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Thursday, May 14, 2015


Some interesting facts and ideas here on distribution strategy. These four plans of attack in particular:

  • Core over general audiences
  • Conferences over film festivals
  • Partnerships over distribution deals
  • Direct over third party sales

How did AGE OF CHAMPIONS succeed where countless other documentaries have failed? The film has been seen by more than 3 million viewers and has grossed over $1.2 million dollars.

Produced by Keith Ochwat and directed Christopher Rufo, AGE OF CHAMPIONS chronicles athletes who “sprint, leap, and swim for gold at the National Senior Olympics.” The film’s main characters range from 63 to 100 years old.

AGE OF CHAMPIONS premiered at Silver Docs to standing ovations in 2011. The filmmakers developed and began testing their distribution strategy in 2012 and did their major rollout in 2013. This featured a 20 state theatrical tour underwritten by AARP, which generated substantial press coverage, including appearances on NPR, CNN, and ABC.

To read full article:

Monday, May 11, 2015

Satyajit Ray

John Huston and Satyajit Ray. One might not think these two major directors had similar taste in movies. In the 1950s, Huston made “The African Queen” and “Moby Dick”; Ray made the three films generally known as the Apu Trilogy: the epic story of Apu, a boy born in a village in India who struggles for education and recognition as a man in the cosmopolitan city of Calcutta (now Kolkata). Yet, when I was writing a biography of Ray in the 1980s, Huston sent me a letter about Ray and his work. “I recognized the footage as the work of a great filmmaker,” he wrote. “I liked Ray enormously on first encounter. Everything he did and said supported my feelings on viewing the film.”

For full article and video clips:

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Happy 100th Birthday Orson Welles!

What a better way to celebrate the big O - with my friend F.X. Feeney running the show:

The word “genius” has been associated with Orson Welles (May 6, 1915 - October 10, 1985) nearly since his birth in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The son of a successful inventor and concert pianist, the future actor-director proved to be gifted in the arts as a child. The title was such a frequent refrain through his life that a 1940 Saturday Evening Post story joked, “Orson was an old war horse in the infant prodigy line by the time he was 10. He had already seen eight years' service as a child genius. Some see the 24-year-old boy of today as a mere shadow of the 2-year-old man they used to know.”
Previous successes shadowed Welles for so long that some view his career solely through the prism of missed opportunity, allowing uncompleted works such as THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND to obscure a long string of triumphs. While his debut, CITIZEN KANE, is unquestionably a masterpiece of unusual lighting and camera angles, innovative use of sound and extended takes, so is TOUCH OF EVIL, made 17 years later. His Shakespeare adaptations, created without the support of a major studio, offer further testament to Welles’ continuing growth as an artist over the decades: From MACBETH (1948) toOTHELLO (1952) to CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT (1965), each was more impressive than the last.
Though it would have been wonderful if THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS hadn’t been recut against his will, or if he’d gotten to direct CATCH-22 instead of simply acting in it, as it stands, Orson Welles’ body of work remains among the richest in cinema history.
Series programmed by Gwen Deglise, Grant Moninger and John Hagelston. Program notes by John Hagelston.
F.X. Feeney will sign copies of his new book 'Orson Welles: Power, Heart, and Soul' and introduce each night in the series!

Films in this Series at the Aero

Book Signing With F.X. Feeney!
Thu, May 7, 2015 - 7:30pm
Aero Theatre
Book Signing With F.X. Feeney!
Fri, May 8, 2015 - 7:30pm
Aero Theatre
Book Signing With F.X. Feeney!
Sat, May 9, 2015 - 7:30pm
Aero Theatre
Book Signing With F.X. Feeney!
Sun, May 10, 2015 - 7:30pm
Aero Theatre
Aero Theatre • Thu, May 7, 2015 - Sun, May 10, 2015
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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Vimeo Hit Series ‘High Maintenance’ Leaving the Web for HBO

Another reason to create your own content:

HBO has acquired the popular online series, “High Maintenance,” which first launched on Vimeo in 2013 free of charge. Last year, creators Ben Sinclair and Katja Blichfeld partnered with the streaming service to offer the second season exclusively via Vimeo On Demand, and it quickly became a top seller on the VOD service. For now, viewers can still watch the dramedy without paying for HBO, since the first 13 episodes are streaming free of charge and the most recent six episodes are available on demand for $2 each.
“For HBO to pick up the next season is a testament to this incredible show and we look forward to continuing to support it,” said Vimeo CEO Kerry Trainor.

Full article:

Monday, April 13, 2015

blocking and camera(inspired)

Yes - this clip is an amazing example of great blocking and use of camera. From the master Andrei Tarkovsky - a scene from Ivan's childhood.

