Website for Kim is Up

The website for my upcoming film Kim is now live. Check it out!

I’ll be using the blog you’re reading now for regular updates on the film, but the new site will be the main location for all the vital information about the film. We’ll be adding visuals and behind the scene details as the project progresses.

KIM Front Page



The Art of Dreaming Reaches 1500 Plays

AoD 1500 PlaysIt’s been a slow and steady haul, but I’m happy to say that people are still watching my last film, The Art of Dreaming, and today it reached 1500 plays on Vimeo.

If you haven’t watched it yet check out out here: Watch The Art of Dreaming



We’ve Hired a Producer!

Progress on my new movie, Kim is proceeding. We’ve just hired a Producer, Leeah Odom.

Leeah has spent the past three years working her way through the New York entertainment industry. In between producing gigs, she has worked in every field from television distribution to on-set dresser to Art office PA. She has produced a number of shorts. Kim will be her first feature.

We’re very excited to have Leeah on our team. She’s got a lot of energy and a lot of great ideas. I’m sure she’s going to be an invaluable asset to us as we move forward.

Look for more announcements soon!



Kim

I’ve begun pre-production on my next film project, a feature called Kim.

I’m very excited about getting this movie underway, and you can find out more about and keep track of our progress here.

I’m looking forward to having more to share with you soon.



Weaving A Different Magic, Part 2

The obsession with the “rules of screenwriting” that I described in two previous blog posts (this one and this one), can be expected, of course, in books about screenwriting by screenwriters. This reflects a natural and understandable tendency on the part of screenwriters to think of their work as the primary basis of film. But this is a little myopic on the part of the writers, as if the final movie is simply a translation of their work into a different medium.

The screenplay is only one element that goes into a movie, and is no more determinative of the power of the final movie than other elements, like the acting, the cinematography, or the director’s style and choices. Filmmaking as an art is not about accurately translating the story of the screenplay to the screen. It’s about using the screenplay as one element among others to create a separate and new work of art that can certainly have different and greater artistic goals than the screenplay’s narrative.

The non-narrative aspects of the film experience are as important to the art of film as the story. We must always think about the experience of the audience, what emotional or mental states the audience goes through, the journey they go on, which as Werner Herzog pointed out, is different from the journey the characters go on. This is created as much by the style of the film, which involves the director’s, cinematographer’s and actors’ choices, as by the script.

Screenwriters often forget this, and too often when screenwriters get a chance to direct, their movies are stylistically unimaginative, workmanlike, competent, with the focus on a straightforward, classical re-imagining of their script to the screen.

We also see this almost-exclusive focus on story in a lot of film criticism, as Matt Zoller Seitz talked about in a recent blog post. Seitz observes how most current film criticism avoids talk of style or form and focuses instead mostly on issues of narrative, plot and characters (with occasional nods to good acting or beautiful cinematography).

But, as Seitz insists, the art of movies is as much about how a story is told as the story itself. The style, the filmmaking, is what makes it a movie, and not a novel, or a play, an opera, or a dance, all equally viable forms in which to tell a story.

Is the editing fragmented or languorous? The camera in motion or static? The lighting naturalistic or stylized? The color palette vivid or subdued? Why is this shot held so long? Why is that scene shot from that particular angle? And how do all these choices affect the mood or contribute to the communication of a point of view?

I don’t want to denigrate the need for a great script as part of any great movie, but don’t be misled into thinking that relating a narrative is the only and ultimate objective of filmmaking. It is conjuring an experience for the audience that is the ultimate objective, and in creating that experience, narrative is only one element, no more important than all the others.



Weaving A Different Magic

I saw Richard Linklater’s new film Boyhood over the weekend. In case you don’t know about this film, it tells the story of a fictional boy’s life from the time he is six years old to eighteen. The unusual thing about the film is that it was shot with the same actors over 12 years, so in the course of the 2 hour and 45 minute film, we watch the actor playing Mason age from a young child to a young adult. We also watch all the other actors age around him.

It’s a remarkable work of art, for so many reasons, but I want to talk about it in relationship to the so-called “rules” of good screenwriting.

In a previous post, I talked about how good drama involves working toward a goal against obstacles, but also how, other than that, the standard rules of a good screenplay are artistically limiting. (By the ”standard rules,” I mean, put simply, that in a good screenplay, the protagonist must have both an overarching goal and some growth that needs to be achieved. The obstacles the protagonist faces are such that the he or she must achieve that growth in order to successfully reach the goal).

Most every how-to-write- a-screenplay book buys into this notion, and even people like John August and Craig Mazin, who in their Scriptnotes podcast are usually pretty insightful about screenwriting, subscribe to it.

