ExG Films collab: post-hijacking report

So remember how Greg started that attempt to write a collaborative political comedy screenplay? And then Ethan and Vvinni started working on it too? And then everyone except for me stopped working on it? And then I hijacked the concept and used it as my advanced screenwriting project?

Well, my advanced screenwriting project is done and the first 40 pages of my version are now written. Here they are, in PDF.

I’m loving this story and I want to make it into a feature. Moreover, I want to shoot that feature in the summer of 2009 as my senior thesis project.

Anyway, towards that goal, I’m making the script collaborative again. My current revision isn’t in the Celtx file yet, but it’ll be there once the semester is over, if not sooner. I really like the collaborative writing process, and I think it has great potential to make a wonderful script.

I’ll be doing a lot of work on the script this summer because I’d like to have the script finished well before the fall semester begins. Every single one of you is urged to contribute to the script as much or as little as you are willing and able to do.

Watch this space for more updates.

I gotsa telecine!

I’m crunching to finish 40 pages of script for class tomorrow morning so I don’t have time to do much work with it yet, but this afternoon I went and picked up my video transfers from Delden, and let me tell you, they are gorgeous!

I’ll have a cut to show in a week, but until then, here’s the unedited master wide of the mass suicide scene in all its glory:

Hooray for sync sound!

WTFilm? Why do people shoot film?

PREFACE: Sorry, this is probably boring. Sorry.

That is a question I’ve been thinking a lot about this semester, since I’m in a production class that shoots 16mm film exclusively.

First, a little background: Ever since the late 1990s, there’s been a move away from film and into digital video for film production (especially student work, because although for a very long time video wasn’t really up to snuff compared to film, it was dirt cheap). In recent years, however, as viable high-definition and super-high-definition cameras have emerged, many real, budgeted feature films have begun originating on video. At NAB this month RED announced a model of camera known as the EPIC, which shoots uncompressed footage five thousand pixels wide. That is, pardon my lack of appreciation for new technology, excessive. But there are still a bunch of holdouts (myself included) who prefer film. Why is that? Well, I’ve compiled a list of all the reasons people choose to shoot film instead of video, some of them good, some of them bad:

  1. Film is established/legitimate (Stanley Kubrick shot on film and I wanna be like Stanley Kubrick!) – This is a bad reason. The acquisition format of the movie, as long as it’s viable and people can actually watch it, has nothing to do with legitimacy, except to the extent that poor people can’t afford to shoot on film. What are you, an elitist?
  2. Film will make my movie look good – No. Just… no.
  3. Film is art. Video isn’t. – Here’s another bad reason. Incidentally, the world of photography went through this phase a couple years ago. The argument is that for some reason when light hardens a bunch of chemicals smeared on a piece of plastic, that’s art, but when light triggers a bunch of little circuits on a piece of silicon, that isn’t art. What the fuck?
  4. Film is expensive – This may seem counter intuitive, but this is one of the reasons why I love shooting film. It’s not that I love spending money (or that I have any money to spend), but when everyone on set knows that every minute of film that runs through the camera is costing you $25, there is a great impetus to do a kick-ass job on every single take, even the first one.
  5. Film is tactile and archival – When you get the film back from the lab, it is as a real, physical object. You can (but shouldn’t unless you want to get the negative all dusty) unspool it and look at each individual frame. It’s an immensely rewarding experience to be able to hold your entire movie in your hands, and it changes the way you approach making films. Also, film lasts forever. Most magnetic and solid-state media are rated with an archival life of 20-30 years, and even that isn’t a sure thing because the tapes of, for instance, the moon landing in 1969 are now nothing but chalky dust in a NASA vault. Film, on the other hand, we know from experience can easily last 150 years before showing any signs of aging. As one motion picture archivist says, “put it on silver or let it rust.”
  6. Reliable equipment – Film cameras were built to last. Has anyone out there ever held an Arri SB? It’s solid metal! You could kill somebody with that thing and not even dent it! MCAD’s arsenal of film cameras is made up primarily of Arriflexes that were built in the early 1960s and still run like a dream. Where is your precious HVX200 going to be in 40 years? Probably inside a whale, or something equally lame.
  7. Film is the technically superior medium – This is the main reason why I cling to film. It’s easier to shoot, is more reliable, and produces higher-quality images than digital. TECHNICAL JARGON TIME: The transfer guy at Delden Film Lab showed me an example of what a good film-to-video transfer is capable of accomplishing. He had a test roll of color negative film that had the same shot on it, once exposed correctly and then over- and under-exposed by several stops in each direction. While transferring the footage, the colorist is able to compensate for different film densities, so that the balance of lights and darks is correct. While the underexposed footage looks quite grainy when corrected, the overexposed footage looks just great! He ran the film all the way to the end, where it was five stops overexposed (that’s thirty-two times as much light as it should have been exposed to for a technically correct exposure), and it looked beautiful. No loss of detail anywhere in the frame. In fact, it is very common practice for cinematographers to “rate down” their film (intentionally overexpose it) by a stop or more in order to “tighten up” the grain. Try that on a RED ONE, I dare you.

