Tuesday, November 30, 2010

So Basically

In the meantime, a puffin.
I have two hours to write the last twenty pages of the Earthwar screenplay. There are two Titan-class autobots with Mark XVI plastisteel railguns aimed at my head and they've told me if I don't deliver some sort of screenplay by 9pm they'll be "very angry". They've gone and explained that "very angry" for a Titan-class autobot is... well... very angry.
So here's a nice summation of Blake Snyder's 5-point finale. I have a couple problems with the screenplay so far. One is that we know now what the antagonist looks like, but we don't yet have a clear picture of the protagonist. Is he a dude in a Halo suit? Is he just a regular soldier who gets a 2-legged walker at some point? What's better? What's more important, his coolness or his relation to the combat witch character?
I suspect that right now I just have way too much stuff in the movie.
One thing to do is just put in some placeholders for the action at the end of the movie. That way the autobots will shut down (and possibly give me the cure to the nanobot virus they injected me with before they do!)

Monday, November 29, 2010


Ian Hubert finished the Earthkiller model in Blender 3D. What's funny to me about this particular render is that as big as it is, it doesn't even show the whole model!
This week I simply have to work out the post-production schedule on Earthkiller. I thought about using project management software, flowchart software, and now I'm seriously thinking that this technology called "a piece of paper" might very well be the best thing for us.
Also, I've done zero work on the Earthwar screenplay this weekend. I'm trying to do some work on it today. My big question is: what will be the headcount of the good guys? How many die?

Saturday, November 27, 2010


So really? 27,000 independent films are made every year? Bill Martell takes on the AFM this year.
I've never actually gone to the market. My producer has. There's not really that much for us to do there, as we have a sales rep who's there -- they cut the trailer and make key art -- and we would really annoy the pants off him if we were hanging around all day.
We did get two small sales from the AFM so far. We hope to confirm at least one larger sale by the end of the year.


I've done a lot of whining and complaining about Netflix here on this blog. Netflix has been a disaster for independent film. Back in the day, Blockbuster was heaven-sent. Our first picture, Pandora Machine, got something like 4700 orders from Blockbuster at $7.25 a piece. And that was a small order from the big "B".
Our distributor at the time was The Asylum. They took a big chunk of the $34K order. And, stupidly, at the time we had a sales rep whose territory included North America (and they didn't really know what they were doing with North America). So they took some money. Still, we ended up with about $17,000 when all was said and done with the Hollywood Video rentals and such.
And that movie sucked had one good scene.
Nowadays a Blockbuster sale is hard to come by (and it'll typically be a revenue-sharing deal). Blockbuster stores are closing by the thousands and Blockbuster restructures under Chapter 11.
So indy filmmakers think "Well then maybe Netflix will buy my movie?"
Netflix hates indy movies the way Blockbuster used to love them. They expect so many people (x) to queue an indy picture (y) before they will even order the movie from the distributor/producer. And frequently they won't tell you what x is for your movie. This is so they'll agree to order like maybe a couple hundred copies of your DVD at three bucks a piece.

Even The Asylum is complaining about Netflix.

The thing is that for the indy world, the Netflix model just doesn't work. Say you have a movie with some awesome cover art and it's sitting on a shelf at Blockbuster, a movie the customer has never heard of, but it has an awesome title like (say) Fear of Clowns. And it has a really freaky looking clown on the cover ready to butcher dozens of innocents in the suburbs. If you're into horror pictures and you think "Hey, there hasn't been a good clown horror picture since Killer Clowns from Outer Space" you're GOING to pick up the movie.

What you won't do is scroll through thousands of titles on a computer and pick the cover of the movie you want to watch on a Saturday night with some beer, a pizza, and a couple friends. So Netflix just doesn't make sense for indy titles.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The 'Zon

The Russian Solar Vengeance.
Everybody loves the new Amazon Studios. Ha! No, I'm kidding. Nobody thinks its a good idea.
And honestly, I can't figure what Amazon thinks they're gonna get out of it. I mean maybe they just have way too much money and are looking to spend it more places.
The strange thing is that it seems to be a terrible idea for everyone. Writers tend to like to think of themselves as oppressed coal miners in the year 1923. So anything which has a "cap" of $200,000 seems egregious to them.
But as a studio owner (albeit, the smallest studio there is) I have a different take. From John August (linked above):

When you submit material to Amazon–say, a script–they have an exclusive option on the script for 18 months. During that 18 months, they can do whatever they want with your script. They can change it, smash it together with other scripts… and of course, make a movie from it, or commission a book, or any other derivative work.

