Friday, May 17, 2013

On the 2013 Cannes Buyer's List

On the 2013 Cannes' Buyers List,

For more information, visit Deadline - Fleming on Cannes: Can Sizzle Reels Make Sizzling Deals this Year?

Hmm. What is it about a list of unseen films with great expectations that feels so exciting to read? It's like picking racehorses I suppose. But I actually want to watch these films too, compare and lose my head a bit. My imagination runs off with thoughts of all these film makers going to work. It makes me hungry too.

There's also the intrigue that comes with analysis.  How were the stories sold?  How did those initial funding conversations progress?  What was apparent in the premise that greenlit these projects?  What I would give to organize a round table with fellows debugging the selections.

Lets get what we came for,
C. M. Sanchez III

Masters Among Us

Masters Among Us,

Well, maybe not among us.  It is just interesting to see master filmmakers going out of there way to personally get a film made because their usual carte blanche wasn't available.

The sweetest part here is when a person fulfills a long term wish. It doesn't matter that Marty is already a film demigod and likely severely wealthy. It's just great from a human standpoint. It's also interesting how excited someone in his position can become when realizing the avenues to what he wants to do outside of Hollywood and that he's also willing to spare his physical presence to acquire it... Nothing against Marty or the author of this article, but I hope more veterans take leaps in the indie market in the pursuit of their dream projects, sans corporate and commercial interests, as it can really open up opportunities for many emerging professionals. I know his project will be union and remain relatively expensive, but then again I have friends at school that were invited to Cannes and the more this sort of thing happens, the greater the chance that the highly successful may adopt the successors.

Lets get what we came for,
C. M. Sanchez III

Yay for the Internets!

Yay for the Internets!

For more information, visit Studio System News - Monetizing Content in the Digital Arena: Experts Offer Essential Tips

Oh yeah! This is a meaty read with lots to dig in on. But I'll center on some things that have sparked me before; that is consistency and audience-building (which is kinda like brand building). We'll assume the need to understand technical tricks, cross-promotion over digital and accompanying campaign avenues over the web and into the communities. 

Moving on from there, some emerging artists (film/tv college grads lets say) need a model and a timetable to follow to begin the serious chase for money that will keep the lights on and convince their folks that they are holding their own and making something of themselves. No bullshit: we don't want to feel the education is a waste. But it all comes down to gatekeepers for some reason, and a capable network which may not be fed to us and would require cultivation over many years. Some people can lead and others can only follow. Guts and life experience tell the difference. But organization is the commodity that turns barbarians alone into a tribe, or thugs into the mafia. If there isn't a clear and common goal to begin the work like: "we're here to figure out and take action on doing what we love for a living," at least to start (cause many of us are in garage-band status), then putting time into the perpetual development of quality content will only happen when someone puts a gun to your head shaped like a pay-check; and that makes you an employee. In today's world where the digital audience is so accessible, you as a film maker are the entrepreneur. You can't afford to wait for a handout - i.e. a script with no treatment, a synopsis with no logline, a pilot with no bible, an idea without the pitch, the equipment without a team or a team without the gear, or all of the above without a venue to mingle at and the deal to bargain with. It's all supply in demand and the road to consistency is in masterminding your human resources. This article linked figures that's all a given, but in my world it's still a struggle. It seems to be the biggest impedance to success from this tier to the next is a lack of organized and actionable conviction. But a family doesn't fight harder then when its members are fighting for each other. Organization can frame this and the camaraderie can fuel the machine.

As for debugging audience-building, I believe that has to do with figuring out who you're selling to. You sell a concept to a distributor and they want guarantees that you can't provide. You can't tell them the talent you casted is actually going to do well in this film or that the script is perfect to diversify their project slate or that this concept is like other successful concepts in this genre and they can expect so much, but it's all a bluff until the job's done. You can guarantee a budget only so much and will never a real clue as to how the tickets will sell. They manage risk by shifting the odds in their favor, often in spite of you though you may not mind because you're scared or lazy or just not interested in complicating things. But if you decide to determine the expectations of the audience and seek to provide these as a service, and you work diligently on developing that consumer base and getting that relationship right, then the distributor will seek to replicate that in a broader sense because what you're selling to them IS the audience. What do your people want to see and do they know that you can give it to them?

