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Note: This blog should've been posted back in September. I decided to sit on it until I was completely finished with the production of "Stroke of the Devil!" Now that our latest short film is complete, I have the time to actually focus on what is a very opinionated rant.
Last September, I was invited to tag along with a group of aspiring film students to Northeast Community College in Norfolk, Nebraska to hear a Q&A session with Oscar winning director and Nebraska native Alexander Payne. Payne is currently in our state shooting a movie called, quite fittingly, "Nebraska."
The session, for the most part, was really interesting and I enjoyed it. I could see that Payne still has a fire for filmmaking. He made it clear that he's interested in telling quality stories and has sort of a disgust with the current trend of overpriced, visually-heavy, story-depleted predictable films that are literally shoved down our throats by the major studios on a now regular basis. Personally, it was refreshing to hear that from someone at the top.
When it came time to take on questions from the audience, Payne was incredibly friendly and at times brutally honest - especially when the majority of the questions were kind of silly or somewhat stupid. For a guy who appeared to always wear his emotions on his sleeve, I found his way of handling a lot of the nonsensical questions to be commendable but I imagine he's had a lot of practice over the years.
Eventually, he was asked the one question that I'm sure the majority of students there had been wanting to ask.
"Do you have to go to L.A. or New York to make it in the film industry?"
It was obvious Payne had heard this question before. Almost immediately, he was prepared to blurt out the answer, a definitive "yes." But, he stopped himself before the word escaped his lips and prepared a more thoughtful answer.
He went on to say that yes, you do in fact need to move to a film industry hotspot like Los Angeles or New York City if you truly want to be successful. To better explain his answer, he offered the comparison of someone aspiring to work in the auto industry. How could this person make it if they were not living in Detroit? It was a good comparison that made sense to most people.
But honestly, it didn't make sense to me.
I've felt myself disagreeing so heavily with Payne's answer that I've felt obligated to offer a differing opinion. An opinion that perhaps restores hope to those film students who felt that perhaps their dreams were a bit crushed by Payne's answer two months ago. Hopes that were crushed because we don't have the money or the financial backing to move away from home or pay for the ridiculous tuition costs of a film school like USC.
I'll say this: Payne is right about one thing. If you want to be in the auto industry, you should probably relocate somewhere that has the facilities and equipment to make it happen. Unless you're a brilliant engineer, you likely won't be building a four door sedan in your garage that the American family is willing to buy.
But when it comes to the business and art of filmmaking, Payne couldn't be more wrong.
Over the last decade or so, the art of filmmaking has been undergoing an evolution of epic proportions. Today, professional cameras and editing equipment now cost a fraction of what it did in the past. The power to create quality movies is within the grasp of literally anyone with a desire to make it happen. You don't need to move to Hollywood to get your hands on a Canon 7D or the new Blackmagic Cinema Camera. You don't need to move to Hollywood to assemble a crew. You don't need to look too far to find people that share your passion for making films. If you've got the story, teamwork, and the talent…soon you won't need the Hollywood middleman to "break though."
And I'll explain why.
The expanding power of the internet is the biggest driving force of the independent filmmaking revolution. Soon, and I mean very soon, it's going to change the way the American public watches movies…more so than it already has.
It is my personal opinion/prediction that in the next decade or so, the internet is going to be the death knell of every movie theater in America. That's an opinion that many people disagree with, but consider this:
The advances of HDTVs and the streaming capabilities of online movie providers like Netflix and Vudu will only continue to get better. As this technology evolves and improves on itself and, most importantly, becomes more affordable, why would you go to the theater? Sure, the screen at home won't be nearly as big but that won't matter as image resolution on TV sets will only continue to improve. The theater, with its occasional long lines and overpriced snacks will continue to look less and less attractive to a society that will seek out more "instant" options from the comforts of their own homes.
It won't be long before a respected filmmaker with the budget to produce a film on his own dollar gets the wild idea to skip the theater middleman and show it on a streaming provider like Netflix or perhaps, even on his own website. Now, if that film turns out to be a huge success, it will change EVERYTHING. The power to do this now already exists, so at this point its not a matter of IF it will happen but WHEN it will happen. And when it does happen, its going to change the entire game.
As more and more directors (and smart studios) start taking their chances on premiering new films over the web, the playing field between them and independent filmmakers like us will start to level out. Hollywood won't die, but it too will evolve. The way I imagine it, every studio will have their own on-demand site where you pay a reasonable price to view new films. If that happens, you'd have to imagine that the studios would pull their films from Netflix and other providers like them leaving these businesses with some very difficult decisions to make.