And that's all true. And, quite honestly, your script sucks so you dearly need someone to do some work on it (and if they don't work on it now, let me tell you, they'll do it in the editing room.)
But that's not what I'm here to talk about.
I'm here wondering why Amazon thinks this is a good idea.

Well, if you seen their introduction video you can tell they've never produced a movie in their lives. They want "stories that can become commercial that delight audiences around the world." Well that's a novel idea. Actually, the parody of the introduction video is better and, shockingly, not that different from the real intro video.

Most of the complaints on the interwebs come from writers. And yeah, sure, it's a stupid deal... for Amazon. If you have millions of dollars to make features with, you don't have to crowdsource scripts. You can hire a screenwriter. And you can hire one cheap. You invite one over to your house. There's twenty thousand dollars sitting on the table between you and the screenwriter. You say "We aren't signing a WGA contract and we need the finished script in 20 days." The writer says "But I have integrity. I can't just do whatever I'm told! And besides, I'm a member of the WGA."
But you just stare the writer down. You were going to offer him forty thousand dollars to do the whole job, including revisions and rewrites. But just as the doorbell rings (because you invited another screenwriter over at exactly the same time) the writer glances down at the pile of money.
You put your hands out and you divide the money in half. Calmly you intone "Ten thousand now, and ten thousand on delivery." The doorbell rings again. You move to get up. "I think that's one of the other 35 writers I called this morning."
The writer grabs the ten thousand dollars shouting "I'll do it! I'll do it!" Stuffing the money into his courier's bag, he runs out the door so fast he knocks over two other writers making their way up the driveway.
So really? 27,000 independent films are made every year? Bill Martell takes on the AFM this year.
I've never actually gone to the market. My producer has. There's not really that much for us to do there, as we have a sales rep who's there -- they cut the trailer and make key art -- and we would really annoy the pants off him if we were hanging around all day.

Monday, November 22, 2010

You So Thought We Were Done With Behind-the-Scenes (part II)

The unnecessarily handsome Joe Chapman sits atop his set.

Rik Nagel, rocking a mohawk, looks through a "table" which I'm shooting through. For some reason on set I'm not my usually fastidious self and I don't mind getting filthy dirty -- if it's in the service of a shot of course. That being said, I wash my hands a dozen or more times a day because I don't want to touch the camera with dirty hands.

Rik Nagel. I smell Facebook profile picture here.

Did someone want to remind me why Henry Steady isn't the bass player for a progressive funk band? (You know it's gotta be funk because of how high he holds the head of his boom pole bass guitar.)

Joe Beuerlein on his knees, with Rik Nagel, Andrew Bellware is apparently directing... something...

Libby Csulik working in the hot sun to paint these Styrofoam blocks which we didn't end up using this day. But we more than made up for it by using them other times.

This picture made me laugh. David Frey on boom, but still in zombie makeup. When I first looked at this picture I thought "What is he wearing -- a sari?" But no, it's just his torn-up uniform jumpsuit tied around his waist.

I'm being sexually harassed by Tom Rowen. 

David Frey as a sad, sad clown. Sad, zombie, clown. Still, he has GREAT hair.

Brian Silliman and Tana Sarntinoranont lounging around for the 5 minutes or so they had to relax on this very busy day on set. 

Libby Csulik and Joe Chapman -- after building sets they then had to be zombies. I believe the Queen of Mars did most of the zombie makeup. We tend to use the nice theatrical blood (approved by Actor's Equity and all that) which doesn't taste too bad and is very non-toxic. It does, however, stain clothes.

Katie Hannigan attempts to convince people that she could play evil roles. "Look, I have a mustache! 'You MUST pay the  rent! Bru-ha-haa!'" she laughs maniacally. 

A very serious moment of contemplation between the Director, Andrew Bellware, and the Production Designer, Joe Chapman. Now the question is: what's funnier: that Joe is in zombie makeup, or that THE DIRECTOR IS NOT WEARING PANTS!!!!???

You So Thought We Were Done With Behind-the-Scenes (part I)

The Queen of Mars stands behind me, and I (this is probably the only time I ever did this on set) am actually sitting down. I don't know what's going on in this though. It looks like Maduka Steady and David Ian Lee doing something (fight rehearsing?) on their knees while Robin Kurtz is getting ready to go upside someone's head with a rubber crowbar.

Libby Csulik and David Ian Lee. If I'm not mistaken this photo looks like it was taken before David managed to break the crowbar. For those of you who have difficulty with the concept I'll just say it again: David Ian Lee broke the crowbar. Also: note the golden codpiece. I've seen the man naked, he needed a big codpiece.

