Monday, May 11, 2015

Nothing Lasts Forever: Observations in the age of franchise tentpole productions

So a brief review in what larger patterns have guided the film industry to date:
- The creatively produced fully studio-owned productions
- The star system
- The blockbuster
- The auteur
- The spec script
- The franchise film

I am not a historian. It isn't my goal to pretend to be one.  The reason why I summarize this observation is because the franchise film soaks up hundreds of millions of dollars, pays off in the billions and has replaced the emphasis and importance on actors, writers, and directors.  Semi-competent visionaries surrounded by 30-40 year veteran technicians and craftsmen and aimed at well known faces can come together and do spectacular things that seem a lot like magic to us and why? Because the franchise they are currently working with has already done so much. 

Every pattern focus prior to this has had its peak and its wane, even while providing similar benefit (the stars were the franchise, the high production value genre films became franchises, the master filmmakers with the original visions had the franchise and then the spec script became a brief focus to pull the money away from everywhere else that had gotten too expensive - that was until the spec script was replaced by the spec adaptation and that boiled down to licensing pre-existing popularity and then figuring out what to do with it once the studios owned it).

So my questions are a) when does the franchise tap out and b) what's going to replace it so I know where to stand?

... and c) what about the franchise aspect that is shared with everything that's come before can be harnessed to a smaller degree while eliminating the faults of corporate conservative interests (what we'll say is responsible for the bets on entertainment over craft and white male leads over diversity)?

The criticisms provided above in the linked articles amount to an observation on race and a craft weakness in the shared universe methodology. If a pre-existing universe is explored it will only hold up as well as the writing holds up under scrutiny. If that writing was born in a generation where women were anecdotal and non-white protagonists were nearly absent then how can modern adaptations really hold fault?

If I want to sell something bold, cinematically-worthy, with commercial potential if not commercial allusions and save myself the emotional sacrifices of an auteur or the time it takes to write a spec script while suffering in doubt . . . well all that seems impossible actually. Suffering and sacrifice are a part of the job but a small compensation would be to know I'm pointed in the right direction.

What evolves from the death of the franchise film? Every period on the list was born in the age of its predecessor usually in attempt to divest power from the source so the studio could recoup more in profit. Early on in the period acquisition is everything and talent makes a lot of money.  But where else can you go from the franchise when the other creative areas have been exhausted?

In an odd way the film industry has evolved in a spiral. The earliest blockbusters (perhaps not wide releases) like Gone with Wind were successful adaptations of books with a large consumer base.  The stars they elevated became the commodity once the classics started to run thin.  We know the auteurs came during a time when a younger voice was needed because cinema had seen a decline and the old formulas stopped working (it's likely war was responsible for the lapse in adaptability).  New directors, new stories, new actors meant less studio control but more breakout success.  The newness, if not tied to an obsolete star system means it's all about the script and the director who can pull it off except that gives the director too much power.  You want a name so the financiers and the foreign sales can get attached and so the star system comes back but with their agents fighting for so much money the film might as well cost over $100 million to make which should require just as much in advertising to force it down the people's throat.  Original blockbusters or those based on old concepts like 'THE LONE RANGER' take a lot of work to sell to a rapidly evolving audience.  The comics become the new source of classics but we're finding diversity in talent is an issue and the comic universes are so twisted due to varied literary licensing issues that a prolonged franchise is likely to fall over itself and be maintained by sheer conviction alone (money spent, big stars, big explosions, big muscles). But once critique grows future movie-goers will become more discerning about the shared universe experiment and then . . . are there inevitabilities?

Marvel and DC will boot up more characters that are less known or reboot the first wave all over again to diminishing returns.  They will find new actors to pay them less, new directors to pay them less and more money will be put into expensive CG or effects based movies, but as the TVs and projectors get bigger at home the need for IMAX will decline.  My hope is that then moderation will take over and all aspects will be balanced as more opportunity is created but greed doesn't work like that.

Perhaps there is no new focus.  We've explored it all.  It's for the structure to change...

