Monday, December 20, 2010

Sunday, December 19, 2010

An Anecdote from the Premiere

Our DVDs arrived a few days before the screening and the covers looked like shit so we had to get them reprinted locally. The DVDs were shrink wrapped which meant we had to unwrap each one, take out the shitty cover and replace with it with a new one, and do this all on time for the screening.

The way things worked out, Juan (my producing partner and lead actor) and I spent two hours before the screening replacing DVD covers in the lobby of the Portage Theater while they put up their Christmas decorations.

I told Juan that's what self-distribution looks like. And it was fun in a way.

The Screening

The premiere for south loop went very well. We had a good turnout (better than my cynical expectations) and I didn't vomit during the Q&A. And we sold a few DVDs.

The highlight of the night was the two or three times I peeked inside the theater and got to see and hear the movie play on a big screen. After watching it on monitors for two years, it was nice to see it projected. Really nice.

In all seriousness, I know Q&As are important to the process and ours went well. It's important to just be as direct and honest as possible. And avoid too many tangents. Provide the information the audience wants and deserves and move on to the next question.

Anyway, you can buy the DVD at the movie's website for $15 or for $10 in person (at screenings).

Saturday, November 20, 2010

"south loop" at the Portage Theater

Thursday, December 2nd at 8pm south loop will make it's Chicago premier at the Portage Theater. Admission is free. That night will also mark the launch of the sale of south loop on DVD. Independent Filmmaker Josef Steiff will moderate a Q&A with the producers after the screening. DVDs will be on sale in the lobby.

Admission is free. That means you don't have to pay to see the movie. No money.

Please come see our movie.

Reciprocation as DIY Principle

After raising $5K on Kickstarter, I have received a number of congratulations from fellow filmmakers. More importantly, those colleagues have offered to help with south loop in various ways. They understand how "small" movies have many needs and few dollars to throw at them. I appreciate their generosity and will take up some of them on their offers.

And whenever a fellow filmmaker does favors for my movie, perhaps the best thing I could do in return is reciprocate. Paying those favors back, or paying some forward, is what gets our movies made.

Friday, October 29, 2010


My plan had been to post for every 1K we passed on our way to raising $5K on Kickstarter. So much for plans.

Anyway, we raised our money! And we did it because:

1) We have amazing friends and family who contributed and/or helped spread the word, and
2) Kickstarter works.

As a fundraising tool, Kickstarter integrates your project into a community of like-minded creators, protects the contributors by releasing funds only AFTER the goal amount has been raised on deadline, and it affords an air of legitimacy to your fundraising. I can't count the number of people who told us they were skeptical about giving to an online fundraiser UNTIL they encountered Kickstarter for the first time.

I also think our success had something to do with our circumstances: we had a completed movie so we could put clips in our video as a sort of proof-of-concept, we were asking for "only" 5K, and we set a deadline of 31 days from the establishment of the fundraising so our campaigning wouldn't drone on forever.

And I think that's the key to utilizing any online tool for independent filmmaking. You can't expect any tool to work miracles be it Kickstarter, IndieGoGo or even Facebook. You have to know HOW to use the tool properly for it to do your project any good.

That and a lot of loving, generous people working on your behalf.

Thank you to all 103 of our backers on Kickstarter (to date).

Friday, October 8, 2010

"south loop" Passes the $1K Mark

Barely over one week into our fundraising effort on Kickstarter and "south loop" has raised over $1,000 on its way to a goal of $5,000.

Thank you to everyone who has supported the movie.

And for those of you thinking about supporting the movie, I think you should do it. Really. Just saying. You'll feel better.

And thank you in advance.

Friday, October 1, 2010

south loop on Kickstarter

We have launched a Kickstarter page to raise money for the distribution of the movie. Please support south loop and spread the word.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Film Festivals Today

We recently applied to the Chicago International and the DIY film festivals and that process brought me to this post.

south loop is a DIY film and we're looking to start selling the film as soon as we can. We're not averse to being acquired but only with the right deal (ie no "all rights" deals). Still, we're essentially distributing this film ourselves and looking to use the festival circuit as a means of creating audience for sales of the film.

That said, in beginning the application process for film festivals, I have to read the guidelines a little differently. Some festivals have already been scratched from my list because they do not accept films that are "widely available on DVD or VOD". This isn't all that bad because I'm not needing the film to be acquired. And it doesn't really shorten the list by that much.