SO much of what we learn in school is physical production without so much awareness of the benefit of genre, or what we're really pursuing as directors or producers in the dramatic material we compile. Short films are often, and sadly, treated like punch-line jokes which is tier one practice for comics but don't offer a lot of personality or human truth. It's all irony or sarcasm or word-smithing but it's not the story yet; a matter of the heart. And if it's personality that makes the film, then we'd have to believe that every one of us is like someone else out there; that each of us has an audience and every group of us can stimulate a following if we can be smart about it. And so building a genuine friendship has a lot to do with knowing thyself. Building a consumer base has a lot to do with knowing what your business brings to the table that is distinct. For instance, every production company needs to save money but putting that on your business card won't make you a great filmmaker.

I'd love to see more horror films with real heroes adapting to the terror and owning it. I don't see horror movies where the protagonist absorbs the danger. I suppose the point for some is the victimization, but for a generation of kids who like survival-horror games, I think the point should be survival and in some cases retaliation (like in the original 'Evil Dead' or '28 Days Later' which I'm a fan of). This is why a business plan is so great. It gives you a chance to identify what your team intends to do and gives your audience a brand to put expectations upon. Then there is a basis to which people can relate and support you, if you have the team to address those expectations in the first place. When you ride solo and operate like a rock-star, you're betting to be bought and owned and to live like a mercenary beyond that. That works for creative participation in the world of unions and contracts but for the rest of us who have to do it on our own for a [long] while, it all comes down to what do you stand for. Be able to have that conversation and you should be able to filter that knowledge into a film that people will converse about. There's so much speculation on how to handle the digital era and no one knows. It won't be long, I fear, before the space is strangled with corporate mechanisms to streamline the flow of money. If the trend isn't set now for emerging artists and their small audience communities, then where and when else can it happen?

Lets get what we came for,

C. M. Sanchez III

On help from Raindance

On help from Raindance,

For more information, visit Raindance - 7 Deadly Sins of Self Distribution

This sites blog content and editorials sound as if they come out of a cosmo mag: "7 ways to do this, 5 reasons why you shouldn't do that, the top 10 rules for everything of all time." It reads cheep at first, I'll admit. And this article below should have been titled differently. I don't think the serious and hard working have time to mingle words on self-distribution with something as haughty as the use of religious rhetoric.

I'm actually thinking there might be a rule against depending on passive forms of advertisement, like social media alone, to advocate your film or your brand as a film maker because its lazy and you'll wonder at futile efforts also in futility. Or perhaps there's a rule against agreeing to the first deal on the table because most of your film was made on favors and you don't have an accurate account of what things should've cost to price your film before you brought it to the market. If you don't know what the budget should've been, you don't know how much money reflects profit and what's you taking a dive just to say you sold something. Negotiations are expected but can't happen if one side doesn't have a legitimate defense for its needs.

To give credit where it's due however, I'll agree with the article's concern for self-sustaining film makers in light of that we should all prepare for success at some point. We should keep our head and hearts in line for the eventuality or we may easily lose the benefits otherwise. My example: you honestly thought no one would be that interested. You worked hard and your film is great work for your tastes, but compared to the standards that sit in the deepest part of you, it's wrong for so many reasons. So you defeat yourself before you show up. Then someone makes an offer and you're so surprised that you become dangerously agreeable for the money involved, or alternatively your head is gassed and you gamble on better deals for pride's sake.

While I don't always embrace fundamental tenants of common sense in bullet fashion, I'll agree that success is a danger all its own for the sabotage it can cause to someone with real potential in their career. Make your films as if you are making a hundred more in your life time. Remove the fatalism and egotism of it and focus on the art and the audience and the moments in between where you will be required to be alert and attentive. In this light, the sins-warning keeps your motives from being scattered by internal enemies and it's a worthy reminder for the day you arrive.

Let's get what we came for,
C. M. Sanchez III

Thursday, May 16, 2013

An Affair with Literature

An Affair with Literature,

For more information, visit Studio System News - The Great Gatsby Shines a Spotlight on Hollywood's Love Affair with Literature

Case in point: embrace the classics and keep adaptation alive.

Lets get what we came for,

C. M. Sanchez III

On "Great Gatsby" Hype

On "Great Gatsby" Hype,

For more information, visit Forbes - Twitter and Facebook Knew 'The Great Gatsby' Was Going to Be a Hit

So...they say they can't figure out why there was 'Great Gatsby' hype? The American gangster is officially an archetype; mythos. Noire is embedded in our cultural pysche. The anti-hero and the dark side of capitalism and manifest destiny is something all American cultures are treated to on a daily basis. There was recently 'Bordwalk Empire' and 'Gangster Squad.' Even 'Mad Men' has created a taste for the sense and style of the 20th century's first half ('20s to '60s). 