So why would anyone shoot video? Well, it’s cheap. And it’s… cheap. And that, granted, can be a very good thing. I wouldn’t dream of shooting a feature on film at this point in my life because I just wouldn’t be able to afford it. Digital gives me an opportunity to try my hand at something that otherwise would be impossible for me.

Sometimes, video is the look you want. I, for one, am in love with the look of analog video, and I recently eBayed myself one of those big old VHS camcorders (it was ‘C’ camera in Higher Source—see this teaser for an example). It’s a creative decision, that’s all, and also a practical monetary one. Still, I love film and I’m going to keep shooting it as often as I can. And please, PLEASE spare me the sermon on how film is going the way of the dinosaur, because I will unload on your ass about dynamic range and how many freakin’ lines per millimeter contemporary camera negative stock is rated at until you get dizzy and fall down.

Gary Gets Burned

Hi there, everyone! How’s it going?

As you may already know, but maybe you don’t, I entered a competition a couple weeks ago called the SCREENWRITER’S CHALLENGE! It’s hosted by some people in New York, I think. It’s a multiple-round competition, and it’s currently in the judging phase.

In each heat, there is a different genre and subject assignment for the screenplay. I was placed in heat 3, and asked to write a comedy about “coffee.” This was obviously very inspiring, yes? Yes. Wait, no.

Anyways, it had to be 15 pages or less, and I had to have a logline on the title page. AND NOW YOU CAN READ IT. Do you want to read it? You can, if you want. You just have to click HERE and you can download a .pdf of it. And then read it, if you want.

It’s called “Gary Gets Burned,” and it’s one of the more ludicrous things I’ve written, at least in a while.

Mom, Dad, I swear I’m not this gross in real life, but I couldn’t resist using the phrase “menacing spectre of oversized dildos,” in a logline (thanks Andrew).

But hey you guys, seriously. If you take the time to read it, thank you very much. And if you leave me feedback, there might be some HUGS in it for you. Or at least gratitude. In other words, I would appreciate feedback. Thanks!

Love,

Ethan.

List: Movies that are Crazy Cool

There is a certain kind of film out there that is just plain captivating, in a way that I’m not sure I can accurately describe (although not for lack of trying). They are completely unexpected, explosively energetic, and occasionally just plain insane.

7 movies that are Crazy Cool

What makes a movie Crazy Cool? Jesus, I wish I knew. The only common uniting trait among the films I list here is that they are amazing in unexpected ways. These are not necessarily my absolute favorite movies, but they all have that certain je ne sais quoi (French for “really awesome movie”) that sets them apart from other films and makes them into almost an entirely different breed of cinema. Here are all the Crazy Cool movies I can think of, in no particular order:

  1. Brazil
  2. Adaptation
  3. Southland Tales
  4. The Manchurian Candidate (the original)
  5. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
  6. The Fifth Element
  7. Mulholland Drive

Keep in mind that this is a different list from movies that are “too cool for school,” which are a less intense, more self-assured, but equally impressive shade of cool. The movies that spring to mind are outlined below:

  1. No Country For Old Men
  2. Nashville
  3. Chinatown
  4. A Place in the Sun
  5. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (semi-frightening aside: last night I was in the studio helping Parker out with a photo shoot and I picked up a dime, flipped it into the air, and caught it. Heads. I thought, “Heh, I’m gonna keep saying ‘heads’ and see if anyone gets the reference.” So I continued flipping the coin and I kept getting heads. I didn’t start out counting them, but I got somewhere between 9 and 12 in a row, and really freaked myself out. Am I dead?)
  6. The Godfather (For whatever reason, I just wasn’t that taken with this film. But it most definitely is the epitome of a movie that is too cool for school.)
  7. The Fountain

It is interesting to note that in my experience, Crazy Cool movies are the rarer of these two categories. The “too cool for school” list is by no means exhaustive and could very easily include everything Wes Anderson has ever made, a bunch of films by Altman and Lynch and undoubtedly non-Americans like Fellini and Kurosawa (although I don’t have much knowledge of their work). Conversely, the list of Crazy Cool movies above is quite honestly every film I can think of that I would describe in those (vague) terms. Am I missing any?

Higher Purpose: March 1996

The Higher Purpose Group

On the morning of March 15, 1996, thirteen members of a cult calling themselves the Higher Purpose Group committed suicide, invoking what they referred to as a ‘rite of supplication’ and facilitating—they believed—their ascent into heaven.

A fourteenth member, Adam Booth, was found on the scene of the suicides and taken into custody by the police, under suspicion of murder.

Curious about the Higher Purpose Group? Watch this space in the coming weeks.

Reporter: Anne Westcott
Elder Paul: Jim Westcott
Adam Booth: Landyn Banx
Investigator: Nikki Kruex
Brother Michael: Dan Quaile
Cult Members: Steve Wothe, Amity Carlson, Donna Longson, Scarlet Salem, Lauri Mueller, Connie Newville, Ava Preston, Jayde Delano, Margaret Feldman, Matt Franta

Written & Directed by Andrew Gingerich

Associate Producer: Landyn Banx

Director of Photography: Kathryn Criston
Gaffer/Assistant Camera: Matt Kane
Second Unit Director: Ethan Holbrook
Second Unit Director of Photography: Parker Cagle-Smith

In search of extras: Higher Purpose *UPDATED*

UPDATE: Here’s the call sheet and associated materials for download.

Anyone out there in Minneapolis? I need extras for my 16mm final!

I’m looking for 20-30 extras to play cult members for a dramatic short film (working title: The Confirmation of Brother Eli), shooting at First Christian Church (2201 First Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN). Extras will be needed from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM on Friday, April 11th, 2008. All extras will be credited, and there is a possibility for some speaking roles.

The film is set in 1996, so extras should dress accordingly, in casual attire (t-shirt and jeans is fine). No heavily-worn garments, patterned clothing, printed text or logos, please.

If interested, please e-mail me to let me know you’re coming so I have some idea how many people are showing up.

Minneapolis 24-hour Film Race… complete.

That’s right. Once more the crazies of EXGfilms decided to participate in a 24-hour filmmaking festival.

Incredibly depressed by not being able to be in the Boulder Shoot-Out again, I, Parker Cagle-Smith set off in search of something else to do. I ran, I hid, I sought, I kilt, I slept, I laughed, I loved, and then I sought some more. In my search I came across the Film Racing Grand Prix, a contest that is extremely similar to the shoot-out, and just a bit easier (hehe). It started on April 4th at 10pm and concluded April 5th at 10pm. This contest followed these rules:

  1. Film must be conceived of , written, shot and edited within 24 hours.
  2. Film can be at most 3 minutes and 30 seconds with a max. of 30 seconds of credits
  3. Film must be based around the main them sent to all teams at kickoff, and must incorporate the included surprise element (knocking on a door, a bottle of aspirin, etc.)