Again, if you're looking to use the festival circuit to create audience for your DIY film, keep a close on eye on those rules and regulations. Don't waste your $40 if you don't have to.

Sound is Done!

Yesterday we finished the mix on south loop. On to creating the master files.

So close, I can smell it!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

A Little Luck Never Hurt

Having talent helps. Access to shitloads of money is great. Dedicated collaborators are a blessing. But, for filmmakers, nothing may be more important than the support of family and friends.

And nobody has been more supportive than my wife Lynn. She encouraged me to take a screenwriting class while I was working in the corporate world. She encouraged me to go to film school. She did craft services on a number of my projects. She is always willing to honestly critique my work. She always listens when I need to vent.

As of today we have been married for ten years and I owe all of my filmmaking efforts to her. If only every filmmaker could be so lucky.

Thank you, Lynn.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

To Make "Little" Movies You Need Free Shit

I've seen a number of articles where filmmakers are giving their top ten tips for "micro-budget" filmmaking. And, for at least the articles I've read, there's a glaring omission.

If you want to produce a feature-length movie for next to nothing you have to start with a list of your resources - the things you KNOW you have for free. That includes equipment, props, costumes, food sources, vehicles, locations, virtually anything that can contribute to your production for NO DAMN MONEY.

Once you have that list you need to write and produce TO that list. Otherwise, you're speculating too much and your budget will bloat in a hurry.

You probably noticed I didn't include cast and crew as possible sources of free labor. Take advantage of that if you want/need to, but I would always advise paying people at least $50/day. Now, even $50 is a bit of an insult, but at this budget level you're usually hiring people who have other means of income or live with their parents or both. Still, pay them something.

Otherwise, get a list of your free shit and utilize it. Just make sure everyone gets thanked in the credits, a copy of the movie and an invite to the premiere.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Scary Guy in a Nightgown

Recently, on our Facebook page we posted a behind the scenes pic of our lead actor wearing a nightgown that plays prominently in the movie (the nightgown does, not the picture). Since that posting we haven't picked up any new fans. Coincidence?

Some background on the photo: we were well into our shoot and we were just about to wrap for the night and I jokingly asked Juan if he'd put on the nightgown for some pictures. Obviously, he did. As per usual during our production, Juan gave us a great laugh and kept the set loose. He's the best kind of collaborator: talented, fearless, generous and very hairy.

May 25th south loop Update

We just finished color correction and the mix should be done in the next two weeks. I can smell it. And it smells pretty damn good.

A word to the wise (independent filmmaker): test your workflow early in pre-production. Then test that shit again. You can never be too sure.

For the uninitiated, I'm referring to the technical processes behind shooting, editing and exporting footage while taking into account the multiple pieces of software you'll be using. You need to consider the file type your camera generates, will that work natively with your editing system, what should you export settings be to go into your sound editing software, etc.

Thing have gone smoothly enough for us
in post , but they should have been smoother.

Jafar Panahi Reportedly Released

I've been meaning to comment on this for some time, but now may be as good a time as any. Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi has reportedly been released from prison.

The director of such masterpieces as The Circle, Crimson Gold and Offside, Panahi had been imprisoned for unidentified "offenses" by the Iranian government. He was first detained after visiting gravesites of some Iranians slain during the Green Revolution.

The imprisonment that apparently just ended was reportedly due to Panahi's intention to produce a film based on that revolution.

Rightfully so, a number of powerful American filmmakers signed a letter imploring the Iranian government to release their colleague.

It seems that has happened and it's about damn time.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Saturday, May 15, 2010

And Now the Website, Please

The official website for south loop is up. Check it out to see the trailer, stills from the movie and updates on the movie's release.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

"south loop" is on Facebook

Become a fan of south loop and stay on top of all the latest updates (reading this blog might help, too).

What you know about that "Treme"?

The creators of "Treme", HBO's new original series, put the viewer in a place of distinct privilege. In no way does the show give a wholesale introduction to the world of post-Katrina New Orleans or New Orleans in any form for that matter. It doesn't aim to give you a tour guide's view of the landscape, physically or culturally. What this show does, much to my delight, is it assumes the viewer as an insider, as much a native as anyone.

