Archive for the ‘DIY’ Category

The Bible, Revised

Wednesday, September 5th, 2007

In some fields, there’s that one book which, without it, your collection would be hopelessly incomplete. In my opinion, every kitchen needs a copy of The Joy of Cooking, a library’s not a library if it doesn’t have the Oxford English Dictionary, and filmmakers… well, I would argue that all of us need a copy of The Filmmaker’s Handbook by Steven Ascher and Edward Pincus. At least that was true a few years ago.

First released in 1984, The Filmmaker’s Handbook was one of the first, and best, books to cover almost all technical aspects of the filmmaking process. Its presentation of technical concepts was accessible to beginners; its depth of detail meant experienced filmmakers could return to it again and again, always sure to learn new things.

For years, the Handbook didn’t need an update. Film technology had gone largely unchanged for decades. An f-stop’s an f-stop, right? Then, in 1999, the Handbook was updated to include developments in digital video. A necessary nod to the present, no doubt, but also an invitation to obsolescence.

The 2nd edition was first published in March 1999 — one month before the unveiling of Final Cut Pro 1.0. Things have changed. Radically. Needless to say, the Handbook‘s been long overdue for another update.

So when I say that the new edition of The Filmmaker’s Handbook was released yesterday, well, if you’re sentimental about books like I am, maybe you’ll agree that this is a cause for celebration.

In many ways, though, it’s a bittersweet celebration. At this point, I don’t expect The Filmmaker’s Handbook to present any especially new information, exactly. The internet keeps me up-to-date on this stuff far better than any book can now. And, like so much of the technology it will no doubt discuss, I suspect that much of the information found in this 3rd Edition will be out of date within a year or two. If not sooner.

Yet, even when discussing evolving technologies, books have their place. Books demand (or at least request) more attention than digitally-presented information does. That’s a good thing, especially when you’re trying to learn something. You can also carry a book to a remote location where you might never have the internet access that would allow you to google for a solution that might crop up on set. But most importantly, a book lets you dog ear its corners, mark up key passages, and write in the margins. At least, that’s what I plan to do with my new edition as soon as it arrives on my doorstep.

And besides, a lot of what this new 3rd edition of The Filmmaker’s Handbook will have to say has never gone out of style and won’t for a long, long time. After all, an f-stop’s still an f-stop.

First Red Cameras Slated to Be Delivered Today

Friday, August 31st, 2007

More news on the Red Camera’s release as updates and footage become available.

Until then, assuming you haven’t been following this camera’s (fairly open) development, you can get caught up by reading the official propaganda from Red and Apple. Then check out the various forums:


RedUser

Red forum on DVInfo.net

UPDATES (last update 9/6/07):

FX Guide – “Red One Starts Shipping”
Words and photos about the release.

FX Guide – Shooting With Red

FX Guide – RED Podcast Discussion

“First Pictures” thread posted at RedUser.net
Links to first known still grabs and short clips from Red users. Registration is required to view the photos.

OffHollywood Studios’ Red Diary: Day…. 1, 2, 3

DVD Round-up: August 28, 2007

Tuesday, August 28th, 2007

This edition of DVD round-up features five very different DIY features.

Stranger Than Paradise / Permanent Vacation
Jim Jarmusch’s Stranger Than Paradise (1984) is generally considered one of the key films of the American independent film movement of the 1980s, occupying the same rarefied historical space as The Return of the Secaucus Seven (1980) and She’s Gotta Have It (1986). Unlike those films, however, this was not Jarmusch’s debut (though it is often erroneously attributed as such). That film, Permanent Vacation, is finally being released on DVD in this deluxe Criterion Collection release.

Inland Empire
David Lynch abandoned studio filmmaking to write, shoot, direct, and edit a three-hour DIY feature with a Sony PD-150. The plot? Lynch’s tagline says it concerns “a woman in trouble.” Let’s leave it at that. To promote the movie, which he self-distributed (in partnership with 518 Media and Rhino), Lynch sat out on a street corner in Hollywood with star Laura Dern and a Cow. No word on whether footage of this is included on this 2-disc edition.