Netflix, or perhaps some other entity, will not die easily. Someone will look to the world of indie filmmakers and realize the opportunity for continued business will exist with them. I predict that there will be a company that will be sort of a "YouTube for indie films." A place where indie filmmakers like us can submit our films to this site. Viewers pay to watch these films and indie filmmakers give up a percentage to this streaming host. If that's the future of filmmaking, I'd be all over that shit, to be quite frank with you...
Just imagine, a big-budget Hollywood film and a brilliant, yet low-budget film shot by a passionate group of guys perhaps living in Omaha would only be within a few clicks of each other on somebody's future TV browser. A level playing field for all filmmakers. No moving to L.A. required.
Sure, its a future that doesn't quite exist yet, but it will. It's only a matter of time. After getting my film school dreams crushed by greedy lenders, I turned my motivation for success to alternative avenues. My belief is my opportunity lies within the internet…and there are many more out there that share in that belief.
We're all pioneers in the digital filmmaking revolution. It's a world that hasn't yet been fully realized but the road is being paved for equal opportunities for those of us with a camera and a dream. Like I said before, its no longer a matter of if it will happen, but when…and I think its just on the horizon.
Until then, my message for my fellow filmmakers is this:
Keep your head up. Never stop learning your craft. Never lose your passion and, most importantly, never give up. If you believe in what you're doing, don't let anyone tell you that it can't be done because you're not in walking distance of some producer looking to make 15 sequels to "Transformers."
Today, you can be a filmmaker anywhere. Tomorrow, the talented ones will be successful from any corner on the map.
I remember when I used to think that six months was far too much dead time between producing two short films.
With that logic, two years seems like an eternity.
It certainly felt that way.
But now, here we are, two years after "Suicide in the Modern Age" and Amendment 1 FINALLY has a new short film to share with the world.
The film is called Glam Gore Girls: The Dreams of Colden Grey. This film marks a couple of firsts on my personal to-do list. For starters, this is the first film I've ever written and directed that is not a comedy. Nope, it fits into the Horror genre, or at least my own interpretation of what a horror film could possibly be. We've got a killer, a big knife, an abandoned building, and pretty girls. I think that basically fits the bill, right?
It's also my first collaboration project. I was hired by Glam Gore Girls creator Jeremy Lubash to develop and direct this film. Jeremy and I have known each other since we were teenagers. Though I do consider Jeremy a friend, I have to admit I was a bit shocked when he approached me to take on this project. I'm honestly not sure what he saw in my work that made him believe I was a good candidate to direct a horror film, but I decided to go for it...though I had moments of hesitation about doing the film...
In the days leading up to the first day of production, I started to become panicked about the project. I was bringing myself into an unknown world and I was going to be doing it alone. I had never met any of the models before production began. I didn't know what to expect from them or the location itself, which was an abandoned bakery in North Omaha. Other than the script that I had written, I felt like I didn't know anything. I was certain I'd make a fool of myself.
I couldn't have been more wrong. Shooting this film was one of the most fun and enjoyable experiences I've had since I first picked up a camcorder nearly 10 years ago. As a producer of this project, Jeremy kicked ass. He and the girls were ready to go when I got there. Everybody was there to take care of business. For once, I felt like I could just focus on directing and telling the story without personally having to worry about wardrobes, people showing up on time, finances, locations, etc. In the world of low-budget filmmaking, things like this hardly ever come together as well as production did on this film. If all of my films had this much on-set chemistry and commitment, I wouldn't have as many gray hairs as I do now.
But I honestly can't take full credit for this film. Greg Brown, a fellow Metro Community College alum, willingly volunteered to run audio for this project and I didn't even have to ask him and thank God, Buddha, Allah, Joe Pesci or whoever you want for that. Without Greg there, I would have been running both audio and video by myself...and the movie likely would've suffered as a result of that. Thanks for your help, Greg. I should mention that Greg has also done some audio work for our upcoming short film, Stroke of the Devil!
I'd also like to extend another thank you to Greg's friend Justin Vaughan. When I was editing this film and struggling to put together my first horror film score, Greg pointed me in Justin's direction. Justin was able to put together a score that went above and beyond my expectations. If he's willing to put up with me some other time, I'd definitely use him for music again.
With all of that said, I ask you to venture over to The Glam Gore Girls website and give Jeremy, Michael, and the ladies a few minutes of your time. Jeremy's pretty passionate about this group and I think they all have a strong passion for all things horror related. It's a unique concept that has a lot of potential.
Oh, and don't forget to watch our film!
Has it really been 5 months since I last updated this part of our website?