Now, for the average viewer (read: NOT from New Orleans) that can be challenging because you have to hit the premier episode running (and, damn, what an episode). You'll hear terms you don't know or move from parish to parish with no discernible physical guideposts (I'm still not sure what a parish is) all the while observing a group of characters who couldn't care less if the rest of the world deciphers their culture. Some are even downright hostile to outsiders. Again, that could be challenging.

But, to my mind, that's what so beautiful about this still very young show. We don't have to beg to be in on the joke because the creators put us there to begin with. We aren't turned away like the Katrina tour bus in episode three that pulls up to a group of Indians as the pay respects to a colleague bested by the storm. The driver of that bus did the right thing and drove off, realizing the severity of his trespass. And as he drives off, the camera (ergo we) stays with the Indians as they watch the outsiders (them) fade into the distance.

"Treme" gives us the credit and, yes, the challenge to learn as we go because ultimately the story of New Orleans is the story of every city. Granted, we may not all have been through a terrible combination of natural and man-made disasters, but we all know the pride of home, perhaps even community, that the characters of "Treme" and the people of New Orleans feel. And we all crave the warm blanket of normalcy those characters and people have yet to regain.

In the end, that's what the show is about, that's its central conflict. It's about finding normal again. If that's even possible for the New Orleans of "Treme" we will find out eventually.

That's right, WE. I can say that because the creators of the show have put me in a position to do so and I am quite grateful.

Monday, April 26, 2010

On Hold

My latest project, "You've Been Great", has been postponed indefinitely, for many reasons, all of them valid.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Fundraiser for You've Been Great

You've Been Great Comedy Bash

We have lined up five of Chicago's funniest just to make you laugh your ass off!
Well, we want you to laugh your ass off while you contribute to a worthy (movie) cause and the lineup includes Ken Barnard (Chicago Comedy Award Winner for Most Innovative Talent), Joe McAdam, Joe Kilgallon, Martin DeRosa, and Mike Lebovitz.

When: Saturday, April 17th, 8p-12a
Where: Heart of Gold - 3036 N Lincoln Ave Chicago, IL
Admission: $14

You can purchase tickets via TicketLeap. And if you have absolutely no interest in helping our movie please come just to support some of Chicago's best comedians.

You've Been Great

My next project is another low budget affair though not self-financed (I have no regrets about doing that for south loop, but I'll never do it for another project). Also unlike south loop, from its inception You've Been Great has been designed for self/hybrid distribution so we're trying to budget to that end.

However, budgeting for that has proven tricky. Finding the appropriate numbers is not easy but we're doing our best. And when I say "we" I'm including my producing partner, NJ Naseer, and our co-producers Felix Pineiro and Alex Bonner from Bailout Pictures.

This project is being "crowd-funded" and to the uninitiated that means we are soliciting contributions from the (potential) audience. And our particular vehicle for that is our Chipin page. By all means, check it out and contribute.

You've Been Great tells the story of a road comedian, WILLIE, as he arrives in Chicago for his annual four-day stint. He quickly learns that his usual host recently passed away and the course of those four days will bring Willie to question his future as a comedian (a better, more detailed synopsis is on the Chipin page).

The plan is to shoot over 20 days beginning late this July. With a very small crew we will shoot on DSLR's. We have already been warmly received by those in the Chicago comedy community we have met as we acquaint ourselves on the way to production. A website will be up soon.

In a terrible rush that's the background on You've Been Great. Updates will come often (hopefully).

And did I mention we're looking for contributions?

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Expanding the Network

On Monday night I took part in a filmmaker forum of sorts. I was invited by my colleague, documentary filmmaker Laura Zinger, to join a discussion of independent filmmaking. Specifically, we discussed our current efforts but also speculated on the future of how our films will be financed, produced and distributed. It was a robust discussion and I met some great people:

  • Chris Folkens - check out the trailer for his most recent short Diversion
  • Logan M. Futej - recently directed his feature-length documentary debut All We Had
  • Brett Thompson - producer of the Slamdance award-winner The Scenesters
  • Ben Hicks - currently producing his feature-length debut Kids Go Free to Fun Fun Time
  • Laura Zinger - working on multiple documentaries through her company 20K Films
A particular focus of our discussion was Fandependent Films, a distribution tool Ben is developing with a partner. Their intent is to provide online distribution in a way where the audience and filmmakers are directly engaged with mutual benefits. Ben was looking for feedback from filmmakers on his proposed model and some interesting points were discussed. By his estimate, Fandependent is about 85% developed and from our discussions I am eager to see it launch. We, fimmakers AND audience members, need distribution outlets like Fandependent.

