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Indie filmmakers...bravo


Chris James

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This piece in the L.A. Times caught my attention:

http://www.latimes.c...18,0,4296.story

Although we may never see this film (Disney probably won't appreciate the publicity), I have to admire the courage it took to make it. These days Hollywood is giving us sequals to sequals as if there is no creative thought left in that whole town. Yeah I know, it's all about the money.

But this article prompted me to recall one of my favorite 1999 Steve Martin films Bowfinger. The plot was about a down and out film producer who came up with a novel approach to making a film without the mega star leading man knowing he was on camera. If the words Chubby Rain don't ring a bell you haven't seen the film which is a shame. Eddie Murphy does a brilliant acting job, one his very best roles (along with Martin and Christine Baranski) and has the funniest scene on the L.A. freeway. Okay, that scene is so good I can't resist sharing it right now:

But real life sneak filmmakers have to be admired for their creative streak and I would love to get invlolved in something like that. Too bad Escape from Tommorrow won't be coming to a theater near any of us.

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Oh, I don't think Disney will let this one out. Lots and lots of Disney trademarks visible in that scene. If they allowed this one, everybody and his brother would be trying to shoot unauthorized movies in the park, disrupting regular people who are just trying to have a nice vacation.

Some indie filmmakers are just pushy jerks who have a huge sense of entitlement. Trust me, I've dealt with tons of them. On the one hand, you can admire their chutzpah for trying to maximize their budgets and create a story out of very little, and some of them are nice people with good intentions. But on the other hand, some of them take advantage of people, get them to work for insulting wages, and stress out everybody by having completely unrealistic expectations -- like using a billion-dollar theme park for free. There's a dark side to the whole indie filmmaker thing.

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Tell me, Pecman...does Hollywood have anything but a dark side? It seems to be like a school of sharks out there and I don't know why anyone would want to get involved. Getting any project off the ground must be a total nightmare, even for the famous. It still seems to me that if there is any art left in the film industry it will come from the indie people. Let's just hope they don't kill one another on the road to success.

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I think there was lots of artistry in Lincoln. It was truly amazing how that got put together, and I know nothing of making films. That one just was a tremendous job. The costumes alone must have represented hours and hours of artistic work. The muted atmospheres to me showed great cinematography. I think without the ambience created by artistic filmmakers, that movie would have been far less than it was.

I usually extol the writing. To me, the writing amost alwas makes or breaks a film. Even though the write of Lincoln is up for an award, I think his work has to take a backseat to other aspects of the film.

C

PS - Now I can find out from Pec how wrong I am!

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Tell me, Pecman...does Hollywood have anything but a dark side? It seems to be like a school of sharks out there and I don't know why anyone would want to get involved. Getting any project off the ground must be a total nightmare, even for the famous. It still seems to me that if there is any art left in the film industry it will come from the indie people.

Sometimes, it does seem that way. The last really great indie film I personally worked on was The Kids Are All Right which won several big awards and made a decent amount of money. The "reasonable" indie films are the ones that are budgeted somewhere between about $2 million and $5 million. The problematic films are those made by people who think if they have $50,000-$60,000, they can make a real movie... and for the most part, it's not possible.

I also worked on Robert Rodriguez' El Mariachi back in 1992, which (famously) only cost $7000. The trick there is, all the sound was bad, and they wound up having to do a $250,000 union mix for it at Sony Pictures. But the core of his idea, the acting, and the direction, were all extremely good. Unfortunately, films like this are extremely rare.

I agree with Cole above that Lincoln was a good film, but to me, it wasn't a great film. The biggest surprise for me in the film was Tommy Lee Jones, who I think stole the picture. Everybody else kind of did what I expected -- no more, no less. There were technical accomplishments about the film that are extraordinary, particularly the sound... and this is a movie with non-stop, wall-to-wall dialogue. I can't imagine how difficult that was to record and mix.

In any other year, Lincoln might win for Best Sound, but I think Les Miserables will trump it just because of the degree of difficulty: getting a cast of hundreds of people to sing live on a set. If you can watch "I Dreamed a Dream" and not get a tear in your eye, you have a heart of stone. I thought Les Miz was way too long and went way over the top in a lot of ways, but I can't fault the singing or the technical work.

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My favourite indie story was about a local production whose name escapes me. I wouldn't want to embarrass the young makers who were clearly out of their depth anyway. After I screened the World Premiere which I watched from the projection room with a permanent expression of horror and disbelief, the young director asked me what I thought. I tried to be kind and told him that I thought most of the indoor scenes were too dark. He grinned as he told me that, "We didn't discover that we had to use lights until we had finished making the movie."

By far, the most horrid sins are usually committed in the sound; not just the technical disasters of "live" sound being picked up by a camera or a tin can impersonating a real microphone, but by the ignorance of directors who have no idea of how to extract believable dialogue delivery from the actors.

I can't say I'm impressed with Ann Hathaway's singing of I dream a dream, but then I've only seen a YouTube clip of her performance, so I'll wait until I see the whole movie before I say that I preferred Susan Boyle's rendition. The technical side seemed to be a real achievement given the almost lost art of live studio sound.

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He grinned as he told me that, "We didn't discover that we had to use lights until we had finished making the movie."

:shock:

I can't say I'm impressed with Ann Hathaway's singing of I dream a dream, but then I've only seen a YouTube clip of her performance, so I'll wait until I see the whole movie before I say that I preferred Susan Boyle's rendition.

She does a very good job in the movie, both acting and singing at the same time. The fact that she could hit all the notes while tears trickled out of her eyes is an incredible achievement. The movie was very long and (mostly) dull to me, but Hathaway was extraordinarily good.

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She does a very good job in the movie, both acting and singing at the same time.

Acting and singing at the same time is definitely one of life's biggest challenges. I'm hoping I like her performance as much as you do.

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From the trailers I've seen, I can tell it's not Rodgers and Hammerstein, or Lerner and Lowe. It seems to be more in the style of Evita with 'tableau vivant' being the dominant structure, rather than dramatic interaction between characters.

I guess It's me, but I remember even in older musicals of the 30s and 40s, the realism didn't come from the static presentation of the scene, but from the fantasy images being presented and accepted as real; at least for the characters. Setting historical moments and events in musical theatre, whether they be real or mythological; whether they be on stage or on film, requires a certain reality that the audience can accept as being another dimension, another life, all its own. That fantastic reality is destroyed when the staging, or the filming is predominantly and obviously 'staged' for the audience rather than to tell the story and thus directly involve the audience because they happen to be there. This is not to say that realism cannot be part of such staging, but it has to be dramatically related to the characters who may well make singing and dancing seem to be a natural part of that music-drama reality. Neither does it mean that the audience should be ignored. Indeed, ideally it works best when the audience becomes part of the production, but it is quite difficult to do that, especially if the work is staged solely for the audience to 'look' at.

The drama-musical as a documentary does not really work for me.

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