Tag Archives: filmmaking

The (Film) Revolution Will Be Streamed

Image by Travis Wise (CC BY 2.0)

Amazon and Netflix are transforming the way independent movies are made and distributed — with far-reaching effects on an entire culture centered around film festivals, back-room negotiations, and subtle prestige battles. At The Ringer, Sean Fennessey takes a panoramic look at the changed landscape of independent filmmaking, where traditional distribution deals become increasingly obsolete.

Dillard has had to wait for more than 15 months for the public to see his movie. After brokering a deal with Blumhouse and WWE Films, Dillard entered a period when he was forced to resume his life and earn a living while tuning up his movie for its wide release. Few had seen Sleight and so momentum was difficult to come by. Artistic purgatory doesn’t pay.

“Here’s the not-so-glamorous side of independent film: All of my student loans defaulted, all my credit cards went into collections, I went back to Bad Robot to help my friends who are chefs there, to help them in the kitchen,” says Dillard. “So I was doing whatever I could, but I still had to keep so much time open for Sleight, and that process sucks —  like, it really sucks. And that’s nobody’s fault. It’s the nature of a low-budget [movie], where you can’t just pay somebody 85 grand [to fix all your problems].”

There was no such interregnum for Macon Blair.

“It seems to me like a cool way of doing things,” Blair says of his movie’s quick arrival on Netflix. “If the temperature is already up on a particular title to not let it cool off and then have to re-remind people about it nine months or 12 months later, just sort of strike while the iron is hot.”

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Not Giving Up on the Dream

Geronilla is mercurial. Mussed hair, holes in his sweatshirt, shattered iPhone. He listens to the xx on vinyl and shares his bedroom with two brothers, one of whom has enlisted in the Army. The room is lined with cameras, including a Red Epic digital, and videotapes of “Dr. Zhivago” and “Some Like it Hot.” He sleeps on a roll-up futon, edits and shoots commercials and music videos. Aside from the two other scripts he’s working on, he’s writing a thriller set in an auto shop that he estimates will cost $500,000 to make, or “maybe $100,000 can still make it look good.”

Hoston is slender and her hair falls deep south of her shoulders. Glasses perched on her nose, she likes precision; a quiet presence who on-screen can glow bright as a filament. She has a quick laugh and on most days is bigger than her doubts. On her way to a recent acting class, she worked on “not smooshing words together” when reading lines. She has a new agent and manager and head shot photos for pilot season. She’s been told to edit her demo reel down to 40 seconds. “How can I show them who I am in that time?” she agonizes.

In the Los Angeles Times, Jeffrey Fleishman turns the camera on two young Angelenos trying to establish careers in show biz, showing that, despite the seductive shimmer of La La Land, the industry is just as likely to break you as ever. Better have a Plan B, C and D.

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How Long Does Barry Jenkins Have to Keep Hanging Out with Damien Chazelle?

Moonlight‘s surprise win on Sunday night was a shared-stage moment, a tantalizing suggestion that we were perhaps living in an alternate timeline. “Did the Oscars just prove that we are living in a computer simulation?” asks Adam Gopnik at The New Yorker, only half as a joke. “Since the advance of intelligence seems like the one constant among living things—and since living things are far likelier than not to be spread around the universe—then one of the things that smart living things will do is make simulations of other universes in which to run experiments.” Read more…

Black Men Terrified

In George A. Romero’s classic 1968 film Night of the Living Dead, the murder of Ben, the black character, by a mob of white vigilantes who think he’s a zombie — even though he spends most of the movie protecting people from zombies — serves as the quintessential political message of the civil rights era: black men endangered by senseless white violence. But making overt political statements about race through horror movies all but disappeared by the late ’70s, when commercial filmmakers began establishing the suburbs as the exclusive setting for horror and stayed there for the next three decades. Black characters were often confined to filling a quota in ensemble casts, or waiting until a franchise chose to move its narrative to the inner city — see Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989) or Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest (1995). The horrors rumored to take place in black ghettos were much too real for something fantastic or supernatural to seem plausible. (Except in the case of 1992’s Candyman, which is set in the Cabrini Green projects and depicts the titular villain as the son of a former slave.) Instead, black people were relegated to films where they engaged in the gun-toting, crack-slanging, and welfare-check-cashing that was apparently their exclusive province in that day.

Not until films like the Purge trilogy and Peele’s Get Out have black men been allowed access to the countryside, and depicted as vulnerable — a privilege they are rarely afforded in real life — rather than caricatured by the associations usually attached to their mythic bodies or the rumors of their sexual prowess. These films grant black men a rare aura of grace precisely by staging their moments of vulnerability in a suburban landscape, traditionally depicted as pristine and white. By doing so, they dismantle nearly three decades’ worth of associations that have rendered black men denizens of lawless urban spaces, undeserving of an empathetic gaze. They also remedy the lack of imagination that so often leads to the death of real-life unarmed black men (and children) like Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Joe McKnight.

At BuzzFeed, Frederick McKindra examines how James DeMonaco’s The Purge and Jordan Peele’s Get Out work in stark opposition to the ways the American horror genre has depicted the suburbs as white, people of color as simplified pawns in the plot, and denied black men’s full range of emotion and humanity. Black Horror turns the old tropes upside down and realigns stories’ moral compasses, and it pushes the horror form into more realistic and interesting directions.

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“BRAAAM!”: The Sound that Invaded the Hollywood Soundtrack

Illustration by Kjell Reigstad.

Adrian Daub | Longreads | December 2016 | 15 minutes (3,902 words)

 

You walk into a local multiplex a few minutes after the lights have dimmed. You find your seat to the first trailer, some confection involving superheroes or zombies. As the light flickers over you, strings churn from the speakers, interrupted at certain intervals by a massive blast of indistinguishable brass, like an alphorn next to an amplifier.

Does this sound familiar? At some point movies started braying at us like ships lost in a fog, and we have come to accept that as perfectly normal. Variations on this sound sequence — a simple string motif interrupted by sudden bursts of non-melodic noise — are everywhere in film soundtracks and trailers. It is the noise that goes with people in spandex standing in a Delacroix-style tableau, or so Hollywood has decided. It is the sound we know is coming when a trailer intercuts CGI objects slamming into each other with portentous fades-to-black.

The internet and the sound’s creator refer to it as BRAAAM. (If you think you’ve successfully avoided it, here’s a sample). It may sound synthetic, but it’s usually produced with brass instruments and a prepared piano. Although it has its roots in a scoring style composer Hans Zimmer employed for much of the early ’00s, the BRAAAM heard in seemingly every trailer was first recorded for Christopher Nolan’s 2010 film Inception, and has been adapted, copied, and even outright sampled ever since. Is BRAAAM something that happened to us, or is it something we, as moviegoers, desired?

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The Amy Winehouse Documentary Doesn’t Pander

Like Senna’s, Winehouse’s family co-operated with Kapadia, but unlike them, they are displeased with the film, and it’s not hard to see why. As well as a welcome portrait of the frequently caricatured Winehouse as an (exceptional) artist and as a person, Amy is an indictment of those around her, especially her ex-husband, Blake Fielder-Civil, with whom she developed a set of addictions that derailed her life, her manager, Raye Cosbert, and her father, Mitch, all of whom are portrayed as prioritising her career (and thus theirs) over her health. It is rare to see a non-fiction film in which the goodies seem so good and the baddies so bad, and the effect can be confusing, especially for those of us whose existing assumptions about what happened to Winehouse align with what is shown here. Are we being pandered to? Footage of Fielder-Civil, both from before and during his disastrous relationship with Winehouse, is difficult to watch, and I wondered several times whether the expression of smug, bratty cunning on his face was at least in part a projection of mine, or the director’s. (Having said that, if there’s a more appealing side to Fielder-Civil, it’s not obvious. ‘I can’t sing, so therefore Amy’s life is the only one that is ever valid,’ he recently complained to an interviewer. ‘I almost feel like I’m being punished.’)

Lidija Haas writing in the London Review of Books about Asif Kapadia’s documentary Amy, about the singer Amy Winehouse.

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Stereotyping in 170 Milliseconds

During a Skype conversation, Quadflieg explained that MRI-based brain studies show stereotypes are activated in about 170 milliseconds. No matter how open-minded we fancy ourselves, these biases kick in without our realizing it, she says.

In a 2011 study in the journal Neuro­image, Quadflieg reported that the areas of the brain associated with body recognition had to work much harder when the test subject was shown a person who didn’t fit his or her expectations — for instance, a woman in a pilot’s uniform.

Quadflieg says a process known as “implicit stereotyping” allows these split-second biases to kick in despite political or personal beliefs. When a woman defies these biased expectations, “You’re very good at coming up with reasons for why that might be: ‘Oh, her dad was a professor, too.’” But with a man, “They just think, ‘OK, yeah, there’s a man who’s good in math. Big deal.’”

Jessica P. Ogilvie writing for LA Weekly about the difficulties faced by women in Hollywood.

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Budd & Leni

Photos via Wikimedia Commons

Bruce Handy | Tin House | March 2013 | 26 minutes (6,452 words)

 

They were fleeting and unlikely collaborators, for lack of a better word. He was a son of Jewish Hollywood royalty, she a Nazi fellow traveler and propagandist, though they had a few things in common, too: both were talented filmmakers, both produced enduring work, and both would spend the second halves of their lives explaining or denying past moral compromises. Which isn’t to say the debits on their ledgers were equal—far from it. Read more…

Mike Nichols: 1931-2014

Photo via Wikipedia

Mike Nichols, the beloved director of stage and screen—from Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and The Graduate, to Barefoot in the Park and Working Girldied Nov. 19, 2014 at the age of 83. Here are four pieces on the life of the artist. Read more…