Diary of a Mad Filmmaker: Introduction to Terminal Philosophy

I talk with my friend and Terminal Philosophy co-writer/director Parker about the plot and pre-production behind this adaptation of Dante’s Divine Comedy. Evan (Warren from Wholesale Souls) also tags along, although he doesn’t say anything important.

Sorry, this is kind of a weird one. But it DOES feature the new opening graphic: water turning into wine! We needed something a little more… religious… than a devil bobblehead, due to the content of the film we’re now working on.

Also, please note: We don’t ACTUALLY pump Evan full of drugs.

Also please also note: The Lizard People are real. I’ve seen them with my own eyes… well… I’ve seen pictures of—maps—my friend told me about them… OK. I read about them on the internet. But that means it HAS to be true!

Finally, also please also note as well: We did in fact shoot our first scene on our set, and it worked, although it was hellishly hot. You know what they say: It’s not art unless somebody’s winning. Wait… that’s not right. Um… Never mind.

In the next installment we’ll be taking a look at the cast of Terminal Philosophy and showing you some footage from auditions.

Purgatory TONIGHT *UPDATED*

UPDATE: “So,” I’m sure you’re wondering to yourself, “I’d love to see a dead German philosopher sing about the will to power and lack of unionization in the afterlife, but I have no idea what to wear.” Well, I’ll help you out with a list of customary attire:

  • Everyday clothing is fine as long as it does not feature text, logos, copyrighted images or fine patterns.
  • Ultra-formal clothing is also good.
  • Abject squalor is a ‘no.’ If there are holes in it, don’t wear it.
  • If you have an authentic costume from some other period/place, PLEASE WEAR IT. Extra points if you can portray a specific (deceased) historical figure. Then you get on the main cast list instead of being relegated to “dance ensemble.”
  • Hip waders are not, repeat, NOT prohibited.

Also, singing and dancing will be required, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. And I would encourage you all to be grateful to the hospitality of the kind folks at Ever Open by purchasing something to eat, or a cup of coffee at the very least. We don’t have money to reimburse you, so bring your own and be prepared to pay for what you eat.

And a few more rules so as not to upset the locals:

  • Keep your voice down. This is for our sake as well as that of the other patrons (what, did you think we’d be able to get them to close down just for us? Not a chance!)
  • Turn your cell phone(s) OFF at 11:00 and don’t turn them back on until 4:00. Cell phones do not exist in the afterlife.
  • Do not attempt to solicit or otherwise coerce the waitstaff, patrons, or any others present but not associated with the production into participating in the shoot.
  • Please remain orderly. We will ask you to take a seat and stay there for the course of the night unless a director specifically requests that you move or assist as crew.
  • Do whatever the choreographer tells you to do, no matter how humiliating or demeaning, so long as it is legal.
  • Tip well.

As for where we will meet up, we have two options: If you have something to discuss with me or Parker, come by my house around 10:00 or 10:30. Otherwise, we’ll see you at Ever Open at 11:00.

COME ONE, COME ALL TO THE PURGATORY MUSICAL-RIFFIC SING-A-THON SPECTACULAR!

You are invited to come to be an extra/crew member for the Purgatory scene in Terminal Philosophy; wherein deceased German philosopher Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (portrayed by the incomparable Sean Cummings) will serenade (in a thick German accent, no less!) a bewildered Leonard Noblac (portrayed by the incomprehensible Vynni Gagnepain) about the Will to Power, poor working conditions and mediocrity in general. If we’re lucky we may get a visit from a Mr. Freud… whoever he is. Singing and dancing will be required, but you need not have a sense of rhythm or tune. That’s what sound editors are for.

It’s at a very odd time and we apologize for that, but we want to get it all done in one night and don’t want to disrupt our location when there are a lot of customers. Here’s the details.

Ready for this?

