Is Our Film Culture Designed To Create Corporate Hucksters?

Sometimes it serves us to let our dark paranoia run rampant.  I have always had a love affair with conspiracy theories, but it is one of longing more than indulgence.  If only governments and people in general cared enough about other people to actually strategize to the extent needed to control things to the level most conspiracy theories fantasize.  But maybe instead of politics and community being the focus, the conspiracies exist in the pursuit of profit.  Sometimes looking at the result of business structures as their intent instead of their coincidental effect sheds further light on a complicated situation. We all know that there is a substantial flaw to our film infrastructure: artists and their supporters are not rewarded for the work they generate.  I speak of this as a problem.  If the industry actually tried to make sure that the people who made the work benefited from the work, we'd have more money in the system, and it would probably be smarter money (that knew enough to let the filmmakers have creative control -- or at least more of it) at that.  But all evidence points to the fact that the film industry wants to prevent creators from financially benefiting from their work.  We can change that (and I am going to try), but that's for another post about why I have chosen to work for a not-for-profit.

Let's let our dark side work for us for a moment:  if the model is not broken, but actually works, what is it trying to do?  Why would the film business not want creators to benefit?  Is it to give more people the opportunity to become filmmakers and investors since the current system virtually drives out all the experienced filmmakers and investors?  Ah, alas, much evidence exists to show that access and opportunity is not of interest to film business leaders (like the disproportional representation of white males -- such as myself).  So what could it be?

What happens to those that survive in the film business?  If filmmakers can't survive by making feature films, how do they survive?  There's been one business strand that long has been there with a helping hand  to the creative class and it seems like even our greats have long had to indulge in their offerings.  Is the whole of film culture designed to create cinematic masters who then must be slaves to Madison Avenue and their international equivalents?

Fellini:

Evidently these bank commercials were the last films Fellini ever made, and they aired after he died.

I don't think commercials kill directors, but I do think everything we do changes us.  It may be wonderful to have funding to play, but I always struggle with what my labor is in service to.  How we use our is not only a political (or apolitical) act, but a declaration of what we feel matters, what we dream our world to be able to come, our willingness to fight for the culture we want.  Survival is a tough game to play.  It changes us the longer we engage.  How do we maintain our mission when trinkets shine so bright?

And the film infrastructure seems to willingly grant the commercial powers not just the opportunity, but the determined outcome, to seduce our top seducers.  Can a support structure ever be built to let artists do what they truly do best and most want to do?

Roman & Francis Ford Coppola:

Ingmar Bergman:

Jean Luc Godard:

Wes Anderson:

More Fellini:

Woody Allen:

This is particularly ironic: evidently Woody's note translates as "delicious lifestyle".  Do we want a world where it is absolutely impossible for a filmmaker to remain true to their form?  If someone only wanted to direct feature films, would that even be financially possible?

Let's Remake The Greatest Movies Of All Time!

Okay, let's let the the great movies be the great movies (at least for now), but who says we can't have fun with their various extensions?  Eddie Burns is on a role.  He's always gotten a great deal of inspiration from the greats.  THE BROTHERS McMULLEN had a bit of Woody Allen -- in Irish drag -- as it's patron saint.  He's found new inspiration and energy from an embrace of DIY and social media, and as much as he's looking forward, he's drawing on the past.  To get us all ready for his new film NICE GUY JOHNNY (opening on all platforms Oct. 26), Eddie has looked at  the greatest movies ever made, but hey he's a busy guy, so he doesn't have time to watch the whole feature and has settled on the trailers. Does this trailer remind you of anything you've seen before? It should, because it is L'Avventura.  Eddie won't leave it there either; he's got more to remake.  This sort of inspired homage, playful and accessible, is a great example of the sort of innovative approaches filmmakers embrace when there is no corporate overlord lurching above.  You can picture that soon, we will be able to see the entire Criterion collection's trailers remade by Indie filmmakers having fun as they seek new ways to aid audiences in discovering their work.  And hey and if it brings a few fans back to the classics as a result of recognizing the originals..., that ain't so bad either.

Here's the trailer for Antonioni's original:

The Douchebag Process: A Look Inside

Guest post by "Douchebag" writer/director Drake Doremus. We actually shot "Douchebag" in two separate sessions over the course of a year and a half. The first time we went out we had a very specific outline from which the actors improvised from and the second time we had a loose script with lines actually written.

The first scene in the film for instance where Sam is laying in bed with Steph was mostly written and shot during the second session when we knew exactly how to set up the film. A lot of the rambling lecture scenes -- like the scene on the beach about kites, the credit card fiscal responsibility scene, and the scene about our hands not being designed to tear flesh -- were all shot the first time out when we had more character than story.