But, as I stressed in that previous post, this is only one type of story among many that you can tell in film, and I encourage every one to use their imagination, honesty, and life experience to free themselves to the possibilities of other stories.

This is what Linklater does in Boyhood. There is no over-arching goal providing the main thrust of this movie. In individual sequences and scenes through the course of young Mason’s life, there are goals to be achieved, but what provides the forward thrust of the film isn’t any overarching goal, but the cinematic magic of seeing Mason grow up before our eyes. That provides a sense of wonder and melancholy and even spiritual wisdom that is far removed from the usual goals of traditional, mainstream screenplays.

If that same script had been filmed with different actors playing Mason at different ages, that magic would have been lost, and the script would seem mediocre, but this doesn’t mean the script is lacking anything that would have made it better. As with Russian Ark (a 90 minute film shot in one continuous take), the means of creation becomes as vital to the power of the film as anything. And creating some kind of overarching goal for Mason would have diminished the impact and truthfulness of the film, which remains honest to the rhythms of a young boy’s life.

That is real magic, and it reminds us that film can accomplish many different things and tell many type of stories. Don’t let you imagination be limited by the rules others set for us!



Looking For a Producer

Kim Logo

I’ve begun pre-production on my new film, Kim. It’s a sci-fi psychological thriller.

Logline: A young woman suffering from amnesia must discern reality from fantasy and piece together the puzzle of her past, or lose her true identity forever.

We’re currently looking for a Producer to help shepherd the pre-production process. The Producer should have experience with micro-budget (under 200K) feature film production (or be ready to move up to it) and should also be familiar with innovative ideas for social media promotion, fundraising, and distribution. Immediate needs include developing a budget, a business plan and a fundraising plan.

Interested candidates should contact me via this website.



Startup Film School Podcast

I’ve come across a wonderful new podcast series presented by Stacey Parks, whose website Independent Film Blog I mentioned in an earlier post.

It’s called Startup Film School, and it’s basically a primer on film financing, distribution, and marketing. These podcasts are simply amazing! All independent filmmakers should listen to them.

The podcasts teach through interviews with independent filmmakers, so you get to see actual success stories and learn what works in the real world. It covers everything from developing a business plan, to how filmmakers use The American Film Market, to how one filmmaker made a feature film for $500.

Stacey’s main focus is encouraging independent filmmakers to make movies that make money, so they can have sustained careers. One episode covers in depth the “5 Steps to Getting Your Script Market Ready.” Here’s she’s not talking about making the most commercial movie ever, but how to make your film attractive to people who might actually finance it. She covers these steps in an interview with filmmaker Brooks Elms so you can see how it works in an actual film in production.

5 Steps to Getting Your Script Market Ready

1. Do Your Research. Find out how similar films have done financially so you can have a realistic idea of what your film can do in the market place.

2. Develop a Budget and a Business Plan. How much will your film cost to make and how do you plan to make that money back (knowing, of course, that all filmmaking is a risky venture)?

3. Put a Team Together. If you approach investors as a writer/director working alone your project is not going to be that attractive. But if you put together a team with an experienced Producer, DP, Casting Director, etc. you’re going to make your project more attractive.

4. Put Together a Cast with some Marketable Talent.

5. Develop a Pitch, with Compelling, Professional Visuals.

The podcast goes into much more detail about all of these steps. Check it out, and the rest of Stacey’s podcasts, right now!

Startup Film School.



Screenwriting 101: 14 Tips For Writing a Great Screenplay

In a previous post, I explained how striving toward a goal against obstacles is the heart of drama. Here’s more tips for writing a great screenplay.

1. Trust Your Inspiration.

Something got you excited about your story. Was it a single image? A character that grew in your imagination and fascination? A scene you can’t stop thinking about? A theme that you want to explore?

Trust that inspiration. If it got you excited – and you do the hard turn it into a great screenplay – it will get others excited to.

2. Don’t Rush.

Give your ideas time to gel, to grow into living, vivid stories. Let your unconscious do it’s work. Let the ideas mull inside you, turn them around in your mind. You’ll know when it’s time to write.

This doesn’t mean procrastinating. If you find you’re never finishing anything, you have different problems than rushing.

3. Make Your Film About Something.

Why is this story important to you? Why would it be important to anyone else? What are you trying to explore about life?

A great film is more than just a good plot, interesting characters, and witty dialogue. What do you have to say that is unique? I’m not talking about a message film. Art should explore questions rather than give definitive answers. But a good film is about something important, something meaningful.

Even comedies can be about something. Look at Groundhog’s Day. It’s not just about someone stuck in an absurd situation. It’s asking “What does it mean (and what does it take) for a selfish, jaded man to become a better person?” And it doesn’t go for an easy, pat answer. The film shows that it’s hard work.

But don’t settle on your on your approach too quickly. Discover it in the writing process. Write with compassion and empathy for other people.