This Thursday night from 11:00 P.M. – 4:00 A.M. at Ever Open Café (1422 N College; map). We need extras and crew. If you can’t make it, ask everyone you know and see if any of them can. Herein lies the rub, and I say this with all sincerity: The quality of this shoot will spell either life or death for this film. This is the money scene and we HAVE to get it right. If we are well-staffed and efficient, we may very well have a festival-winner on our hands. On the other hand, if we don’t work this right we’ll end up with a real clunker of a movie. So your help is imperative.

I’ll be back with more information shortly. Please, please please please PLEASE if you ever do me one favor in your life, make this it. We need your help. If you can make it, please respond to this message.

Remember, for just the cost of a cup of coffee a day and a single sleepless night, you can appease not one, but TWO megalomaniacal filmmakers.

Sir Andrew Gingerich, Esq.

OMG MOVIE HAPPENING!!!

Maybe a little obvious at this point, but TERMINAL PHILOSOPY IS ACTUALLY BEING MADE!!! I’S SO EXCITED!!!

We’re making progress on this movie and to be perfectly frank, that surprises me. But my disbelief notwithstanding, we now have a set of our very own, we’ve got gobs of material shot and we’re shooting more today, and IT MIGHT BE POSSIBLE TO FINISH ON TIME. How crazy is THAT?!

I promise a kickass vodcast soon, as well as a page about Terminal Philosophy and possibly some pictures/video clips. But right now I have to go paint the floor of the set and get ready to shoot the Satan scene.

Movie Progress

FORT COLLINS — The city was rocked today when two amateur filmmakers, apparently attempting to bury a cabinet in their back yard, struck a gas line. Neighbors reported that the boys took a cabinet out from the house, began digging in their yard, and then exploded. One startled onlooker described the resulting concussive blast “as though God Himself was speaking to me,” adding, “He told me to kill.”

Ida Connolly, the next-door neighbor of the would-be filmmaker recounted her thoughts leading up to the explosion. “I was like, ‘what the hell are those kids doing?’ and then they exploded.” The filmmakers were apparently desperate for storage space, prompting them to resort to burying furniture in their yard.

The filmmaker’s house, as well as several trees and a nearby vehicle were mangled beyond recognition. The explosion also sparked several fires which are now raging through the city. “IT WAS SO COOL!” noted a young boy. “MY HOUSE BURNED DOWN WITH MY PARENTS INSIDE!”

Libertarian Mayor Doug Hutchinson said he would have deployed firefighters if he had thought that the situation “warranted government intrusion into the private lives of citizens.” Experts expect the city to be leveled by noon tomorrow.

Movies my mother and I enjoy watching

My latest review mentions the topic of films my mother and I can not only tolerate, but enjoy watching together. This has always been a difficulty for us and my mother is always recommending to me movies that she didn’t like but she thinks I might.

Anyway, there are a choice few films that we have happily watched together. Here is a quick selection:

  • Pieces of April – We actually saw this in a little art house theater in Denver and my mom was surprised that she liked it so much. She liked it so much, in fact, that she bought the DVD. I believe my grandmother has since seen and liked this movie as well.
  • Whale Rider – This is one that I didn’t expect to like. Turns out that not only is the story rich with Maori culture, it’s also a good story.
  • Thumbsucker – I have a thing for first-time directors. This is a light story with heart, plus it’s got really good performances from Vincent D’Onofrio and Keanu Reeves. What more can you ask?
  • Around the Bend – Another movie from a first-time director. One of the things Mom and I agree on: Christopher Walken is awesome. Especially in a movie as funny as this one.
  • The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou – Really, anything by Wes Anderson. Great characters, and smart without being mean.
  • Happy Accidents – Latest addition to the list. See my review for more.
  • Wholesale Souls, Inc. But that’s a given.

Strangely enough, we agree on what we feel is the most awful movie ever made: Russian Ark. Gimmicky and boring beyond belief!

I’m not quite sure what this list means, but if you ever have need for a movie with wide audience appeal you can probably find a good one on this list. Just please, for the love of God, don’t watch Russian Ark!