A total of eight shots. The camera doesn't always move, but when it does, it does with purpose. The action of the characters is so intriguing. Engaging.  Her climbing the angled tree, then the kiss - straddling a wide gap in the earth. Incredible - and how the camera records this - moving down - to increase the tension.

It doesn't get better. Watch and learn. Character is action, action is character.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

watch this amazing opening of a feature film

Walkabout has been on my must watch list for years, and I've finally made the plunge. What a unique experience. The photography is incredible, the story, the tone, the feel. Perhaps most striking is the editing.

Watch the opening - so unique, so engaging:

Saturday, March 28, 2015

great advise for young filmmakers by Robert downey Sr.

Get it done. Do it yourself. With your friends. Forget the system. Just make a film!

Don't send your scripts around for funding. Write something cheap - few characters, few locations. Make it.

Monday, March 16, 2015

key to becoming a successful and fulfilled independent filmmaker

I couldn't agree more with the advise here, hence the New Gorilla. If you don't have actors that can "open" your movie, make it with the least amount of money you can. And have something to say!

The key to becoming a successful and fulfilled independent filmmaker is shooting films on your mobile phone for $3 and never giving in to the temptation of studio schmaltz, according to Mark Duplass, the co-creator of Togetherness.
In his keynote speech at SXSW in Austin, the filmmaker outlined his step-by-step survival guide for young directors who don’t want to compromise in order to get their films made.
“The first step is the $3 short film,” he said. “We’re in a place now where technology is so cheap that there’s no excuse for you not to be making films on the weekends with your friends, shot on your iPhone – we had a feature film at Sundance this year that was shot entirely on iPhones and it did really well.”
He explained that along with his brother Jay, he had lived in Austin, working as an editor, before saving enough money to make their first feature film, Vince Del Rio, which cost $65,000 and was, in his words, “a steaming pile of dog diarrhea”.
Despite the film tanking, the brothers decided to take a lo-fi approach with their next film, The New Brad, which was shot on their parents’ dysfunctional video camera, cost $3 and ended up at SXSW and Sundance.
“It changed everything for us,” said Duplass. “Because it really doesn’t matter what your movie looks like – because if you have a voice and something interesting to say they will like you and they will program you.”
He recommended making a $3 film every weekend with “your smartest group of friends”, made up of four or five people including a charismatic lead actor. Detailing his approach further, he said the film should be one scene, five minutes, ideally comedic and/or short – “because they program well at festivals” – and he warned filmmakers to be prepared for failure. Despite that, he insisted that being myopic and inward-looking when making one’s first films was definitely a good thing.
“At the risk of saying you should make a self-indulgent film for your first movie: you should make a self-indulgent film for your first movie.”
Other advice for would-be filmmakers included having a really strong day job (he recommended being a Spanish or Mandarin translator because of the demand and high pay), and saving money in order to travel and submit short films to film festivals.
Turning down money offered by agents – “to avoid being stuck in development for five years” – shooting on mobile devices and asking friends and colleagues for favours were all recommended by Duplass, who called his approach “the available materials school of filmmaking”.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Mark Ruffalo On Casting Rejection: “I Was Rejected 600 Times Before I Booked A Role”

He has been The Hulk in The Avengers, a memory eraser in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and a multitude of other roles in fan favourites like Shutter Island, Zodiac, Collateral, and loads more.
Like many celebrities Mark Ruffalo has faced continuous rejection. He persevered, and ended up working opposite industry favourite actors, in some of Hollywood’s biggest films.  Ruffalo’s perseverance alone was not what kept him in the game and coming back for more auditions – apparently his mother told him that he ‘…couldn’t do anything else” and “if I tried to quit she wouldn’t speak to me again.”
‘It’s been mythologized now but it started with about 600 auditions without success,’ he said about his long slog to stardom. ‘Most smart people would have quit when it takes that long.’
A key part of being an actor is managing rejection. It’s all about being professional, not taking the rejection personally, and moving on quickly to prepare for your next opportunity.
There is nothing gained by feeling terrible over spilled milk, or a botched audition. Keep moving forward, and you never know what can happen – you may just pull a Mark Ruffalo.
For more, go to Casting workbook: 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Alejandro G. Inarritu on making Birdman

"Fear is the condom of life; it doesn't allow you to enjoy things.  I did it without, and this was the result; it was real.  It was making love."

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Innovation is rewarded

How seldom does the Academy reward the most innovative? Reward a film that took in something like 40 million at the domestic box office? Not too often, and I'll say the preverbal bravo!