It wasn’t until after editing the first session’s material that I knew the exact pieces we needed to finish the story. The filmmaking process was very exciting and challenging for me but also very creatively freeing because I could keep writing and coming up with ideas after I'd shot, the film kept evolving that way and there was always a way to make things better. It's really the only way I would work now I think. I learned so much.

In pre production a lot of what I was doing was watching Woody Allen films. I really admire him and his process on his films. I hate it in movies when actors wait for people to finish their lines before they speak. He really has a way of making things seem real and unrehearsed.

I read somewhere once that thirty percent of his film budgets are dedicated to reshoots and pick ups. That sure is a luxury but I sure love the idea of knowing you’re gonna shoot more and no matter what get it right for what you were trying to make.

I love that he makes at least a movie a year it seems, I’d love to be able to do that. I just shot my third feature this past June called Like Crazy and I’m very excited about it. It’s the story of a seven-year long distance relationship between a young man in Los Angeles and a young woman in London. It was mostly improvised from a fifty page outline, so I’m continuing to use this format. I’m cutting that now and I’d love to do my fourth in 2011. It’s hard to keep going so fast but as long as I have ideas that I’m passionate about I won’t stop.

After I’ve shot and have time to reflect and gain perspective on where the story wants to go, in a way it tells ME where it wants to go. The footage we had on Douchebag spoke to us and the rest of the story just kind of filled itself in and it was very clear at a certain point of what we needed. The story was always about two brothers and one was always getting married and they always went on the road to find Mary Barger so it was really just finding a support structure that finished telling that story. The ending for instance was literally filmed last on purpose always knowing that we wanted to build up to that and find what it was last just like the characters do in the story.

I guess you could say I’m always striving to find everything organically. I never want anything to feel forced or on the nose. I love subtly and and organic characters who are reacting genuinely to their environments and the scenarios that are thrown at them. That was always my goal on Douchebag. I love those moments on set when the camera is rolling and the actors don’t realize it for a while and then the scene starts organically without an ”action” or a mark being hit. There’s nothing more exciting then when the actor and the character become one.

To back track to the start of this whole thing…I was in the edit room with Andrew Dickler (who is a picture editor and not an actor, in fact never had acted ever before in his life) in 2007 and about a month in to working It hit me that I had to make a movie about him. It was a lighting in a bottle type moment. I had known Ben Jones since we were 16 doing plays in my mom's theater basement and I had this idea that the two would have an anti chemistry, if you will, where there would be this natural conflict onscreen. The two become friends but always had the perfect onscreen anti chemistry. I always knew they had to be brothers at odds. The road trip aspect came later, It was much more interesting than the brothers sitting in a room and talking for 80 minutes.

I think the autobiographical part spawned from my real life relationship with Andrew in real life. We became fast friends but I always found myself in intense conversations about things with him that I never discussed with anyone else before, like weather figure skating was a sport or a dance contest and his opinion after he learned that I did not have a credit card and of course listening to his theories about eating meat and the environment. The character Andrew plays in the film is a very exaggerated version of himself and that was always the plan. Given that Andrew had never acted before I was and still am blown away at his ability to commit to the moment.

Check out the DOUCHEBAG trailer.

Friend DOUCHEBAG on Facebook here.

Relish these reviews (and see it this weekend!):

"A bubblingly sharp, fresh, dark and winning comedy! A minimalist Sideways." - Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly

"Surprisingly hilarious and cutting, this lo-fi comedy about two ill-matched brothers reconnecting while looking for one's old sweetheart is distinguished by sharp dialog and terrific lead performances by Dickler and Jones." -New York Magazine

"Smart, surprising, and funny! Hollywood could learn a few lessons from this indie sleeper." - Leonard Maltin, Maltin on Movies, ReelzChannel

"Dickler gives an inspired comic performance!" Keith Uhlich, Time Out New York

"Refreshingly original! Tremendously effective." -Metrosource

Drake Doremus, 27, a graduate of the American Film Institute, is the youngest fellow to be accepted into the program at the highly lauded institution. Doremus' first feature film, SPOONER, premiered at Slamdance in 2009 and Won Best Feature at the Louisville International Fillm Festival, Mt. Rainier, Sonoma International, Newport Beach International and Lone Star International in Dallas. The film will be released theatrically by Moving Pictures in January 2011.

Doremus’ second feature film, DOUCHEBAG premiered in dramatic competition at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival to rave reviews.  The film is being released by Red Dragon and Paladin and will open in New York on Friday October 1st, followed by Los Angeles on the 8th and several prominent cities throughout October.

Doremus recently completed principle photography on LIKE CRAZY, his third collaboration with Jonathan Schwartz of Super Crispy Entertainment.  LIKE CRAZY stars Anton Yelchin (STAR TREK, TERMINATOR SALVATION), Felicity Jones (THE TEMPEST, CEMETARY JUNCTION) and WINTER’S BONE sensation Jennifer Lawrence.  It will be completed in 2011.