In 500 Words: Match Point and Happy Accidents *TWO FOR ONE!*

Today I will be taking exactly 500 words to discuss BOTH Match Point (2005) by Woody Allen and Happy Accidents (2000) by Brad Anderson. The only thing they have in common? I watched them both this week. You may notice that I generally review movies as they come out on DVD, not when they are still running in theaters. This is because I am a cheapskate.

As usual, this italicized introduction does not count against my 500-word limit.

Let me get this out of the way: Happy Accidents reminded me why I love movies and Match Point made me want to bathe with my toaster.

Match Point is one of those horrid new-style dramas where everyone is completely unlikeable. All the characters are fabulously wealthy and utter lines like “I’ve been to Athens… but I hear the islands are paradise.” Poor art direction, strikingly awkward visual composition and characters more befitting a BBC miniseries adaptation of Pride and Prejudice than a Woody Allen film also contribute to its demise.

I quickly soured to this film. That’s because it starts immediately with a freeze-frame and a philosophical voice-over employing an overextended tennis metaphor. I like to call this the “film professor’s nightmare” and it’s proof that even Woody Allen can’t use a cliché just because he feels like it.

Let’s just take a moment to remember Woody Allen’s career.

Remember when Alvy sneezed on the cocaine in Annie Hall? Yeah, that was good.

Back to business.

There were two moments I liked, but which ended up self-destructing. One is when Detective Banner sits bolt upright in bed and cries out, “Chris Wilton killed them! I see how he did it!” I thought this was hilarious. Unfortunately, it was apparently supposed to be taken seriously. There goes that.

The other is right at the beginning of the film. We see Chris Wilton lying in bed, reading Crime and Punishment. After a moment, he puts it down and picks up a study guide to Dostoevsky. I loved this because it required the audience to be visually observant and connect some conceptual dots to get the joke. Woody Allen is great at that sort of thing, and It’s a fitting parody of those who style themselves as intellectuals for purposes of social advancement. Unfortunately, Allen spends the next two hours catering to exactly that audience.

Final thought? Inside every pretentious film like Match Point is a stupid movie trying to get out.

Happy Accidents, conversely, is a smart movie masquerading as a dumb romantic comedy. It also gets the prestigious honor of being a movie that my mother and I both enjoyed.

The story is that of Ruby and her eccentric boyfriend Sam, who claims to be from the future. The acting was good (Vincent D’Onofrio sure knows how to do ‘eccentric’), the aesthetic was nice, and the premise was solid if somewhat contrived. What really struck me was directorial craftsmanship. It was a majestic thing to behold the way Anderson shapes the film as it progresses (a kindred spirit; Anderson not only wrote and directed but also edited Happy Accidents).

This movie gets all the important stuff right. It has intellectual depth (I could explicate it all night), smart humor, great character development and dialog, wonderful pacing and an ending that, without being a downer, did not offend my indie sensibilities.

The long and short of it: Watch Happy Accidents instead of Match Point. You’ll thank me.

Terminal Philosophy Production Schedule

UPDATE: We’ve been shuffling around the shooting schedule a bit (IHOP is still on for tonight from 11:00-12:45 and you’re all still invited, but we’re specifically having some trouble scheduling heaven). In light of this, I can’t keep this list up-to-date. For the complete, up-to-date schedule, please visit the Google calendar. If you are specifically required for any of the scenes, you should be receiving e-mail updates to schedule changes. If you aren’t, e-mail me.

Thank you for your patience in this matter.

A simple question of economics *FEEDBACK REQUESTED*

Perhaps you all, dear readers, can help me figure out this little puzzle:

Now that I’ve got everything pretty much done I’m putting together the DVD release of Wholesale Souls. I’ll be self-distributing through a really cool-looking service called CustomFlix, which will allow me to sell fully packaged, professionally printed DVDs on-demand without needing an inventory, and will also get me listed on Amazon.com. Here, then, is the quandary which I face:

I have the choice of setting up and selling the movie as a single disc or as a two-disc set. The per-unit cost of adding a second disc is approximately $3, so if I were to sell the DVD at $12 for a single disc (a reasonable price, as far as I’m concerned), the cost would go up to $15 if I were to instead opt for a two-disc version.