Four Eyed Monsters
Arin Crumly & Susan Buice’s Four Eyed Monsters has gained as much, if not more, attention for the filmmakers’ promotional efforts and DIY theatrical distribution campaign as it has for the film itself. I finally caught up with it after its release on DVD a few weeks ago. Buice and Crumly have produced a work that is impressive for its inventive marriage of cinematography and digital effects — it feels at once hand-made and digital. Story-wise, I was less interested — for me Buice and Crumly fall prey to indulging in the very narcissistic tendencies that they criticize in so many other self-obsessed couples. See for yourself, though. MySpacers identify with it, which makes me wonder if I’m just too old to fully appreciate it. Available from B-Side or via the filmmakers themselves.

LOL
What a difference a year and a half makes. In April 06 I was interviewing Joe Swanberg, Kevin Bewersdorf, and Chris Wells about LOL, which I had just seen at the Philadelphia Film Festival. At the end of the evening, Joe handed me a self-burned, Sharpie-labeled copy of the DVD. Now, sixteen months later, I hold in my hands a deluxe DVD release of LOL, the first from the new DVD label Benten Films. It’s a beautifully put together release — lots of special features and my favorite DVD cover image of the year. I’ve avoided writing much lately about Joe Swanberg and the other filmmakers featured in IFC Center’s New Talkies series. I think Anthony Kaufman has a point when he writes that much hype could hurt movies intimate and small-scale as, say, LOL. (Indeed, hype can kill our ability to appreciate any movie or any other work of art.) Still, this is a quality release worth mentioning and, good as it is, it suggests even bigger and better things to come from both Swanberg and the Benten Films label.

No Budget Film School

Sunday, August 19th, 2007

Back in January, I participated in a conversation on DIY filmmaking with Workbook Project founder Lance Weiler (Head Trauma) and Mark Stolaroff (producer and founder of the No Budget Film School). I enjoyed the discussion and certainly learned a few things myself.

Mark recently notified me that his No Budget Film School is holding a two-day immersion workshop entitled, “The Art & Science of No-Budget Filmmaking” in Los Angeles next weekend (8/25 & 8/26), so I thought I’d pass the word along.

I haven’t attended one of these workshops myself, so I can’t directly endorse it. I will say, though, that the list of confirmed Guest Speakers — which includes Peter Broderick (President, Paradigm Consulting; former President, Next Wave Films), Craig Zobel (Director, Great World Of Sound – 2007 Sundance), and Ti West (Director, The Roost; Trigger Man) looks promising.

And it’s not terribly expensive as far as these things go. The two-day workshop is $275 in advance; $200 if you’re a college student with ID. When you consider that all paid attendees of the workshop receive Axium Scheduling and Axium Budgeting software for free (reportedly a $400 value) it might end up being a pretty good bargain.

If you’re in L.A. and you’re debating whether or not to go, you might give that conference between Lance, Mark, and me a listen. If you like what Mark has to say, check out the workshop.

DENTLER TAKES THE STAIRS: Kevin Bewersdorf Interview

Friday, August 17th, 2007

In anticipation of the release of Joe Swanberg’s Hannah Takes the Stairs, South by Southwest Producer Matt Dentler interviewed the film’s major contributors then asked several film bloggers (myself included) if they would be interested in posting one of the interviews online. I warmly reviewed Hannah back in March, immediately after its premiere at SXSW, so I happily agreed.

I find it impressive to see a festival director support the work he programs well beyond the festival itself. Dentler’s vision has made SXSW one of the finest film festivals in America and his support of truly independent fare has helped make it so.

Enjoy the interview. And see the movie. Hannah opens in NYC on August 22. (Showtimes are here.) Rollout for the rest of the country is here.

***

On the eve of the theatrical debut of Joe Swanberg’s SXSW 2007 hit, “Hannah Takes the Stairs,” I wanted to check in with each of the film’s principal collaborators. The film has been documented as a successful collaboration between acclaimed film artists from around the nation, each one offering their own trademark influence on the final film. “Hannah Takes the Stairs” will open at the IFC Center in New York, on August 22, as well as be available on IFC VOD the same day. As part of an ongoing series you can find throughout the film blogosphere, here is an interview with “Hannah” composer and frequent Swanberg collaborator Kevin Bewersdorf:

Dentler: How did you first get connected to “Hannah Takes the Stairs?”

