank the punch of success.

Alas, the punch of competition packs a bit more sting to it. Granted, after seeing the films that won the competition, I have no beef with their success. Certainly, I get confused some times when a film (such as in year two) plays out of assigned genre and wins 'best screenplay' for a rant that appeared to be transcribed after the film was made, but - for the most part - I don't have a lot to complain about with the awards. And TDO is absolutely right; if nothing else, i48 forces us to make a movie, as well as attempt to raise the bar while making said movie.

And damn it, we felt pretty good watching our film in that 4:30 screening. And damn it, we felt pretty snubbed after Ellis named off the films that would be playing in the 'best of' showing, knowing that our film was better than others. And damn it, TDO is also right when he writes: "I don't know exactly how they determine what's 'best of' material, though, and that might help."

And damn it, I think I know what I'm going to do next year, and I call upon any filmmaker that felt snubbed yet again this year to join me in this mild protest:

"SINCE... the filmmaking experience in the 48 hour time period is great fun and inspiring; and
SINCE... the competition experience in the post 48 hour time period is disillusioning, destructive, and unpredictable (insofar as judging is concerned); and
SINCE... I believe we all enjoy the former but not the latter, I PROPOSE the following:

To participate in i48 - 2008 as fully and completely as we did in years previous; to complete our films within the 48 hour deadline; to arrive early to the packet turn in at the designated area; and to purposely and willingly wait until five minutes past the 48 hour deadline to turn in our films. Thus, we have enjoyed said creative process of filmmaking, eliminated any potential controversy by the judges and directors of i48, and made our point clear, that we will not compete by their abstract rules, but we will participate in an event which is, honestly, otherwise a positive and enjoyable experience."

I write this with the expectation of being able to participate next year, should scheduling allow for me to do so. I also write this knowing that a number of my fellow filmmakers really do enjoy i48, and they really don't want to think poorly of the directors of the event, but - damn it - sometimes they make it really hard to not wonder just what parameters they're working under. The bottom line for me is that I like Ellis and Bayne; I've worked wtih Greg in the past, and shall continue to do so in the future. As for Ellis, he and I are business partners, and it infuriates me that this yearly competition is what gets in the way of us moving ahead as filmmakers, leading to our spending one month out of the year feuding because of our own personal philosophies. Perhaps next year, with this protest - and even if it is just me that is protesting (as I expect it to be...) some will hear what is being said from the sidelines...


Real Filmmakers. No Tourists.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

i48 2007

A year ago on the SPF message board, I wrote that I didn't think that the then-current (2006) batch of i48 films were very good. Certainly, there were a number of quality short films, but for the most part, I felt that the bar hadn't been raised; it had been lowered to a significant degree. All of this came from a conversation about how I felt about my film Greasepaint being left out of the "Best Of 2006" showing. Granted, our film was turned in late, and I was told at one time that - because it was late - said film wasn't eligible for being in the "Best Of 2006" screening.

I was fine with that, until I went to the screening and saw other films that had been dq'd for lateness playing there. That was when my ire went up a bit, and I asked a few more... pointed questions. Ultimately, it came down to, "Will, you have a naked chick in the trunk of a car."

Okay, fine. I understand being punished for pushing the line of the competition, but the reality is - and you can go back and look at the film for yourself - there was nothing in my film that broke the rules of the competition. And so, in 2006, because of a perceived fear of how the audience might react to a naked chick in the trunk of a car, the "Best Of..." showing did not, in fact, have one of that year's best movies in it.

Move to 2007. Yet again the "Best Of..." showing proved to lack integrity, by presenting a number of films that were significantly inferior to others as the, "Best Of 2007." Setting my film aside, I find it infuriating that an event promoted as a "competition" would go so far as to not have transparency in its judging, thereby creating a metaphorical "crap shoot" to see what are considered the "Best Of..." films of 2007. Anyone who made a quality short film this year and was blatantly snubbed by the i48 competition judges and/or managers in favor of sub-standard filmmaking should be upset and confused.