To give you some idea, here is how you could expect a single-disc version to compare to a two-disc version:

Single-Disc:
– The movie (of course)
– Director’s commentary
– Cast/crew commentary
– Yet another commentary (in which Greg, Parker, Vynni and Andrew heckle the movie)
– Short making-of featurette (approx. 5 minutes)
– One or two deleted scenes
– Blooper reel

Two-Disc:

Disc One
– The movie (superior picture quality to single-disc version)
– Director’s commentary
– Cast/crew commentary
– Yet another commentary (in which Greg, Parker, Vynni and Andrew heckle the movie)
– “Movie Secrets” subtitle track
– A wealth of scene-specific interactive behind-the-scenes footage

Disc Two
– Longer making-of featurette (approx. 10-20 minutes)
– Full-resolution vodcast archives
– A bunch of deleted scenes
– Some rushes (particularly entertaining unedited footage)
– Blooper reel
– A couple shorts and some other footage from the Exploding Goldfish archives
DVD-ROM content: Script, Production diary, Complete e-mail archive from production, full-resolution penguin illustration, Portable media (iPod video) version of the film, etc.

Now, I want to sell the DVD at a low enough price that people might consider buying it, but I also know that the primary market for this film (outside of Fort Collins locals and people involved in production) will be other filmmakers, who want some pretty darn good, informative extras if they’re going open up their moth-eaten wallets and buy a copy.

This problem is compounded by the unfortunate fact that CustomFlix authors only to single-layer, not dual-layer media, so I can only fit 4.7 gigabytes on a single disc. This means that any substantial extras for a film of this length pretty much HAVE to be on a second disc.

So I’m leaving the question up to you! I’d like all of you out there to comment on this post with your vote: one disc, or two? I’m curious to hear whether a three-dollar price hike would influence your personal decision of whether or not to buy the DVD, and also which option you think is more commercially viable.

Thank you, and comment away!

DVD Commentary Recording *UPDATED AGAIN*!

I’m holding a get-together for Wholesale Souls cast and crew at my house this evening, where I’ll be screening the FINISHED film (I just love that it’s finished, hence the caps), after which we’ll be recording an audio commentary track for the DVD, which should be out later this month.

Aw, heck. I’ll be generous. If you know where I live and you read my blog, you’re invited. Odds are you were involved in the film in some fashion anyway.

When it’s all over and I’ve gotten everybody out of my house I’ll update this post with some pictures and other general comments. And then you can expect to not hear about Wholesale Souls for a few weeks while Parker and I get busy on Terminal Philosophy. Something to look forward to in the near future: cast lists and actor bios. COMING SOON TO A BLOG NEAR YOU!

UPDATE: The screening was a big success, as was the commentary recording. I was especially pleased to see that Mr. McReynolds could make it as he hadn’t seen the film yet, although unfortunately he had to leave before the recording session. Here’s who you WILL hear on the DVD commentary:

Group commentary:
– Arin Baun (Alex)
– Greg Ley (James)
– Erin Ray (Erin)
– Micah Buchele-Collins (Micah)
– Parker Cagle-Smith (Samuel the Hacker; sound recordist)
– Paul Binkley (Hades; horrific demon)
– Mikhail Twarogowski (First Clown)
– Vynni Gagnepain (Elephant A. Antibody)
– David Gingerich (set carpenter; production assistant; my father)
– Norma Gingerich (Judy; cheesecake wrangler; my mother)
– Gladys Nelson (medical consultant; my grandmother)
– ME!

Then, while most of them ABANDONED me after this, Greg, Parker and Vynni stuck around and all four of us insulted our way through a second, less coherent commentary track. And I now have my very own solo commentary recorded as well!

SECOND UPDATE: I promised you some pictures of the screening, and I’ve done you one better. Take a look at this nifty little album of Wholesale Souls production and publicity stills.

Plus hear this startling revelation from Vynni (yes, you heard that right).

Uhh… what the hell?

Apparently someone from the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory visited my blog for approximately zero seconds.

DAMN, them rocket scientists read fast!

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