4. Don’t Settle For Easy Solutions

Writing a great script is the most difficult part of the filmmaking process. Any writer who says otherwise is not doing the hard work and is settling for the clichéd and the obvious instead of new and surprising.

A few years ago a meme was going around the internet called Pixar’s 22 Rules of Good Storytelling. This was the most important of them: “Discount the first thing that comes to mind, and the second, third, fourth, fifth. Get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.”

5. Be Truthful.

Be truthful about the way you see the world. If, for example, you think violence is never a good solution to problems, are you going to present a world in which heroes commit violent actions without consequences?

Be truthful about human behavior. Rigorously. Far too often in bad scripts characters don’t behave like real people, but only act for the convenience of the plot. Ask, would someone really do that? Then, would your character really do that?

This needs to be a constant effort. It’s so easy to fall into clichés and formulaic ideas about situations and people without even realizing it. It’s so easy just to push a character where you want the plot to go. If something doesn’t feel right, recognize it, identify why, and fix it.

6. Think About How Scenes Will Be Shot.

You’re not just writing a story, you’re making the blueprint for a film that will need to be shot. Is what you’re writing shootable? Will it be as clear onscreen as it is on the page? Are the things you are putting down in words able to be shown visually?

Learn a little about film production, so you will know what it takes to shoot a scene. Learn a little about editing, so you’ll know what it takes to tell a clear story.

7. Don’t Overwrite Dialogue.

A look, a line inflection, can convey what you may be tempted to go on for paragraphs about on the page. Think about how a line will be performed. One parenthetical can sometimes replace many lines of dialogue.

A simple action description like “He pauses for a moment, then gives her one last, aching look” can replace too on-the-spot dialogue like “I don’t really want to do this, but it’s important to you, so, yes, I’ll do it. because I love you.”

People don’t always say what they really mean. People aren’t always able to express themselves articulately. Honor that in your script.

8. Read Your Dialogue Out Loud.

Make sure your dialogue is actable. Sometimes things sound good in your head, but not on your tongue

9. Give Supporting Characters Their Own Needs And Desires.

One of the most common mistakes I’ve seen in poorly written screenplays is having every single word, thought, and action of every supporting character revolve around the protagonist’s story.

In real life, every person is the star of his or her own movie, and you need to have some sense of this in your script or the supporting characters become ciphers, plot devices that have no agency, and ultimately are boring to watch. What are your supporting characters doing when they’re not in the film? What’s going on in their lives right now? What are their goals and obstacles?

10. Develop Subplots.

Subplots are a crucial tool in writing a great screenplay. They expand the world and make it seem more real. They make the film seem less self-indulgent. They allow you to explore themes more deeply and can serve as a counter-point to the arc of the main protagonist. They make the world seem rich, nuanced and alive.

11. Think In Terms Of Sequences, Not Scenes.

In my previous post on screenwriting, I talked about the importance of having goals and obstacles for your protagonists. But as I pointed out then, you shouldn’t just think about overarching, movie-long goals. You can also think about smaller goals that cross over scenes to create little sequences inside your movie. This helps give your screenplay structure. It also helps punctuate your film with focal points that create rhythm, dynamics and tension.

12. Don’t Over-Rationalize Everything

Life is messy. Art is messy. There’s a fine line between a great work of art where every aspect is necessary and important, and an overly-determined story where everything fits together like a jigsaw puzzle.

People act irrationally. They mess up and don’t always do what’s best for themselves. Life isn’t always fair and a random accident can change someone’s life forever. Respect life’s chaos.

13. Re-write!

Good writing is re-writing. I’m not the first one to say this, but it’s absolutely true. Don’t settle for just okay. Anything that isn’t great, that you don’t love, revise it or get rid of it.

14. Know the History of Film.

What’s in vogue now is just what’s in vogue now, and it will be passé next year. The more you know, the more tools you’ll have when you need them.



“Industrial Films Are Not Art” – Jodorowsky Interview

Alejandro Jodorwsky’s new movie, The Dance of Reality, opens this weekend, his first new movie in over 20 years. The avante-garde director of The Holy Mountain and self-described “atheist mystic” talks about film in an article on Flavorwire. As always, he has provocative things to say about film and art:

“I say to the young artist, don’t make movies as a profession. Don’t make movies in order to live, in order to want money. Make your pictures when you can, but work is another thing. Don’t work in pictures for money. You will never be a real artist … Hollywood pictures, industrial pictures are the end of movies. They will kill cinema … Industrial pictures are not art.”

 

Read “Industrial Pictures Are Not Art”: Legendary Cult Filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky on New Film ‘The Dance of Reality’ and How Hollywood Is Killing Cinema on Flavorwire.



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