The blockbuster will turn moreso into an event-based niche product leaning heavily on foreign distribution. This is good money. These sure-wins will only go to the connected. The real movie business, where problems are still being solved in service of art, will exist in the independent market and its nimble distribution.  There are no rules here, no standards. It's full out competition here. Every film will have to exist on an island in terms of expectation, challenge and outcome. Any system that claims prediction will be false because success or failure will simply be a matter of whether or not the filmmaker and his co-creators can tempt an audience to become theirs.  With such low levels of entry to production, there are content creators everywhere.  The new skill to learn is leadership and community building.  I really do believe that the age of serendipity, of the lottery, of walking on the right set or bumping into the right exec, is over.  For serious creators it's about the craft, the audience and the belonging.  Its a terrifying prospect for many.  You can't be a passive creator.  You have to project a vision and you have to believe you are worthy especially if you're not born into it.  That's tough. But in a way it's good to perceive it. Passion isn't just a thing that's a privilege to have when money ruled  the decision making.  Now it's gotta be what gets you by and there has to be enough of it to intoxicate everyone around you.

Here are a couple more articles that add food for thought:
In the first article there's an important discussion about the fear inherent in presenting one's work in a public medium. In the second there's an inside look as to how new producers with the means to execute and compete are finding their way and how new talent might peek their interest. The last article is a case-study on how the IndieWire platform is used to build a campaign behind an issue-based project.

The tools are out there and the time to capitalize on all the heads shifting away from the smut in the theaters is now.  There's not much for indie-filmmakers to do except tell honest stories.  Leave the spectacle to hollywood. Our path has never been closer to us then the here and now where we can get our hands dirty. HOWEVER, this doesn't mean to be reckless.  After all this blog has a lot to do with the pursuit toward sustainability.  I just don't foresee a new boom of chance opportunity.  I think a lot of the ignorance that allowed for that has been worked out.

- C

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Could Networking Be A Battlefront of Ideologies?

For Fun
Fast Company Daily is just a cool site. I feel like it's just a bunch of ideas that don't really lead anywhere but if you're the type of person that likes thinking and discussing for the subtle effects insight have on practice then their writers do a good job of bringing together a string of topics worth investigating even if 80% of their articles begin with "HOW TO."  

That part's actually annoying. I mean the titles do the job but you can tell they came out of a copy-writer's manual for people with no imagination and fear written into their contract. Whatever, it's not important.

What is important is to gather up the conceptual nugget provided by the first two articles. Primarily these are you have to consciously project yourself and then project yourself into an advantageous position. It really is a time of conscious manifestation. No more leaving it up to god, luck, karma. Build the karma, create the luck and divinely insert your better judgement into your actions.  

Why I like these articles is because they both require we do the thing that is the most uncomfortable thing for people that need this kind of advice - break out of our comfort zone. Anyone of us will admit these points make sense and that other should do it. At the moment of reading the article, they all seem like familiar actions streamlined for efficiency. But I also think a lot of people are like me and can't remember the last time we went out of our way to network strategically. My excuse is I hate not being able to afford my own drink. I have no money and I'm looking for a job so there. But when I've had money I do recall hesitating to involve myself at social occasions and it's because many of the things I accept logically I have yet to pursue instinctively due to certain inherent biases and fears. So I look at articles like these with more interest now because if the strategies are so simple then why exactly is it that they don't come naturally? What gets in the way and why should we push through these obstructions? That brings me to the 3rd article.

We exist in a world where you win if you're like Francis Underwood. You take initiative, push buttons, and anticipate the reactions to your benefit. Everyone dances to your tune because no one else knows how to play the music. SPOILER ALERT: the only time Francis seems to have been undone is by the nature of the object of his desire - ultimate power as presented by the office of president is only granted in return for ultimate service. Francis operates phenomenally when he and all his rivals are looking up. But at the top everyone is looking at him and he actually has to do the Lord's work, his duty or whatever you want to call it.