Of course, there's the question of taste now, isn't there. Imagine my utter disbelief when I'm watching the i48 2007 documentary, Love For Sale. While the subject being interviewed was interesting enough, the film merely consisted of a well-edited opening sequence, followed by two extended static shots of a man being interviewed. Now, all cinematic quality aside, as a documentary Love For Sale wasn't near the film that Lost In Boise ended up being, and - lo and behold - guess what? Lost In Boise won 2nd best film of the competition, while Love For Sale garnered nothing - yet both are showing in the, "Best of..." section. Interesting. But what was more interesting is that, while I was castigated for showing a naked - yet judiciously covered - woman in the previous year's competition, the interviewed subject in Love For Sale commenced to discuss: prostitution, pimps, his being, "horny", a woman he describes as only wanting to have sex with him (also described as having, "44- D breasts"), "getting laid", etc.

No one walked out of my film in 2006; this year, a woman took her child by the hand and left the theater during the 4.30 showing of Love For Sale.

And yet this film, with its questionable material and raw, basic filmmaking techniques, is considered (by the judges? The competition directors? We'll never know...) to be... what, exactly? I'm not certain, but what they are saying to the community and to the filmmakers that support this competition is this:

"Films that were NOT better than this film are NOT in the 'Best Of...' showing."

Otherwise, why call it a, "Best of..." at all?

This year i48 was a success, of that I'm certain. I also believe that the general crop of films turned in were significantly better than last year's films. I also believe that the Open Category films which won their respective awards deserved them (although I question giving the, "best sound" award to a music video where the lyrics aren't understandable because of the sound mix, but whatever...). I was pleased that the best film of the competition - as was the case in the previous two years - was, in fact, recognized as the, "best film"; as was the second best film. My commentary isn't about awards; I find that - with a few exceptions - the awards go to the films which deserve them.

But I do have a problem when someone sets two films side-by-side and not only recognizes the inferior product as, "superior", but rewards it as well by publicly endorsing it as being "superior".

It is an insult to the makers of quality films.

The managers and judges of i48 can rectify this situation; all they have to do is acknowledge quality in their, "Best of..." showings, without throwing bread to the masses to quell their shouts. But until they do so, it's my belief that this so-called "competition" is anything but a competition, and until the judging process is transparent and the judges are revealed, the integrity of i48 can be considered highly suspect.

- Will

Real Filmmakers. No Tourists.

What's Wrong With Smallpond?

Good question. Right up there with, "Why'd Will leave Small Pond?"

Yeah. Why DID I decide to quit being associated with a group that I helped create? Well, a couple of reasons. First and foremost, I was tired of the message board being a sandlot where people with agendas other than filmmaking would voice their slime. Foremost among these people was Jordan (I won't use last names here; you can figure it out if you want at SPF...), who couldn't get past childish attempts at promoting flamewars. It got to the point where someone would actually (shudder) want to talk "film" on a real level, and then a number of idiots would simply degrade the conversation because of ...

... because of what, really?

A need for attention? A perceived lack of respect? An anger about this filmmaking community being "elitist"?


Anyway, it got old and started reading like a book club to me. Want to see a real message board nightmare? Look at the "Scripts/Screenwriting" section over at SPF. Poor writers; any time one of them tries to get any kind of discussion going, it gets shot in the ass.

Not that SPF doesn't have it's positives. Snyder does a fine job in the "Technical" section, and for that kind of info, I think it's serving its purpose: to educate and inform. But as for the rest of it...

Too many tourists.

Other reasons I'm done with Smallpond: it doesn't serve it's mission statement anymore; the screenings are in a gloomy place that can maybe hold twenty people; very few people actually network at the screenings, and it just doesn't feel like a film community anymore.

So, I'm moving on, and this blog is part of that. My "mission statement" for this blog, if you will, is to discuss and write about the Boise filmmaking community as one who has decided to be a professional filmmaker. I'll be honest - I'm sure my blog about i48 2007 will have some vitriol in it - but I'm not going to take the "low road", like so many have before on SPF. Granted, at one time I was as bad as the next person on the SPF message board, but I'm so... beyond that now. I choose not to be a tourist any more.

If you want to comment at this blog, you'll have to be given access by me. While I appreciate the open door philosophy of some blogs, I'm not going to play that game anymore - you want that, go to SPF. Here, life is moderated. Lightly moderated, but moderated none the less.

Okay. That's it. On with the show.


Real Filmmakers. No Tourists.

Boise Filmmakers

A new blogspace in response to the changing world of Boise filmmaking. More to follow. If you wish to post comments on this blog, please email me at the following address:

Real Filmmakers. No Tourists.