So! No editing in camera, which I was a trifle disappointed in (cause that is some ridiculous stuff there), but the post-production was a bit essential to a few of the shots in this film so I suppose I’ll have to give it that. There was not as much insanity and running about and general intensity as was in the Shoot-out which was also disappointing, but we got an AWESOME film out of the calmness, and we wrapped production something like 5 hours ahead of schedule, which is a bit insane so I guess whatever. Lastly, there was a serious lack of Vvinni in this 24 hour production, which was very sad for me, but we did fill the void of his presence with some great people! Here’s a list, cause those are easy and highly comprehensible:

  • Andrew Gingerich – Acting Director
  • Ethan Holbrook – Technical Director
  • Bobby Anderson – Actor and super-cool guy
  • Michael Burns – Actor and a crazily committed one
  • Matt Kane – Gaffer/Editor/Key Grip/Kill bot
  • Ella Schreck – Production Assistant and cynical commentary extraordinaire
  • Me – Producer and Cinematographer

It was a blast to work with everyone on this film, and I look forward very much to working with them all again! Michael did a fantastic job, a fantastic job, and Bobby was great too! Certainly couldn’t have done this without Bobby…

This was also a first for me, as we actually produced a drama for this contest. Yep, that’s right. No laughs, no chuckles, no hees, no haws, just straight up draaama. Very… depressing drama… sigh. It’s really good. No kidding, I’m not just saying that because I worked on it. Makes me all sad and stuff.

“What’s it about?” you ask? You’ll just have to wait to watch it! It’s called 11:32 PM, and I’m sure that it’ll be up on Exploding Shorts sometime in the near future. After all those other ones… are uploaded…

Anyhoo! It was fun and we’ll keep everyone posted on how it does.

There will be a screening of all of the entrants that followed all the rules and got their films done and in on time this Thursday, April 10th at the Oak Street Cinema in Minneapolis at 7:00pm and 9:00pm. Come come come and see it! I know I will be.

Lovelove!
-Parker

To Hell With Everything

A quick preface – I’m just kind of bored, okay? I’m at work here. And also, this is a mindless, spiteful rant that’s been building inside me for almost two years now – since I saw these movies in theaters. Anyways, I swear I’m not this angry in real life. Sorry that this is going to be a completely irrelevant and incoherent, error-filled post.

Ahem.

Fuck you, Oliver Stone. Fuck you, Ang Lee. And fuck you, George Miller, Warren Coleman and John Collee.

“But hey, Ethan, who were those last 3 people?” I’ll tell you who they were. They were those assholes responsible for the biggest pile of left-wing hollywood ejaculate filth masquerading as a children’s film in the history of cinema, Happy Feet. And I know what you’re going to say. “It’s a kid’s movie about dancing penguins! What’s not awesome about that?” I know. I know. Those were my exact thoughts when I was going into the theater to see it. But guess what? The last hour of the movie is about how HUMANS ARE RUINING THE PENGUINS’ ENVIRONMENT AND ALL THE PENGUINS ARE GOING TO DIE BECAUSE OF US! Oh, and then you know what happens? The humans realize their wrongs when they witness a penguin dancing! And then they dance with the penguin! And vow never to hurt the environment again! WHAT THE FUCK? I’m going to kill everyone! And it won a fucking Oscar! WHAT THE FUCK?! Please, please, never show this to your children. I’m not making any political statement here, but this movie is LOW! They could present fact if they wanted, but they instead decide to hide a self-righteous and ideological (but kind of uninformed) political message under the guise of a dancing penguin! This is called lying and playing dirty, Hollywood. You fuckers.

Also, I’m disappointed in you, Elijah Wood and Robin Williams. Eat shit.

Next, World Trade Center. Anything good that Oliver Stone might have done in the rest of his illustrious career is eclipsed by the tremendous assfuck that is World Trade Center. Sure, it looks like it might be a somber and insightful reflection on the events of September 11th, but it’s really just Oliver Stone being like, “Hey. You guys. I’m Oliver Stone. Let’s make this movie about NOTHING and then maybe we can go jerk off? Okay.” Nicolas Cage decided to try and play a block of wood in this movie. And I don’t mean that like his acting is wooden in this movie. His acting is good. It just seems like he’s trying to convince the audience that he literally is a block of wood. The movie’s final note is one fireman saying to another something along the lines of, “Someone’s going to have to pay for this.” YEAH! OH HEY YOU GUYS IT’S ME OLIVER STONE AGAIN LET’S PRETEND THAT THIS WHOLE TIME I WAS TRYING TO MAKE A STATEMENT. Just because you say something that’s supposed to resound at the end of the film doesn’t mean that you all of a sudden lend meaning to the past two hours of BULLSHIT that I just watched! The characters are supposed to be real people, but their relationships are completely artificial, and the ending is the most retarded thing in the world. The only thing that could’ve made the ending any more forced and falsely joyful would’ve been if the final shot had been the two towers, rebuilt, completing the NYC skyline once more.