If good people don't understand social science and don't learn to forgive themselves enough to put their energy out into the world, it will remain in the hands of bullies, A.K.A. psychopaths.  I'm not just talking about artistically, but in business and education too. This sounds like a familiar quote about what happens if good people do nothing and it's true. Why does it always seem that the progressive side is fought by the underdogs when the conservatives largely appear to be uneducated bigots? Is it that folks are so educated they've become cynical and have put themselves above lending that education to those who they are meant to support with it? How distracted we've all become, even from each other...

Much of what we experience in our lives is created by choices made by people willing to follow them through. That will is developed by a certain criteria that favors the individual above all else.  For those of us who abhor that personality, we relish the quiet and relative peace of mind that powerlessness affords. But then it's only our fault when the eventual consequences affect us and those we love.

Star Wars continues to affect me as an adult because of how it teases out this equation over and over again for generation and across multiple platforms. The Jedi are doomed to their struggle because their nature is selflessness. The Sith are doomed to only brief spurts of power because the corruption necessary to achieve power is the same corruption that breaks it. Neither side can truly create imbalance because either nature at its zenith is the downfall.  

To learn from this we have to abandon notions of polarity. We have to embrace our ultimate desires and their place in a larger world. The future is equality, sustainability and end to war and stupidity. It must be inevitable as long as people die and new people are allowed enough opportunity to see the truth of human culture.

The people who neglect their children or teach their children hate alone should be decapitated. It's draconic but I still believe folks should be required a license to procreate or have their newborns forfeited to the government - and I'm not saying you can trust the government any better but at least that's a system that will be influenced by some kind of principal, philosophy and infrastructure in theory. To unprepared, uninterested or uneducated parents, a child is just as likely another Hitler as he is a nobody. And yes many orphans have risen to become respectable, sometimes affluent and often worthy people in our society. But I'd bet millions more are starving, criminals, or perpetuating the mistakes of their parents. The sum totality of this consequence embitters the world and creates an unsafe place that encourages us to keep silent, remain unseen and satisfied with whatever positions we've been allowed.

I digress. Networking and branding yourself means you have to believe the ugly truth that you are important. Get over it. Find your style, your voice and your kin. Bring them together and bind them in a purpose and allow them to bind you in one as well. This generation must find it's own way. The economy is a hindrance and only the bullies make it because regardless of the motives, they act as if they're worth it more than we are.  Complaining in our homes and to our friends doesn't count.  

There was a moment in the networking article where the author explains we're not their to ask for anything even though we all know we want something. I instinctively took offense because the idea of hundreds of people trying to listen to each other for selfish reasons seemed like a complete circle-jerk. In fact a circle-jerk would be more honest.

But then I realized that the process is less important than the merit when the alternative is letting less discerning people who don't dispute the nature of these events succeed. The bullies, the haters, the greedy - they all hold to their own creed and win because good people let them and are afraid and unaware of how to engage the paths of success - myself included.

Let us become more actively self-aware and less afraid. Let's use the simple tools and become memorable. We have so much more to offer. Plus there's a lot of douche-bags waiting for you to convince yourself you're not worth it. They don't need any favors.

- Carlos

Break Update

I needed time to feel things out.

I don't have the energy to go into how things fell apart at school. I tried and while I accomplished certain tasks I didn't realize the impact I'd intended. There were issues I should have handled better.  I should have been more proactive.  I should have foreseen the drama, the escalating bullshit, the lure of money and the fickle nature of followers on a team owned by an ambiguous third party without clear incentives and penalties. It was a gamble and it fell apart exactly as it should have. Ultimate conclusions don't take rocket science to foresee. The conditions of success don't either.  I'm focusing now on bringing the plan forward into its next phase. 

I've long talked about building a non-profit. I've long talked about a variety of content initiatives that I've wanted to pursue and I've long talked about being my own boss.

Now I've graduated and so now is the time. But it's not like I'm going to pop out of a cake ready to go.

I've setup a personal website and begun the steady work of populating it. I've been considering how to moderate my social media initiatives alongside personal projects which include writing and film. I've signed on to help promote and fund-raise a friend's thesis film (a job for which I'm really excited about and intensively nervous about as well) and I've started streaming video games on Twitch because of it's a fun way to vent steam and develop long term revenue.