This appeal is revived every so often, just like sci-fi has made the hollywood comeback over zombies in the last few years. The familiarity with the novel, DiCaprio, Jay-Z - these are all supportive elements to the concept that has been driving entertainment for a century. And when an audience member has a chance to escape, why wouldn't they escape to the experience of a lifestyle of excess and violent power? This form of story will always excite. 

That it was talked about a little more that Ironman 3 isn't surprising since this is an "original" adaptation rather than a sequel and people will talk when new inventions are revealed and tied to familiar worlds. The longing romance that appears to go hand-in-hand with the American's expression of rising power is not lost on any generation where ambition can be accounted for. I think the buzz is unsurprising as the production is both timely with a timeless story. But then again i'm someone who believes, and not to take credit from Ironman or comic-book (or even the parallels between Gatsby and Stark that some might draw) that story and concept (allegory and philosophy for some) still drives civilized consciousness, no matter how commercial or overused it might seem.

Let's get what we came for,

C. M. Sanchez III

Monday, May 13, 2013

On the "360 Equation"

On the "360 Equation,"

For more information, visit Indiewire - The "360 Equation": The One Business Model Every Filmmaker Needs to Know

What a fantastic read. Here's a kindred take on the supportive role social media can have in the indie-artist's campaign for realization. In most articles I take the time to post, I try to offer up the content in the context of what's relative to the emerging film maker, without an executive network, without notoriety. What Marc Schiller is breaking down is the fundamentals of the living-by-art practice that we simply cannot ignore. 

If you are set to make your visions a public option, then both you and them must know each other. You are your own commercial, your views criticized or upheld otherwise by no one. When you make a film it is obscure until it isn't. This isn't an overnight process. It's part of the job. Unfortunately it's a grave pressure for a writer/director. Which is why emerging producers must step into this role and see the projects they are aiding in a much greater light, see its future, and become the spokespeople. What you lack in marketing dollars you can make up for with the strength of your voice and the conviction of your purpose. 

You have something to offer, be it entertainment, education, or pure art. Manage it with enthusiasm and create a presence that matters with real people. Newcomers to film should take into account this "360 Equation" if they have an interest in creating work opportunities, because without an audience there is no money flow, and no budget for the next one if that's your aim.

Lets get what we came for,

C. M. Sanchez III

On World War Z and the "High-Concept" Gamble

On World-War Z and the "High Concept" Gamble,

For more information, visit Deadline - After 'World War Z' Ending Fix, Paramount Out to Prove Its Zombie Pic Doesn't Stink

Brad Pitt's cool. Zombies remain cool. Max Brooks has become very cool. Throw lots of money at it, and the conventions we know and love, and there should be money to gain right? This is gonna happen regardless of what I say here now. I'm sure after 5 experienced and very successful writers hit this project, it's gonna be forced through and become the success they all hoped for. As the devil's advocate I'm gonna go back to the original point about the CG zombies and move around this a bit.

A zombie apocalypse is a maddening concept and never truly driven by A-list talent because its so potent. The genre is the star. Part of the horror of it is that it feels closer to reality than supernatural horror or cheezy-slasher flicks. Brooks simply exploited this with a political slant. Something about this type of disaster, the way the stories roll up on the protagonists out of nowhere with little to understand and imminent tragedy around every corner on a societal level, touches upon truisms we see every time we turn on the television; that there is great violence just beyond our view and ability to truly comprehend with global consequences that we are likely powerless to prevent. The lights go out in Brooklyn, and it's all a zombie-apocalypse town where your neighbors could turn into cannibals the minute we forget we're in this together.

I feel like Brad Pitt confuses this. Cause he's Brad Pitt. District 9 worked because we focused on the circumstances and the protagonist truly was an every-man. The Walking Dead may have franchise value, but that show works still for people unfamiliar to the comics because the cast feels real. Many of the Romero films cast B-list talent or relative unknowns. 28 Days Later helped spark Murphy's career. But in these trailers I keep thinking, that's Brad Pitt pretending to be scared of CG Zombies. That's Brad Pitt pretending to be a normal guy after he's been Achilles.