And lastly, Ang Lee. What makes Brokeback Mountain in particular so tragically bad is that it had so much potential. And then Mr. Lee came along, took that potential, and decided to fuck it in both eyesockets while it was being crucified upside-down. Originally, this was a beautiful and heartbreaking story. Instead, it’s a rather directionless political middle finger. Mr. Lee, everything about you sucks. Sure, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was okay, but Hulk?! And then this?! And then, Lust, Caution?! OH HEY I’M ANG LEE I’M GOING TO MAKE AN NC-17 MOVIE BECAUSE I CAN. THAT IS REASON ENOUGH. Congratulations, you stupid bastard. You just made the biggest budget softcore porno ever. Also, Brokeback Mountain is just plain boring! So many ultra-wide shots that hold for like five minutes! Gah! You anger me with your misguided political ammo! THESE ARE THE MOVIES! Bastard.

So there we have it. The three most disappointing movies, according to me. I am a tool.

In 500 Words: Southland Tales

Yeah, I know. Missed the last week of Exploding Shorts. They’re on their way, probably in a couple weeks. Plus some others, and news about a bigger project. Promise. Anyway, here’s a review for y’all:

Southland Tales

If you aren’t willing to go on a head trip, Southland Tales isn’t for you. If you don’t think the end of the world is funny, Southland Tales isn’t for you. If you want a movie that demands anything less than your undivided attention, Southland Tales isn’t for you. Southland Tales is a mental workout. It’s a magnum opus. It knocks your socks off and feeds them to you. The plot is so dense and multi-layered that I’m still not sure what the movie is actually about. Here’s all I know: MARTIN KEFAUVER is an anagram of FREAK MAN VIRTUE. The internet is the future, Boxer Santaros has a blood stain that looks like Jesus on the back of his shirt, and nobody rocks the cock like Krysta Now—and I mean NOBODY. After watching this movie, I get the odd sensation that I should track down Richard Kelly and thank him for making it. And if Kelly has another movie of this caliber in him, I will be the first in line to kiss his boots and call him my king.

There is virtually nothing I can say about the plot that would make any kind of sense in the context of this review, so instead I’m going to focus on craft, for whatever that’s worth. I’ll start with casting. The film is populated by scores of B-list pop cultural icons: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Justin Timberlake, Will Sasso, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Seann William Scott, John Lovitz—the list goes on. The stunning thing is that all these people who I usually think of as mediocre actors at best deliver makes-my-hair-stand-on-end performances, especially Johnson and Scott, both of whom I now hunger to see more dramatic acting from. The production design sports the best near-future sci-fi look since Blade Runner. Those of us who are connoisseurs of fine tracking shots will not be disappointed, and neither will those of us who appreciate sudden, inexplicable music videos. The cinematography is understated but brilliant. The music is perfect. The story is… confusing. That’s the way it should be.

Southland Tales garnered an intensely negative critical reaction, for precisely the same reasons that it is such a landmark film—the film I would show to my grandchildren to explain to them what it was like to be alive in 2008. Its satire is perhaps a tad too accurate, and just a tad too grotesque. Have you ever looked in one of those distorted funhouse mirrors, and then you realize that it’s just an ordinary mirror and you’re the one who’s distorted? It’s an uncomfortable sensation, and I think that’s why so many people are so hostile about the film. I don’t doubt Kelly’s fortitude, though. I get the feeling that this is not the last slice of weird, freaked-out Americana we’ll be seeing from Richard Kelly. Because, judging by all available evidence, Richard Kelly is a pimp. And pimps don’t commit suicide.

[rate 5]

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