We're planning to meet again in the coming months to continue our discussions. I look forward to it.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Recommended Reading - Wildlines

From many quarters I have heard whispers (and occasional shouts) about the death of film criticism. With so many print critics being fired or involuntarily freelanced, I can see why so many are worried.

What's being created is a diffusion or diversion of expertise. Before we could go to our trusted dailies or weeklies and read authoritative criticism. That doesn't mean we had to agree but we could have faith that we were reading genuine criticism with meaningful scholarship and not simple reviews.

Now that print is letting go of these authorities (or, at least, minimizing them in print) we have to wonder where do we go to get informed responses to the cinema. And not only that, but how will new voices be cultivated? How will the next generation of cinephiles find their voices if they come of age, as writers, during this uncertain era of film criticism?

I don't know the answers, but I have faith partly due to Alex Dowd. He writes for In Review Online and at his blog:

Check him out if you are looking for a new, authoritative voice in film criticism.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

south loop

Completed in 2003, my graduate thesis film, An Assignment, did pretty well. It played a number of festivals and won some awards. It also played on the Showtime and SiTV cable networks. And from that mild success I hoped to ride some momentum into my first feature.

The script I developed to be that film was The Other Kind. It told the story of a 32 year-old mother of three who comes to embrace single-motherhood after years of regretting her choices. I was packaging it as a $1 million dollar film and eventually had a TV actress attached in the lead role. She was terribly patient as the script and budget changed a number of times. Still, I could never get the project fully funded and lost my patience. The actress and I agreed, quite amicably, to part ways and I began pursuing much smaller projects.

But I couldn't even get those fucking things financed! I'll spare you the details on those projects and cut to the chase.

In the spring of 2008 my wife told me to shoot a movie - short, feature, experimental, home, whatever - or I'd drive her crazy. She even allowed me to put a little of our money into whatever I was going to shoot. Yes, I AM very lucky. And she was pregnant at that time, by the way. Very, very lucky, indeed.

So much so that my good friend and actor, Juan Ramirez, offered to also put in a little cash so we could finally get back into production (Juan had been in my previous two short films).

And this is how south loop came to be.

With a crew of six, a PA or two and a slew of free locations, we shot the project for about $15,000 over 18 days.

As of this posting we are finishing up the sound mix. The score is complete and color correction will be done any day now. The website will be up very soon as well as the trailer. Of course, I'll be posting as these things finish up.

Sorry for this long-ass post. I just need to lay the groundwork for the updates that are to come.

I'll be posting soon to set the table for my next project You've Been Great.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Here it Goes

To give you some context, I am in post-production on my first feature-length movie south loop. That project was born out of years worth of frustration trying to get projects financed through the old equity ways. Finally, a friend and I threw together some (ie very little) money and shot the movie in the summer of '08. Once the movie is done we plan to self-distribute, or employ hybrid distribution as coined by Peter Broderick.

I am also developing my next feature project, You've Been Great, and the plan is go into production this summer with a similar distribution plan as south loop.

And as I've worked on these projects I have found myself wanting to hear from filmmakers going through a similar process. There are some interviews and blogs out there that satisfy my needs on one level or another but the deeper thirst for information is still there.

That leads me to this blog. With "Take 58" I aim to be that filmmaker that shares as much about the process as I legally can. Many of the posts here will detail the nuts and bolts of my projects (for clarification, I write, direct and produce my projects with producing partners). I will also try to point you to other resources (films, filmmakers, articles, etc.) whenever relevant.

To clarify even further, I work in what's often referred to as "micro-budget" filmmaking. I'm not the biggest fan of that term nor the overall ghetto-ization of films of this size. I don't have a better to term to offer at this time but I know "micro-budget" isn't the right one.

Anyway, I'll try to keep future posts from being as dry as this and maybe that's where you can help. I'd love to hear back from anybody with something constructive to add to the discussion (and I'm always willing to take a question).

Independent filmmaking is at a turning point. The way we make and deliver our movies is changing more than at any point in the history of cinema. So, if anyone tells you he/she knows exactly what the future is he/she is full of shit. I don't exactly know anything, but with this blog I will share all I can to help other filmmakers navigates these uncharted waters.

Thanks for reading,
John Rangel