Time flies when you're busy, I suppose.
"Busy" is an understatement. "Stroke" is set to resume filming next month. In addition to that, I am personally working on a promotional piece for The Glam Gore Girls, a group that specializes in half-naked chicks covered in blood. Obviously, that's totally out of the realm of anything we've done before so it should be an interesting adventure to say the least!
Expect to see trailers and other promotions for "Stroke of the Devil" this fall. Our hope is to get the film complete in time for the local film festival circuit, and we're still on schedule!
That's all for now. Thanks for checking in!
I'll admit, I'm not a big fan of the pre-production process of filmmaking. Shooting the movie is easy. Putting all of the pieces together before filming is the hardest part and something I'm not very good at quite yet.
One of the most difficult parts of the pre-production process is locking down locations for your film. Obviously, you have to get written permission to film anywhere and that makes securing the right locations very tricky. Ultimately, the power rests in whoever owns the property where you wish to film. Without their agreement and their signature, you basically don't have a setting for your movie! With our upcoming film "Hand on the Devil" being set in the 50's, there are even more limitations to what we can use. We need homes and neighborhoods that are obviously older. We're on an extremely tight budget, so home owners will have to make some adjustments to make the film work for us. It's highly likely that anyone who opens their homes and gives us permission to film will be as passionate about filmmaking as we are. Or, perhaps they just have a dark sense of humor...
I'm looking for an older home in the Omaha area that could be used for the final scene of our film. I imagine the home with a staircase that leads to some bedrooms upstairs. If we find a person who also has retro or vintage furniture then we've hit the jackpot. Any obvious pieces of modern furniture/decor would be removed from the rooms temporarily. With our budget being so tight, we're actually looking at adding decor to the room digitally. For example, we will likely take some old family photos that I currently have and digitally add them to the walls of the room during editing. If it works out, we could also probably add furniture, retro TVs, and other things into the room without them ever actually being there.
If you own a location that fits this description or know of someone that does, please contact me asap! My email is firstname.lastname@example.org
Hopefully, we get all locations squared away fast so we can begin making that movie magic. Thanks for reading and thank you for supporting Amendment 1!
The new screenplay for our Hand on the Devil film is close to completion. Today, I thought it'd be a good time to share with you some of the plot details. If you've been following us for the last three years, what I'm about to tell you will probably surprise you.
This film is no longer a sequel to the original Hand on the Devil film. In fact, it is going to be a revitalized version of the original story. After trying to write several ideas for a sequel, we realized that nothing we could come up with would ever top the original plot.
There are several reasons we have decided to go in this direction. For starters, I have never been happy with the final cut of the original film. When I started work on Hand on the Devil in 2009, I began filming without a completed screenplay. By the time the film was finished, I had changed my mind about the plot and the setting multiple times. Changing the film's setting to 1950's America left several inconsistencies in the final film. Modern era cars are clearly seen in the park when Thaddeus meets "The Strange Man." Rupert Cummings taps on a CD Player/Boombox in another scene. I was honestly embarrassed to put the film into festivals and completely shocked when we won at the Fort Omaha Film Conference later that year.
That's not to say that I think the film was a complete failure. After the public viewing at Metro Community College's Fort Omaha Campus, I received a lot of praise for the story we had put together. Hand on the Devil soon became our most popular short film and people were starting to become interested in Amendment 1 Productions.
In spite of the flaws I see in the film, Hand on the Devil has been very good to us in the long run. That is why I think the story deserves to be told in the way it should have been three years ago. Its a funny story and probably the best example of our creativity, humor, and originality. If Omaha liked it so much, I know the rest of the world would probably enjoy it, too. But if we want to be taken seriously as a production team; if we want to continue to use this story as a representation of what we're capable of, a makeover is the only option we have.
Now for some details. While many changes are being made to the story, the majority of the original cast will be returning for this film. Dan Stewart will reprise his role as Father Peter Gryp. Mike Kasel will be back as Rupert Cummings and Jon Marshall has agreed to become Satan once again. There will also be the addition of a new character but I don't want to give away any more details about that at this time.
The story of Thaddeus Jones will be completely rewritten and recast. Jesse Whitehead's performance in the original film was hilarious, but I think I'll be casting someone younger this time around. The new and improved tale of Thaddeus will be a much better climax to this film than what we had seen in the past. I think its the type of ending that people will remember for a long time.
When the screenplay is completed, I know that we will need to go out and add at least 3 new people to this cast. Can't wait to start that part of the process. It's good to know that we'll be filming in the next month or so. I've missed it!