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