This is a genre film, not a drama where we - the audience - displace identity as a given. So my expectations hinge on what the real star of this film is. Is it the zombies? No, they're CG. Everything they do will have weird glossy sheen that will make all the tension end as soon as they show up. Is it Brook's geopolitical discourse? If it works the way District 9's did, by offering that docu-drama aesthetic maybe. But this isn't going that way even though that seems to be what led Plan B to this project. Is it Forster and Pitt's capacity for drama? I suppose so. And that would qualify their problems with Act 3. Any other focus would not require Pitt; in fact I believe he would detract from it (as in Pitt plus CG zombies = lame, Pitt vs. Geopolitical realism + CG zombies = confusing).

But IF the creative team really does center on the family man's plight, and they do it really well, then the rest is relegated to an engaging (although cosmetic and expensive) through-line and subplot without competing with the strength Pitt and Forster naturally bring to the table. Otherwise the novel and/or the horror alone would be enough. Counter to this, I'm sure Paramount wants to cast its net as wide as possible but sometimes spreading your hunt thin means everyone comes home empty-handed or not at all.

Hopefully we can take away from this what it means to graduate a b-genre into a blockbuster, in case you're on the ground floor trying to get Amazon Studios to get you in.  We all know Hollywood won't settle comfortably for anything below $200 million.

Lets get what we came for,

C. M. Sanchez III

On meta-genres

On Meta-Genres,

To learn more, visit: Huffington Post: Baz Luhrmann, 'Great Gatsby' Director, Explains the 3D, the Hip Hop, the Sanitarium And More

To go a little meta, I think American modernist literature could be a fantastic revival for intellectual adaptation. 
If we consider Hollywood's Tale of Two Cities, Hunchback of Notre Dame, Gone with Wind, and so forth, we can acknowledge the value of educated discourse with grandiose spectacle. Sure we have fantasy and sci-fi today, But there's always Hemingway, Toomer, West and so on. The research seems lengthy but also the kind of practice that could guarantee buyer attentions, especially if the text is given a contemporary nuance. That's probably the hardest part. I haven't seen the film yet and I'm interested to see how the hip-hop plays in with that early 20th century feel. In any event, it's all in our hands. And the actors will play.  Re-envisioning the classics will always be an option (as long as American education maintains some kind of standard).

Friday, May 10, 2013

On Content Politics

On Content Politics,

For more information, visit Indiewire - Why Do Films Get Booed at Cannes? New BAM Series Investigates

There are many trends in this rhetoric alone to support the saying that even bad publicity is good publicity. Many of the boo-ies returned to receive awards or hold committee positions years later. In any practice of art, it's known you can't please everyone. Though how Hollywood does it, play to the masses for mass profit, often leads the independent down dark roads - the question that is. It is better in the non-union circuit then to stand strong, knowing you do not have the political machine in place to guard you from direct criticism, or the wide release to win on the average, and consciously be prepared to pick a side and everything that goes with it. Political moderation is best suited for those managing the position they've already achieved. But achieving it in the first place has something to do with extremities . . . So one might take away from this, stand out and get known, then clean it up and edge your way mainstream as your audience widens (realizing the risk is alienating your original niche fan base; the determination would likely be economic).

Lets get what we came for,

C.M. Sanchez III

On American Story,

On American Story,

For more information, visit Tribeca: Breakout Director Sean Dunne Talks 'Oxyana' and a Portrait of a Town's Addiction

The American transformation, in whatever form it takes that brings awareness to a depressive cultural shift among our neighbors, has become a genre sub-type much in the form of Noire or Dystopia. In the narrative form, it can take up the aspect of "magical realism" as with Beasts of the Southern Wild. In the documentary sense, we have something like Oxyanna. By it's description in the article, it takes a look at the degraded altered ego of the town of Oceana and the Oxycotin that plagues its citizens as an oppressive tyrant. 

I'm not interested in commercializing the tragedies occurring, but where there is a community overthrown, there is a need. And there is myth in the concepts of such vices such as plagues, missing people, and the returning theme in our culture of a lost civilization or community. Many of the zombie films detail a world where people have gone mad. But the realities must always be darker and harsher. There is a part in the article where Sean Dunne talks about their need to tell a story. I'm always amazed at the audacity of documentary film makers to record reality, especially when that reality is dangerous, and those recorded resistant to exposure. The unveiling of truth can be a volatile affair. The stories, evidently, must be told regardless. People want to release them. On some level the human cannot be ignored. The devices we use as a method for our curiosity and the display of our consciousness that bring different groups together, being the camera and the sound recorder as well as our context and our interest, are the tools we use to elevate ourselves as a race. The sharing is fundamental and should give heart to emerging film makers who dare to go where others don't.

Lets get what we came for,

C. M. Sanchez III