Andrew Bellware helps David Ian Lee practice dentistry. Or something. In the background Henry Steady is doing what looks like actual work. 

David Ian Lee, Andrew Bellware, and Henry Maduka Steady watch playback. I assure you there is alcohol in the cup I'm holding. I assure you I'm already smoothed out with a good buzz by the time this picture was taken.

OK, that's Joe Chapman and the Queen of Mars on the left, Robin Kurtz on the floor, and my Dad. I'm probably on the other side of the set (to our left) shooting. This was one of the funniest things which happened on the set:

We'd worked out this choreography where David Ian Lee throws Robin Kurtz up against those block you see stacked here on the right. My father, unfortunately, had no idea that she was going to go flying into them knocking them everywhere because he hadn't seen the rehearsal.

So there's video of Robin smashing into the stack of blocks, surprising my 84-year-old dad making him jump out of the way. He moves fast for an old man. Let me tell you, you wanna be in as good a shape as he is when you reach 84.

Andrew Bellware looking like he's giggling while watching something through the lens.

Sketkh Williams and Robin Kurtz.  

Maduka Steady, in costume on his haunches with the Queen of Mars, David Ian Lee (with back toward us), and Andrew Bellware on camera. I'll tell you that I honestly don't know what set this is or what scene we're shooting here. 

This is a neat picture of David Ian Lee (as "Mach", the character named after Mac Rogers) and Joe Chapman (in costume as "Riggs", the character named after Mitchell Riggs.)

Earthkiller -- yet more pictures (part I)

Whew -- lucky for us Joe and Libby took a lot of "behind the scenes" pictures.
Lucy Rayner as Raze and Robin Kurtz as Helen.

The Queen of Mars on the left, while Greg Oliver Bodine sits on the floor, Robin Kurtz in background.

The Queen of Mars hollywoods a light while Andrew Bellware shoots down the "robot shaft".

Libby Csulik supervises from behind her desk while Kari Geddes has rubber guts attached to her by the Queen of Mars. Anthony Pepe made those guts for us back on the movie Pandora Machine and I THINK we've used them in every movie since. Now THAT'S amortizing a cost!

The Queen of Mars starts the makeup job on Robin Kurtz which will eventually cover her whole body (Robin's, not the Queen's). I think they got this process down to about 45 minutes the last time they did it.

Earthkiller -- yet more pictures (part II)

Remember that shot where I was shooting down the "robot shaft"? Well this is what was at the other "end". I'm on my way to my therapist now.

Andrew Bellware looking all lonely and confused inside the airlock.

Nat Cassidy in what clearly needs to be his next Facebook profile picture, with Alaina Hammond.

Libby Csulik finds the job of slating to be so exciting that she turns into a zombie.

Do not pay the Ferryman Henry Maduka Steady 'till you get to the other side. That's all I'm sayin'.

Earthkiller -- yet more pictures (part III)

Lucy Rayner and Tom Rowen (who just can't keep his shirt on.)

David Ian Lee (in profile), Lucy Rayner (pointing her gun at the director), and Andrew Bellware.

Andrew Bellware on a precarious perch shooting downwise at a scene.

Katie Hannigan and Robin Kurtz confer with Andrew Bellware. This was one of our many very hot days.

Robin Kurtz showing off her amazing arms as she opens a jammed-shut door to let Katie Hannigan escape.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Earthkiller BTS

Here's the last bit of behind the scenes I'm publishing today.
Here I am, having forsaken pants, shooting Michael Chmiel and Anthony Litton (who are about to be blown out of the airlock.)

This is a great picture for showing the set of the "robot room". It's only accessible via that tube, but there's also a door in the floor of the set (which doesn't go anywhere) and a huge Blade Runner-ish fan above.

Henry Steady in a slate action shot.

Did you say you wanted more behind-the-scenes from Earthkiller?

Robin Kurtz and Katie Hannigan do a walk-and-talk, Andrew Bellware on camera, I'll presume the Queen of Mars on boom. EDIT: actually, that's David Frey on boom. I thought the ring on the finger indicated QOM, but no, it's the sexy, sexy David Frey.

Robin Kurtz looking through a back-lit door. I'm on camera.

Robin Kurtz (looking really excited to be here) waits while Andrew Bellware shoots Katie Hannigan's entrance.

Here I look like I'm directing but I assure you I'm only saying "Your character is the only smart one, everyone else is just one of a bunch of idiots" because I said that to every actor. Alaina Hammond, Maduka Steady, Andrew Bellware, and Nat Cassidy.

It looks like the drugs we were piping through the ventilation system have kicked in. Maduka Steady, Lucy Rayner, and Nat Cassidy.