Seriously, if innovation is rewarded in our profession of cinema, instead of what makes the most money, don't you think this will encourage more innovation to come? Sure it will. The Oscars is a big, shining ball of sun , and if it gives its sunshine to smaller, more innovative films, the up and coming filmmakers will want some of that sunshine as well. Like little green plants bending towards the light.

BIRDMAN is filled with light. With a creative force. Let's hope we see more.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Download scripts to this years Oscar nominees

Great site @ where free PDF's of many recent feature scripts are available. Below is a partial list and links:
As was the case last year, one of the few benefits of the frenzied awards race is Hollywood’s outpouring of materials associated with the contenders. Perhaps the biggest perk is the release of full scripts one is able to download legally, directly from the studios. By the end of the year we’ll have dozens available, but today we have the first out of the gate.
A Most Violent Year (J.C. Chandor; A24)
American Sniper (Jason Hall; Warner Bros)
Belle (Misan Sagay; Fox Searchlight)
Big Eyes (Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski; The Weinstein Company)
Birdman (Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr.and Armando Bo; Fox Searchlight)
The Boxtrolls (Irena Brignull and Adam Pava; Focus Features)
Boyhood (Richard Linklater; IFC Films)
Calvary (John Michael McDonagh; Fox Searchlight)
Dear White People (Justin Simien; Roadside Attractions)
The Fault In Our Stars (Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber; 20th Century Fox)
Foxcatcher (E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman; Sony Classics)
The Gambler (William Monahan; Paramount Pictures)
Get On Up (Jez Butterworth and John-Henry Butterworth; Universal Pictures)
Gone Girl (Gillian Flynn; 20th Century Fox)
The Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson; Fox Searchlight)
How to Train Your Dragon 2 (Dean DeBlois; DreamWorks Animation)
The Imitation Game (Graham Moore; The Weinstein Company)
Inherent Vice (Paul Thomas Anderson; Warner Bros.)
Into the Woods (James Lapine; Walt Disney)
Kill the Messenger (Peter Landesman; Focus Features)
Leviathan (Oleg Negin and Andrey Zvyagintsev; Sony Classics)
Locke (Steven Knight; A24)
Love is Strange (Mauricio Zacharias and Ira Sachs; Sony Classics)
Mr. Turner (Mike Leigh; Sony Classics)
Nightcrawler (Dan Gilroy; Open Road)
The Theory of Everything (Anthony McCarten; Focus Features)
Still Alice (Wash Westmoreland and Richard Glatzer; Sony Classics)
St. Vincent (Theodore Melfi; The Weinstein Company)
Unbroken (Joel and Ethan Coen, Richard LaGravenese and William Nicholson; Universal Pictures)
Whiplash (Damian Chazelle; Sony Classics)
Wild (Nick Hornby; Fox Searchlight)
Wild Tales (Damián Szifron; Sony Classics)

Friday, February 20, 2015


Mr. Wenders, you once said that at the beginning of your career you felt like a painter who was searching for a way to express time. Would you still describe your approach to making films that way?
I started making movies as an extension of painting. I worked as a painter, I wanted to be a painter, but it is difficult to catch the element of time in images. So as a painter it made a lot of sense to start using a camera. When I started out as a filmmaker, it was in the mid-to-late ’60s and video was not really invented yet. There were no artists who worked with film – except some artists in America who did it in an experimental way. Most famous was probably Andy Warhol. I thought that was the future. I don’t think of myself as a painter anymore. In photography, yes, but in filmmaking I am strictly a storyteller. For me it is all about the story that I am trying to tell. That is my dominant force.
But one can definitely see the influence painting has had on your work. Some of the frames in your films could even be landscape paintings.
Of course I still make frames in order to tell stories, but each of these frames has a function in relation to this story. My first films, short films, were non-narrative. There was no story, there was nothing happening, there were no actors. It was mostly because as a painter and later on as a filmmaker I was most interested in landscapes and places, but now I am really a storyteller.
What caused you to make that transition to narrative filmmaking?
When I started out making films, I discovered very quickly that you could make a movie while you are travelling. You didn’t have to do it in a studio, you could take your camera with you on the road. I discovered that there was even a genre associated with this idea – although the road movie was more popular in America than in Europe. As soon as I started to travel with the camera, I discovered that I had found a form of expression that really suited me.
Some of your most beloved films are road movies. Why do you think that form suits you so well?
Maybe it has to do with my childhood and the atmosphere in West Germany when I grew up. It was a very narrow space in many senses: It was small to begin with, had lots of borders around, and people were, I felt, quite narrow-minded. So the greatest urge I had as a kid, the greatest pleasure, was to travel. I travelled alone for the first time in a train when I was five years old and that was a glorious day in my childhood when I sat alone on the train with nobody watching me.
Where did you go?
To read full article:

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Akira Kurosawa - blocking and camera

The scene below is from  The Bad Sleep Well  
Kurosawa and Mifune - 2 masters.