But none of these are jobs and that itch still needs scratching . . . badly.

I'm going to get back into posting here as well as on the blog for The Brooklyn Apprentice Union for Storytellers and my personal blog Chasing Volition. It's crazy to manage three let alone personal writing goals and any that support the new film I'm working on and in the future I believe I'll develop some insight on why diversifying my blogs was probably a big mistake. Right now though I just have far too much to say and too many goals to achieve. I was born to run a company and while the gap between working alone today and leading others tomorrow seems like a giant chasm, I just can't and won't shake it off.

I believe I'm meant to do something big that people will benefit from and remember. It'll be in the arts and it will give people a way back to each other.

- Carlos

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Calling for The Executive Mind in the Lo-to-No Arena

Lots to catch up on and I'm sorry I just won't do all this context justice.  I am definitely saying that if you are new to the craft, embrace the business as soon as you can.  Lean into the challenge of job creation.  Accept the fact that careers are meant to support quality of life and the craft of filmmaking is a disservice to itself when it is engaged in pure acts of martyrdom.  The economy is still struggling and sustainable jobs are especially challenging to find and maintain for people devoted to the arts.  Filmmaking takes all you've got and is not a hobby.  

Here are some great articles:
These articles offer recent information, examples and insight in service to independent film and, for my purposes, start-ups in the lo-to-no budget space.  

There is an impressive message echoing for content creators.  But filtering what that message actually means to each of us is complicated when accessibility and saturation in the market are mingled.

From thought leaders like Ted Hope and Emily Best, and with resounding support from Ethan Hawke, it's clear that the goal for independent filmmakers is to retain the right to passion over adherence to the bottom line.  Freedom to create freely is the ideal beckoning through an age of technological innovation and greater connectivity.  Honoring and serving this goal takes a conscious effort.

A new era of empirically-established best-practices is locking down the standards for what succeeds and what doesn't.  That progress uses all the fundamentals like "show, don't tell" and relies heavily on outreach consistency to establish impact for what you're selling.  Additionally there are varying ways to implement crossover strategies when looking at different online platforms for promotion.  Narrowing this down has a lot to do with how well you know your audience - a science we're all trying to learn.

As for competition, it's my observation (with respect to all the diligent and talented creators contributing today) the content out there largely remains your average mix of mildly surprising to semi-satisfactory work.  Part of this is due to saturation but what stands above others does so for a reason and that smaller group shares traits you should take time to analyze (as an example, reliance on established elements such as a popular video game franchise or named actors from a cancelled but cherished sci-fi show maintains that derivative creations remain highly plausible where as original content can do with a properly prepared campaign to create that credibility).  

There is room for risk, for braver stories and edgier adventures but our community is testing the waters and building its skill-set along the way.  On the other hand, not being 'good enough' is not really an excuse if confidence is your challenge.  Neither is not being prepared when there's literally too much information out there to collect to support your project.  Marketing and distribution must become intrinsic to lo-to-no budget productions.  Create, but not in a bubble.  Make a film but uphold the sensibilities that allow you to make more.

What has yet to be established is sustainability.  I estimate a fully equipped team of independent filmmakers needs to generate millions of dollars worth of contributions and favors to earn median income and support their content.  Prior to that you and the team are surviving off craft services and dodging your land lords.  If you don't contract for subsequent productions then you lose cohesion and that much needed shorthand which can compensate the quality gap when operating with few resources.  The entrepreneurs of the group should prioritize quality through sustainability and scalability.  Protect and support the jobs you create.

What begins with a group of 5, each wearing many hats, must become a battalion for productions to be effectively developed, produced, marketed and distributed at the rate needed to compensate for their cost in labor, equipment, fringes and overhead.  Working for free for a $10,000 short doesn't support a career unless that content is heading toward serialization at $100,00 per episode or more.  If you must take this risk, do so as if the fairy-god investor is never going to come and it's up to you to keep the ship sailing. 