Bewersdorf: Joe and I had just been touring the festival circuit with our film “LOL” (set to come out on DVD August 28). During the festivals Joe kept talking about wanting to shoot a new movie in the summer, and I guess we both just sort of assumed I would be working on it. A month later I was somehow sleeping on the floor of an apartment in Chicago and hanging out with a bunch of great people. Like all the projects I’ve made with Joe, “Hannah” just sort of fell in to place.

Dentler: What do you remember most about the shoot in Chicago?

Bewersdorf: The whole thing was a gift from God. Every moment was happy. I do want to bring up one particular incident however: the moment that the Bujalski vs. Rohal feud began. This mock-feud has been mock-annoying everyone for a while now, and it is time for me to mock-bring-it-out-into-the-open. One day, when we were sitting around at the office location, Bujalski told Rohal that he looked like an actor that he couldn’t place of the name of. Everyone tried to guess the name of the actor as Andrew listed his filmography. Finally, Kent correctly guessed that the actor was Vincent Schiavelli (“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” “Amadeus”). Rohal was extremely insulted. We consulted a picture of Schiavelli on imdb, and he looked like an gaunt and droopy troll, may he rest in peace. To counter the attack, Todd claimed that Andrew had a particularity to his countenance which made him appear as though he had Down’s Syndrome. Andrew was outrageously insulted. For the rest of the shoot the two maintained a mock rivalry over the incident. The rivalry has continued in public statements made by Rohal on various blogs (such as the “Bujalski Sex Tape” jab on Matt Dentler’s blog) although to this day Bujalski denies that the feud exists. I want to bring this out in the open so these two can finally make up, and put the feud behind them.

Dentler: How did the production process differ from your own other projects, or projects you’ve acted in before or since?

Bewersdorf: I’ve primarily worked with Joe in the past, so for me it was totally natural. None of the projects I’ve worked on since have been as stress-free as “Hannah.” There was no producer present in Chicago, so that removed any notion of authority or hierarchy in the production. There was extremely minimal equipment, basically no lights or gear, no schedule, no script, and no typical movie pageantry (Joe rarely says “action,” for example). It was just like hanging out, we were a perfectly balanced family unit from the start. Working on an indy film is almost always hell. Everyone is concerned with their own agenda, or worried about making their own reel look good, or restricted by an impossible schedule, or moaning about money problems. But, if everyone is willing to just let the movie happen, to enjoy the accidents and rock with the waves (while making sure to keep anyone with bad vibes away from the production) it can be so much fun. Usually people are a too concerned with their own success to have a good time.

Dentler: What are your thoughts on the issues of sex and relationships that come to the forefront of the film?

Bewersdorf: Many girls I’ve spoken with have despised the Hannah character. Usually it’s either because they resent that they are so much like her, frequently leaving trails of destroyed guys in their wakes, or because they have been pissed off by girls like Hannah in the past. Girls like Hannah are so awful and unhealthy to be around, and I’ve encountered them often. But I’ve never been able to hold their sporadic heartbreaking actions against them — they are young and confused and don’t know what they want, which everyone knows the feeling of.

Dentler: Ever been in a love triangle?

Bewersdorf: Yes. I was unknowingly involved a love triangle for months. The last side of the triangle wasn’t apparent until much later though, when someone else revealed their feelings. At that point it sort of dissolved in to a “love obtuse angle.” “Hannah” doesn’t technically involve a full love triangle though, unless the character Matt is secretly in love with the character Paul (Ed. Note: they’re co-workers and best friends, so it counts).

Dentler: Did you ever work with “the stairs?” Any thoughts on why they didn’t make the cut?

Bewersdorf: There was one scene with the stairs, a nude scene, but Kent was worried that his balls looked too fat so Joe cut that out.