It is a video essay by Tony Zhou and it's very effective. When watching, I would add that the simplicity of the coverage serves the scene so well. By not covering the scene in the traditional way: CS/MS/WS, there is more tension in the scene as we feel like we are a part of the interior, right there, seeing/hearing/feeling what happens. Which is what we all want to do; engage the audience in the highest manner we can.

Monday, February 16, 2015

women in film

For those of you in NYC, try and catch this. One hip woman!

Films by Jessie Maple in Lincoln Center Series

The work of Jessie Maple, a filmmaker and the first African-American woman to join New York’s camera operators union in 1975, will be celebrated on Monday with the program “An Evening With Jessie Maple” at the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center (144 West 65th Street). Ms. Maple, who wrote a book, “How to Become a Union Camerawoman,” about her life and hard-fought battle to join the union, directed two narrative features.
When she couldn’t find a theater to hold the premiere of her first film, “Will” (1981), the story of a former athlete recovering from drug addiction, she and her husband, Leroy Patton, a cinematographer, founded the Harlem independent cinema 20 West in 1982. “Will” has been called “the first post-civil rights feature film directed by a woman.” The second feature, “Twice as Nice” (1989), is an intimate story of twin basketball players.
There will be a Q. and A. with Ms. Maple. Both features will be shown as part of the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s series “Tell It Like It Is: Black Independents in New York, 1968-1986.”

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Feature film shot on iPhone premiers at Sundance

Here's a real example of how to be the New Gorilla and shake the tree!

How one of the best films at Sundance was shot using an iPhone 5S

Tangerine, a breakout hit from this year’s Sundance Film Festival, is full of surprises. There’s the subject matter: transgender prostitutes working in a not-so glamorous part of Hollywood. And there are the characters: flinty, funny, nobody’s victim. But the story behind the camera is as surprising as what’s in front of it. Particularly because the camera used to shoot Tangerine was the iPhone 5S.
Plenty of amateur films have been shot using iPhones, but by all reports, this is the first movie at the Sundance Film Festival to be shot almost entirely on an Apple device. It was a decision that indie writer and director Sean Baker made to accommodate the film’s small budget. But you’d never guess the camera, to look at it: Tangerine was shot in a widescreen, 2:35:1 aspect ratio, and its camera zooms through the streets of LA with a fluidity you’d never expect from a handheld device. And yet despite his camera of choice, Baker says the iPhone made for a good partner. "It was surprisingly easy," Baker says. "We never lost any footage."
So how do you make a Sundance movie for iPhone? You need four things. First, of course, the iPhone (Baker and his team used three). Second, an $8 app called Filmic Pro that allowed the filmmakers fine-grained control over the focus, aperture, and color temperature. Third, a Steadicam. "These phones, because they’re so light, and they’re so small, a human hand — no matter how stable you are — it will shake. And it won’t look good," says Baker. "So you needed the Steadicam rig to stabilize it."
For full article:

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Cameras Used by Sundance 2015 Filmmakers & Why They Chose Them

We can probably all agree that every film requires a different set of tools.
This is certainly clear at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, with films being shot on anything from an iPhone 5S, a burgeoning arsenal of Blackmagic cameras, to regular (that is, 4:3) 16mm. Although all feature films eventually ended up as digital in the festival's first ever year with no 35mm masters, there's no shortage of different shooting formats. Here is a smattering of excerpts from our soon-to-be released video interviews with Sundance filmmakers, compiled to give you insight into not only what they shot on, but why. 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Director Richard Linklater for a Special Live Q&A!

Join Award-Winning Director Richard Linklater (BEFORE SUNRISE, BEFORE SUNSET, BEFORE MIDNIGHT, BOYHOOD) for a Special Live Q&A!
Friday, February 6, 2015 - 7:30 PM - Double Feature:  
2014, IFC Films, 165 min, USA, Dir: Richard Linklater
Among the most remarkable films of recent memory, BOYHOOD was shot over a 12-year period to follow the fractured family life of Mason Evans Jr. (Ellar Coltrane) as he moves from grade school to college. As his divorced parents, Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke are equally affecting despite taking different approaches to raising kids. Impressive as the logistical hurdles Linklater and his team surmounted, what’s most memorable about this coming-of-age drama is how right it gets the little moments of this boy’s life - a sad stare as mom drives him away from his hometown for the last time, an encouraging note passed to him at his new school, or an early morning walk with a girlfriend. Discussion following with filmmaker Richard Linklater.
1993, Gramercy Pictures, 102 min, USA, Dir: Richard Linklater
The last day of class at a Texas high school in 1976 brings together jocks, nerds and stoners in this cult teen comedy set to a classic rock soundtrack. Jason London, Ben Affleck, Milla Jovovich and Renée Zellweger are among the students gearing up for the summer; Matthew McConaughey is unforgettable as the older guy who still parties with the kids.
$11 General, $9 Student/Senior, $7 Member. 
No vouchers accepted.Purchase advance tickets online on www.fandango or come in person to the box office.