What else can be sold to off-set the team's dependence on narrative if not the obligatory and debilitating employment we're all trying to escape?  There must be more immediate ways to keep the machine going.

To my educated peers, hesitant to test the waters and unable or unwilling to fund more traditional education, now is a time for optimism. The farther ahead you look the less impressive the short term challenges are (like wrapping your head around a solid pitch video for Seed & Spark).  Work harder to stay informed and use the information you find.  Teach each other.  Save your concern for the far more unyielding summit of financial independence.  We have to accept and innovate upon the revelations already becoming common sense rather than go on ignorantly re-inventing the wheel on our own.  I've just seen too many friends and acquaintances "launch" without preparation.  We can all do better for ourselves and one another.

The independent industry is calling upon us to engage in the great experiment toward sustainability in order to better officiate a paradigm shift in how creators survive and content is consumed.  But it can't happen without organization.  It's not that filmmakers should just consider leading audiences into new models of entertainment - I believe it's become our duty.  It's all in flux and our relationship with the people is the only thing that will create stability.  If we don't put the pieces together and test ourselves and our content against it, the entire potential may become subject to higher powers invested in once again narrowing the streams of revenue.  

With so many thought leaders in place, what the movement really needs is organizers and executives turning the information into action plans and fully manifesting a no-budget machine that can grow.

For your next lo-to-no project, recruit a PMD and a progressive Creative Producer and/or entrepreneurial Director, do your research and share your results.

  1. The market is accessible so embrace it
  2. You most likely can't do it alone so build a team for the long haul
  3. None of this is relevant without a story so put your ideas in ink
  4. You must develop a symbiotic relationship with your audience
  5. Thinking further and grander will support your inclusion of systems and best practices to-date
  6. Balance learning, reflection, action and flexibility always

Let's get what we came for,

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Evaluating "obsession" when there are no shortcuts [screenwriting]

Read: Twitter Rant: Jeff Willis on the Reality of Spec Script Sales

I often debate that discipline doesn't exist.  What we're observing when we think we're evaluating discipline is really obsession.  Discipline seems to suggest we can tame our instincts, our emotions, and can achieve focus by force of will.

However, these are all symptoms of a greater truth: the subject has found a greater obsession than all those which have come before and so habits have fallen in line with the new more demanding cause.

Ambition, conquest, or even delusions of grandeur are some of the vehicles for obsession.  But discipline without cause is unprecedented.  Singular cause is what distinguishes character and promotes a standard of achievement.  When that person speaks about dedication and endurance, they aren't always explaining how many other elements of their life they've had to neglect.  Discipline is a euphemism for obsession.  The article above subtly hints at this when the word "volume" is used.

Simply put you can't throw a lot of shit to the wall and expect a better turnout then from the one turd you started out with.  Achieving a prolific status only matters if you're stuff is escalating in quality.  One may assume growth is implied but a writer is also dealing with fear and doubt - thus their nullifier: Obsession.  It is the key.  What other state of being hurdles the worries of the common artist?  Not even greed can thrive without obsession because, after all, money is an intermediary device.  So is writing for that matter.

Replace "can" with "must" and you
understand the sub-directive.
"Can" eases what "must" demands,
a system of definitions opens the
way toward a greater goal
Writing is intermediary.  Money is intermediary.  But obsession breeds a singularity between agent and cause and creates what some perceive as confidence - which we all prize.  Batman is obsessed, for example.  So he becomes the animal, the bat, and an icon of justice by preying upon those who dwell in the dark of Gotham City.  Active protagonists struggle with an internal motivation that isn't always clear at the beginning, but once found becomes justification for momentum throughout the adventure.  The pace may change, but only obsession is interesting.  The common person is passive and seeing the active hero is our therapy and our escape.

I want to to tell stories but for many reasons, including those posed in the article which seem to suggest that a platform for obsession is needed if one is to attempt to compete (food in the fridge, rent paid, etc.) a system is more important.  How can one invest the amount of time needed to achieve a volume of quality work without a ways to be sustained in the mean time.  My conscious mind needs to build a system to support obsession while my subconscious is patiently awaiting the moment it can release itself from economic and societal constraint.  How long must we wait to be who we want to be?  We can certainly brave the attempt at our earliest instinctual prompt but life and the other people we live with seem to teach us that nothing is for free, including freedom.

Life is absurd.  We need to get so good at things that serve others in order to be afforded that opportunity which serves ourselves.  That was never politically established.  We aren't placed in work centers after college for example.  But it has been philosophically recognized; duty.  It takes a great deal of effort to arise as a contributor to society only to be embraced into a position that was only meant to be our effort in trade.  But the economy today presses down on sideline expansions.  Where my obsession cannot be self-sustained, the obstruction to this cycle becomes the new obsession.  Maybe it's a mistake to focus on the challenges that would divert my obsession but when there are mountains in the way, we must learn to climb them.  WE must learn.  They are mountains after all.

To a more structured and accessible independent film industry...

- C

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Underestimation of Appetite


Edward Norton is Fed Up With People Who Think Movies Aren't What They Used to Be
Why Netflix Shelled Out for Cary Fukunaga's 'Beasts of No Nation'
‘Sharknado 3′ Hit By Strike

I've got less than 6 minutes to make a point.  There's a class I've been trying to reach on my film departments schedule to conscript a representative for the film society at Brooklyn College (we're appointing class reps now : o)

It's not often you hear about crews walking off set in what's apparently a successful franchise.

It's not often you hear a star reverse the commentary that films today are shit when it's arguable there's a ton of good stuff out there being made by more than a few good men and women.

And if I could gloss over these points and say that filmmakers have more opportunities and less need to put up with exploitative efforts, adding to it the challenge of legacy distribution models as the internet is further empowered by moves made from Netflix, and content creators to day see a virtual construction of the stage for this incoming generation.

We need to take note that this would only be possible if some people challenged the notion that there was a limit to appetite.  I don't think there is.  I think a new boom is coming.  Those of us that want to break in need to start salivating and pushing forward.  We have to join the rising tide.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Why I Quit My Film Program

Hey everyone,

I've decided to take advantage of the fact that I already have everything I need to graduate with my B.F.A. in creative writing with film as a minor.

The thesis film I set out to make involved a criminal who's disenfranchised with his own lifestyle and tracking a love interest gone missing into the world of a Lovecraftian-styled cult in the NYC hipster underground (some allusions to Orpheus there).  Production is being fit within a $10k budget which is more or less typical for BC.

The issue regarding me pulling it away from the production program is that
a) I've run out of student loans and I need to work.  The alternative is running a campaign which would include crowd-funding but I have a personal standard I need to hit before asking for funds or more favors and I don't want to break that standard due to academic necessity.  Who knows how many more times I get people to donate on faith?  I believe I need to put more skin in the game and I have to trust that good things take time.
b) I have a transmedia angle on this I want to pursue and if I rush it and expend my resources before the additional designs are in place, any expression of this content will end up premature.
c) I did film two shorts offering distanced insight into the universe this new hero is a part of but the vision I came away with from both filming experiences put me back at the drawing board in terms of style and the higher story arc.  Their post processes have been delayed going on a year now while I figure out if/how I still want to commit them to the bigger design.  The backstory literature is evolving to include a particularly stellar mythos that I hope to convey for people who want to experience something dark, dire and inspiring.

Essentially, I've experienced enough on my 30-some odd thesis crew jobs and producing attempts to know that it's not worth the effort for me personally if I'm not developing something I'm really going to commit to audiences.  The degree has become secondary to the professional and personal purpose and the only way I'm going to prove the merit of this action is to move forward and stop treating my limited finances like they were meant to be tossed away on an assumption of the value of an education that unfortunately exists in a bubble for people at a certain class level.

Practically I'm in the poverty line and risking a lot mostly because I feel like there isn't a whole lot to lose if the price of sustainability outside the career is living forever in depression over what could've been.  Storytelling remains for me a journey of metaphysical implications - deeply personal and self-defining.  If I lose in the struggle it should be to something I care about.  If I find success, it should be on a path to which the resulting responsibilities of success matter to me.  I've always felt this way and this has always felt right to me.

That said, my appreciation of the experiences I've had so far is of the highest value.  It's all about the people.  I've made a ton of awesome acquaintances and a few very solid relationships that I'll never regret.  The student community at BC as, by its own steadfastness, brought me through a lot and given me great conviction for what is possible.  I've also learned a lot about what my strengths and weaknesses are and more importantly how to forgive myself so I have the capacity to move forward, even if slowly.  Everyone can change in small but important ways. Opening up and keeping the ego flexible is essential.  To the same degree you have to be able to like who you are as you are or you're whole process is about self-denial and that's a bitter way to live.  Life is absurd and humanity is absurd and that odd match between our personal and shared absurdity is why anything comes about at all.  It's all irrationality negating itself into rationality and that's why anything is possible and why I pay so little attention when people try to suggest that certain types of progress or change are impossible even while accepting that change isn't always the goal.  Confused?  I'm right there with ya!  It's an adventure.

It's enough to say that passing on the thesis film was a difficult decision.  I'm going on 32 and nervous about so many things.  Even now I question my leap and wonder if I shouldn't have just kept my head down and my analysis contained to the film in question rather than it's potential.  This lifestyle is constantly reintroducing risk and on so many levels.  I have the impression that what makes a player in this industry is somehow embracing and distancing oneself from this truth at the same time.  I sort of have to succeed in the alternative I've made for myself to prove its going to be OK and that means I kind of have to just give myself the benefit of the doubt.  That alone in a world full of ways things can go wrong in spite of an individual's attempts is enough to make me tremble. But it's all OK. It's gotta be.

In the future some folks may wonder why I continue to write on film when my background will officially declare that I'm no longer on the academic film track.  Others will read this and boil it down to being a coward on the precipice.  Time will tell but I had my part to say.  From now until forever I'm no longer a B.C. film student, but rather a film student.

May the film gods bless,
Carlos Sanchez

Connecting the Dots Between Low-Budget Horror and Low-Budget Anything

'Sup Rockstars,

Image Credit: E-how on Low-budget Horror

a) Find various ways to communicate with your audience.  You might need a previous Sundance presence to get a press release on IndieWire but it doesn't hurt to have one prepared and sent out if your Kickstarter pans out anyway.  If you spin it to be more educational than promotion, you're offering new value.

b) They repeatedly go back to the point that embracing one's constraints is what can often make a film worthy.  Horror has a lot to do with the imagined threat.  Real places will contain a greater degree of authentic material than a low-budget production can pull off through design.  And yet a design aesthetic is absolutely necessary to underscore horrific themes.  The theme and the tone are, after all, the selling point more than talent option here.  Unfamiliar characters are more relatable.  That means you have more control through your script and can match your script to your scale.  This can be liberating in that it narrows your options and focuses your goals to crafting a story that is both within reach and absolutely worth telling.  You won't be relying on fluff resources and it will make you stronger.

c) I think the existential concerns we encounter in horror can be appreciated in drama and romance and even comedy - all genres the more typical of low-budget means because you can shoot these stories where available and strip away all the crazy expenses if you work at it.  What we deal with as human beings crosses all these boundaries and will remain interesting as long as you can honor your own assortment of human experiences.  I have to believe that while low-budget horror remains the top of the go-to genres to begin with because fear remains incredibly visceral, love and humor and change can be just as powerful - budget constraints a given.  We don't see it as often being a roller-coaster generation with somewhat lower attention spans, but what I'm saying is don't be tempted into horror just because.  Rather use their insights on efficiency and tension to craft other genres and see where you land.

d) Know your genre.  Know what's expected and respect that anticipation.  Successfully pulling off what's been proven is the first challenging step to owning the license needed to innovate.  Where your originality comes in is with a personal concept or view - not something externally stimulated but an awareness or insight born from within about an experience that you keep returning to in one way or another.  These elements of your persona are capable of proving your premise and giving that spin that helps set your product apart.  Really what I'm saying is that you have to balance your self-awareness against that of the masses.  They want your contribution but probably not your overhaul.

May the film gods bless,
Carlos Sanchez

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

OKAY 2015 Here we go!

Prior to introducing the article and topic I just want to glaze over the fact that the last four months have been spent in near isolation figuring shit out.  I've come away with a metaphysical zilch after having combed through Camut's "Myths of Sisyphus" and Campbell's "Hero with a Thousand Faces." I'm not certain if I'm supposed to have resolve now but I look back and realize I haven't read or written a whole lot of the very subject matter that got me on this track.  Even watching movies has dimmed in its entertainment level because now more than ever the medium represents a far off world, dangerous yet beckoning.

Nevertheless, when looking elsewhere I find the same old elsewhere crap I'd rather not be attached to.  Adapting to the maze of a life determined to the whole bootstrap business, do or die, seems my lot (to the chagrin of partner and family).  If blogging is the least I can do that can be considered both an investment in trade research and public communication then let us embrace the absurdity of dreams and do it properly.

Thus, the Oscars.

For more information, please read How Much Does a Hollywood Oscar Campaign Cost?

There's not much to be said except lo and behold - the stink.

It's not that movies aren't a wonderful and rich medium full of inspiration and art and sentiment and with all the powers to bring the world together and remove the dividing lines, etc, etc.  It's that the pursuit of money and the idolatry of glamor has promoted such excesses of spending for a handful of people to manipulate the public.  The public tastes, being fabricated like votes being bought, do not exist. 

There are ways, as shown in the article, of boiling down even splits in preference to singular choices because there must be a winner after all.  And lets not forget the prevailing majority of white male seniors doing all the voting because diversity certainly isn't necessary when deciding the representative film of all films in a given year that underscores the state of public consciousness.

This is one wide circle jerk.  And the lesson to absorb here, which is pretty amazing, is that circle-jerking is actually quite effective in achieving the classical intent.  Fake it till you make it becomes circle-jerk till you're convinced its an orgy and so hot.

You see, Hollywood can't exist without fans and supporters.  It's make-believe after all.  Fans and supporters don't rally unless there's an obvious cause to rally for.  The symptom of "obvious" is created when we appreciate the big to-dos of the manicured elite from afar.  The illusions of elitism is perpetrated by the purchase of industries of projection - the publicists, the groomers, and so forth.  Either way, it's the magic (see: the bullshit) of movie makers doing their thing. 

We eat this up because we, the public, are in desperate need of an escape from the imprisonment of our own poverty.  It's always been this way and poverty isn't strictly financial.  The hardworking slave away for home and family, many having given up passions before they even discovered them.  And although film-making is damned-hard work, the crew certainly doesn't end up in the Oscars.

If you look at shows like Madmen or House of Cards, you'll begin to appreciate a concept we all generally accept but likewise would rather avert our gaze from: the flow of power and influence is decided by the people who create the context.  Publications, PR Firms, Event Coordinators, Photographers, spin-doctors all with a mass audience capable of doing no more than dancing to the tune because while the ideas of the public vary greatly, they carry no organization that can fully denounce the printed word - not when they have bills to pay and realities to escape from.  The Oscars are not chosen by popular appeal, though the films themselves are often beautiful.  The Oscars are the result of political war.  The benefit of the whole damned circus is to give off the impression that Hollywood is an institution and we're all benefiting.  But behind that parade of smiles is a bean counter and greed. 

Takeaway:  Try it out.
My fellow filmmakers, especially those like myself without two cents to rub together, seduced by the prospect and bewildered by the cold, bring your people together and make your own Oscars in your very solitary tier.  Fill it with boos and sympathizers, some live music if you can procure the talented desperate of that persuasion and put out a press release to the local wordsmiths and your nearby college or town press.  Make funny awards and provide sincere praise and if you make a recurring culture of it and honor your following then too might you one day find the power to manipulate culture to the tune of millions.  It is the dream and consequence of our success.  And it is not beyond the least of us.