1328 Montana Avenue 
Santa Monica, CA 90403

Monday, February 2, 2015


In the summer of 1945, Stanley Kubrick, many years before he was the acclaimed director of Dr. Strangelove2001: A Space Odyssey, and A Clockwork Orange, had a series of photographs published in LOOK magazine, a competitor to LIFE. He was just 16 years old. Thus would begin a relationship with the magazine that would last several years, until he began making movies in earnest around the age of 23, in the early 1950s. 

For full article:

Friday, January 30, 2015

Sundance 2015 Cinematographers on How They Captured Their Most Difficult Shots

Good article on how some DP's came to shoot some scenes. For example:

"There is a montage in the middle of the movie where all four of our characters are in a swimming pool. We knew we wanted to have some underwater shots as part of this montage, but I was worried about the time and resources it would cost for us to put a camera and operator in the pool for just a couple of shots. I ended up having the idea to put a GoPro on an old $10 monopod and just dunking it in the water and following the action around. This was difficult because I couldn’t monitor the camera while shooting. I was just hoping for the best and luckily, it worked out great." -John Guleserian, "The Overnight"

For full article:

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Hal Ashby on winning the Oscar

Hal's take on winning an Oscar for best editor for In The Heat of the Night --

"All awards are kind of strange, because if you go along with the idea of winning, what you're basically doing is hoping someone else will lose."

Wednesday, January 28, 2015


The SWINGERS lounge in a booth against the cork-paneled walls sipping cocktails. They watch Marty and Elayne, the resident lounge act, perform an off-key cover of “Staying Alive” on synth and upright bass. The '70s are alive and well here, but they’re starting to yellow around the edges.
-From Swingers by Jon Favreau
Perhaps no other film depicts the reality of young people chasing the Hollywood dream quite like 1996’s Swingers. The independent comedy known for coining such pop culture phrases as “You’re so money, and you don’t even know it,” and “Vegas, baby, Vegas!,” rejuvenated swing dancing and showed us what it was like for 20-somethings trying to establish themselves in the sprawling metropolis of L.A.
Mike, a struggling actor and comedian, played by Jon Favreau (who also wrote Swingers), has recently moved from New York to Los Angeles to try to make it in Hollywood. The sacrifice was moving away from his family and breaking up with his longtime girlfriend back in Queens. Unable to move on from the breakup, Mike is encouraged by his L.A. friends, including fast-talking actor Trent, played by Vince Vaughn, to get back out there and realize how “money” he is.
Doug Liman, the director of Swingers as well as blockbusters The Bourne Identity and Edge of Tomorrow, tells the Weekly that because L.A. is made up of so many transplants, friends become family. “Everybody, including me, moved there from somewhere else,” says Liman, who now lives in New York. “I think there’s something that’s kind of special that happens socially when you have all these people who aren’t tied down, are away from home. Everybody has left their family behind, and suddenly Thanksgiving isn’t with grandparents and distant cousins; Thanksgiving is with a group of friends.”
Liman met Favreau, appropriately, because of a girl at a party. Favreau famously sold the screenplay of Swingers to his new friend for $1.
Swingers is mainly set around the nightlife of Hollywood – bars, parties in the hills, 24-hour coffee shops. “I’m somebody who maybe doesn’t appreciate L.A. by day, but once the sun goes down I think it’s a beautiful city,” Liman says.
A number of the places where Liman and Favreau hung out together, forming their friendship, were written into Swingers. An establishment where the struggling actor and director spent many a Wednesday evening is the only nightspot featured in the film that is not around today: The Derby, one of L.A.’s iconic live-music and dancing venues, located on the corner of Los Feliz Boulevard and Hillhurst Avenue, closed in 2009. Favreau and Liman would often go there on “swing night” to hear bands such as Royal Crown Revue or Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. In the late '90s, Swingers almost singlehandedly brought swing dancing back onto the scene in a big way, and the film’s two-volume soundtrack went gold.
For full article: