“We do this – there is no half way.” Lionsgate has unveiled the first trailer for an indie dark comedy titled Small Town Crime, which played at the SXSW and London Film Festivals. The “small town” crime film stars John Hawkes as an alcoholic ex-cop who finds the body of a young woman and, through an act of self-redemption, becomes hell-bent on finding the killer but unwittingly puts his family in danger and gets caught up with several dark characters along the way. Sounds fun, no? The ensemble cast includes Octavia Spencer, Anthony Anderson, Robert Forster, Clifton Collins, Jr., Michael Vartan, James Lafferty, Daniel Sunjata, Caity Lotz, Jeremy Ratchford, Don Harvey, Stefanie Scott, and Dale Dickey. This looks pretty much exactly as it sounds, but at least it’s nice to see Hawkes in another lead role. ›››
Reeling from the devastation Irma wrought just days ago, a series of islands in the Caribbean are now preparing for their second major hurricane this week as Jose is forecast to side-swipe the area before curling northward into the open Atlantic ocean.
As of 2 p.m. ET Friday, the Category 4 storm was forecast to take a route that would keep its eye wall just north of the group of islands and then begin its curve north, sparing Puerto Rico and the British Virgin Islands from its worst.
But that hardly means there’s no reason for concern. Read more…
Zero budget filmmaking may sound like a terrible idea. After all, if you look at the marketplace as it stands currently, you’ll see all the super-heroes squishing everyone else out of your local cinema, you’ll see the hundreds of millions of dollars shine in the spotlight and relegate anything else to the background.
However, if you look at the names of the filmmakers that are now directing tentpole blockbusters, you’ll also find that they are not just Hollywood hacks that are just here to be manipulated by the money people. Yes, money people do pull the strings, but what they buy is not just an industrious outlook on an artistic endeavour, it’s a creative vision. And since that can’t be bought, it means you can achieve it on zero budget.
Small is beautiful
“Small is beautiful” is a phrase that comes from the field of economics and is the title of a 1973 book that greatly criticised the way that Western economy was running. The subtitle was: “A study of economics as if people mattered.” The principal thesis of the book is that an adequate and targeted use of technology which would simply fulfil human needs without going further into greed or the search for profit for profit’s sake would make the economy sustainable. That idea didn’t percolate really well, as the next decade saw the liberal economic policies of the Reagan era and corporations becoming “too big to fail”.
In a seminal talk, director Steven Soderbergh argued that, for purely financial reasons, it made more sense for studios to make bigger films than to spend time doing average-sized movies, once you include marketing and other costs. What that means is: the film business is following the same trend as most Western societies today, which is extreme polarisation between those that are “too big to fail” and those that are small and beautiful —in our case, the blockbusters that are guaranteed to gross over a billion dollars at the box office, and the tiny indie fares.
The mean streets of zero budget filmmaking
Getting money into the bank has always been the struggle of independent filmmakers and public funding cuts that are happening at the moment are merely another iteration of that struggle. However, content creators have an opportunity here. There was a time when the main difficulty was getting your hand on equipment -which was the struggle of masters like Scorsese and Cassevetes, in the days of Who’s That Knocking on my Door and Shadows, respectively. Nowadays, you can shoot a film on your iPhone, the struggle has moved to distribution and getting your film seen -and that can be done with smart social media strategising and very small resources.
There are many ways of leveraging technology and whatever resources you have at your disposal to make your small budget go a long way. For instance, Christopher Nolan on his first feature -which was the zero budget Following– shot a lot near windows in order to use natural lighting. You’ll notice that he did the same on his $ 250 million blockbuster The Dark Knight. The original Star Wars film was an independent film at heart and had a very emotional core that went far beyond the equally enjoyable but less emotional notion of man versus nature that drove the narrative of the oft-compared blockbuster Jaws.
Crowdsourcing your film
Making a film with zero budget means that you, a bright up-and-coming independent filmmaker, have to find more creative ways of breaking into the film industry. That means crowdfunding, that means social media, and that means also how to do things with that principle of “enoughness” that underpins the notion of “small is beautiful”. You may not have plenty, but you will know how to use it. If you desperately something extra (money, gear, a post production studio you can use after office hours): you know where to ask and who to call for favours.
That implies that you’ll need to angle your film towards a niche from its inception. Tangerine was not just an incredible technical achievement, it was also a film that represented a disenfranchised group, transgender people of colour, beautifully and humanely. Therefore, the film had a strong echo in the LGBT community at a time when the world was ready for intersectionality to leave the offices of gender studies and/or subaltern studies researchers and leap into the world.
Embracing zero budget filmmaking may seem like a constraint -but be assured that even films with huge budgets are tempted to ask for more money. You certainly have resources you can harness. The question is how to do so, and to what end. When is not even a question: the time is now.
The post Small Is Beautiful: The Perks of Zero Budget Filmmaking appeared first on Raindance.
The budget is one of the most important and one of the most difficult components in filmmaking. Many have struggled on working within the limitations of the budget they have and in result, have produced poor films by being overly ambitious and unwilling to compromise. The fact of the matter is that not every production is going to get the equipment or location of their dreams but that’s okay. A film does not have to suffer because it doesn’t have the financial backing that Lord of the Rings had. A successful film is one that embraces constraints and makes them work in the film’s favour. Cutting costs does not lower the value of the film. The goal of this blog post is to prove that films can be successful with little to no budget and provide advice that independent filmmakers have used themselves on prosperous films.
Clerks (Directed by Kevin Smith with a budget of $ 27,575)
Clerks was the debut feature film for director, Kevin Smith. Before there was Chasing Amy or Dogma, there was Clerks. It has the lowest budget that Kevin Smith has had to work around and yet it launched Smith’s career and won the “Award of the Youth” and Mercedes-Benz Award in 1994 at Cannes Film Festival.
Kevin Smith was able to achieve great success with extremely low funding which proves that big budgets do not make a film great. Filmmakers can do something just as good as big budget features do but with nothing at all. The trick is to embrace your limitations and make them work for you rather than against you.
Use what you have available
Location wise, Kevin Smith’s entire film is based in a convenient store in New Jersey and it’s video rental shop next to it. These spaces are actually places Kevin Smith was working at in the time of production and was given permission to use them during their closing hours. Which is exactly what happened; Kevin Smith and his cast stayed in the convenient store overnight in the span of approximately 21 days to film Clerks. Because the shop was closed while filming, Smith worked it into the script that some kids broke the blinds outside and that’s why they wouldn’t open (when in reality, it was locked from the shop being closed). Throughout the film, there is a large sheet that says “I assure you, we’re open”. The lesson here is to take advantage of the options you have to save money and make it work into the plot. Scripts can be rewritten and made better but budgets hardly ever have that flexibility.
Shoot in Black & White
Shooting in Black & White is a lot easier than shooting in colour because, to put it simply, it’s less colours. The colour grading in post will be a lot cheaper since every frame will look the same because it’s varying shades of black and white. This also makes lighting a lot easier and in the case of Clerks, you can trick the audience into thinking a scene that’s being filmed at night, is a daytime scene.
You also see this sort of technique in Spike Lee’s She’s Gotta Have It. In that film, Spike Lee could only afford so little colourful filming that he used it to indicate a hyper-realism, sort of dream sequence that appears like a fantasy in comparison to all the black & white scenes. This is an example of, again, using your limitations in a smart way and making it go in your favour as opposed to sloppy and cheap.
Instead of paying the fees for extras, Kevin Smith cast himself and friend, Jason Mewes as the two men who hang around outside the store. Kevin Smith’s character, Silent Bob has no speaking parts so the characters are relatively small and don’t necessarily carry the plot anywhere, they serve as another comedy element so instead of paying someone to play the small parts, he assigned the roles to him and Jason. This is a good way to save money; typically for extras, people without any acting experience can do just well enough.
Slacker (Directed by Richard Linklater with a budget of $ 23,000)
Before Boyhood, Linklater was known for bringing attention to a subculture society in Austin, Texas. Slacker was made in 1991 before the young adult bohemian lifestyle was really given any exposure. The film has no plot really; it revolves around short snippets of the people and their conversations throughout the day. The film never stays on one particular person for too long, it constantly moves throughout the city of Austin. The film shows that filmmakers can make it on the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress alongside Citizen Kane and The Godfather while having less than half of their budget.
The use of the sun as your primary light source is one of the easiest ways to cut down how much you spend on your film. Most of Slacker is filmed in the day which of course makes it much easier to limit the use of artificial light and therefore the budget. More than half of the film is filmed outside and the scenes that are filmed inside are contained in rooms with lots of windows that the actors or a particular object can get the most light from what is outside.
Slacker was filmed on a 16mm Arriflex camera. The 16mm film is a common film type used in most low budget films. It has also been the known film within most home movie making cameras. Sacrificing the quality of film will definitely lower the costs of production without lowering the quality of the finished film as clearly demonstrated by Slacker. Slacker also features a Fisher Price Pixel Vision camcorder in which they used to film the bar scene. The Fisher Price camera is literally a toy camera that Linklater used, with great difficulty, due to its cheap price and to give the scene a gritty texture. Slacker proves that you do not need the best quality equipment to make an important film.
Blair Witch Project (Directed by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez with a budget of $ 60,000)
Blair Witch Project, which made its UK debut at Raindance Film Festival, is a “found footage” horror film surrounding a local Maryland legend, The Blair Witch. The film has been largely influential in the horror community as one of the first first-person mockumentaries that some people are convinced was based on a true story. It is known as one of the most profitable films of all time, grossing around $ 248 million with an original budget of $ 60,000.
Just like Slacker, Blair Witch Project has embraced their access to cheap cameras by buying dinky consumer cameras in which they equipped the actors with. Because it was a “found footage” film, the audience can excuse the poorer quality (compared to more modern and professional cameras) because it’s supposed to come off as “real footage”. One can excuse the shakiness and grain that comes with a lot of inexperienced filmmaking since it’s supposed to come from a “home movie” type of camcorder. After the filming was completed, on Halloween after the span of 8 days, the producers took the cameras back and managed to get a slight refund which made the budget go even further.
The marketing of the Blair Witch Project can attribute to a lot of the film’s success. They decided to promote the film as if the Blair Witch was real, which many locals do believe. Promotion of the film consisted of fake police reports and interviews in order to create a sense of curiosity to draw in audiences. The team even made fake Missing Person flyers for the actors featured in the film in order to attract people to see the film for the actors “last known whereabouts”. It is referred to as one of the most “terrifying and successful” campaigns in film history.
The post Make a Small Budget Go A Long Way – Advice From 3 Indie Films appeared first on Raindance.
“If that prosecution goes through, that bank is going to go out of business.” PBS has released another new official trailer for the latest documentary from Hoop Dreams director Steve James, titled Abacus: Small Enough to Jail. This doc premiered at film festivals last fall and has been playing around the world at festivals ever since. Abacus tells the story of the Chinese immigrant Sung family, owners of Abacus Federal Savings of Chinatown, New York. They had to spend five years defending themselves and their bank’s legacy when they became the only U.S. bank to face criminal charges in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. We’ve been following this doc since last year, and it will open in NYC starting this May, with a nationwide roll-out over the summer. This does look like an “exemplary piece of filmmaking”, as is expected from Steve James. ›››
You twist the bottle, or try to yank it up quickly after pouring a glass — we all struggle to drop wine bottles from dribbling down the side of the neck.
But turns out, all it took was some clever engineering to fix the perennial problem.
Daniel Perlman, an inventor and biophysicist at Brandeis University has showed off a bottle with a groove cut into its lip. The groove is what stops the liquid from running down the bottle.
There are already products designed to prevent wine dripping, but Perlman says he wanted to solve the problem without an additional accessary. Read more…
You know the drill. A man gets out of prison and returns home. His old life is gone, but the wreckage remains. His friends are scattered. His enemies are powerful. There is no hope for escape. But maybe, just maybe, one last job, one last crime, one last ass-covering, will be all he needs to pull himself up and put his act back together. And then it all goes horribly wrong, of course.
Small Crimes, like so many neo-noirs, is all about a small pile of poor decisions rapidly growing into a large pile of poor decisions, until the whole thing topples over into chaos. But this one is especially nasty, particularly bloodthirsty, and completely unwilling to pull its punches. This movie has a mean streak…and it grins as it draws blood.
It’s easy to say the director E.K. Katz exploded onto the scene with 2013’s Cheap Thrills, but it would be more accurate to say he slid into view like a nasty prankster armed with a bag of twisted and unforgettable tricks. It’s one of the great feature debuts of the 21st century, a timely and grotesque riff on America’s increasingly desperate lower-class and the rich monsters willing to exploit them. Honestly, the most unfair problem facing Small Crimes is that it’s a very good movie living in the shadow of a gem. As far as sophomore slumps go, this one isn’t too bad.
Katz (who co-wrote the film with co-star Macon Blair) fills Small Crimes with a similar sense of suffocating dread, the kind of general, all-around badness that you can’t fully appreciate or understand until the water in the pot has reached full boil. The screenplay meticulously places one problem at a time on the plate of disgraced ex-cop Joe Denton (Game of Thrones star Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), allowing his ongoing crisis to remain manageable until those various problems congeal, interlock, and go wrong all at once. From there, its spiral into hell, small town noir-style.
You see, the criminal that used to pay Joe for some extracurricular criminal activities is going to rat him out. Joe’s former partner in corrupt policing wants him to clean it all up. Joe’s parents aren’t comfortable having this unpredictable sociopath living under their roof. The naive nurse Joe seduces can’t comprehend the mess she’s wading into. And then there’s the unhinged Army reservist, the violent criminal with a torture pit, and the local prosecutor who is hellbent on bringing Joe down for some very personal reasons. It’s one helluva mess, and Katz takes great pleasure in building it all up so it can all fall down. And then catch fire. And then explode.
Katz is canny enough to fill each scene with reliable character actors, with Robert Forster and Jacki Weaver stealing the show as Joe’s increasingly impatient (and fearful) parents. But then there’s Gary Cole as that corrupt partner, Pat Healy playing against type as a hard-headed crime goon, Molly Parker as a quietly sad cat lady, Macon Blair as a vengeful dimwit, and Larry Fessenden as a coke-snorting strip club owner. It’s a murderer’s row of talent, all of them chewing on their dialogue and playing the kind of dangerous and tragic idiots who feel like they walked out of Blood Simple or Fargo. If anyone feels a bit lost, it’s Coster-Waldau, a fine actor whose American accent never seems to fit quite right inside his mouth.
There are moments where Katz feels a bit lost, too. He’s so able at directing those intense conversations, those intimate moments where characters stand too close and mean each other great harm, but he doesn’t have an eye for action quite yet. A shootout late in the film is incoherent at best, but it is quickly followed by a final scene (and a final shot) that sum up the film’s messy morality with shocking clarity. Small Crimes is about developing sympathy for the devil…and discovering that there’s always going to be a bit of devil in those you were already sympathetic toward. Katz and Blair’s screenplay also has a finely tuned ear for comedy, letting bad situations and idiotic behavior speak for themselves rather than drive an obvious point home.
Small Crimes isn’t Cheap Thrills, but that’s okay. It’s different enough to prove that Katz isn’t a one-trick pony while also being unpredictable and gnarly enough to prove that he’s not going soft on us. There’s a gas station paperback energy to this film: fast, mean, direct, and not concerned at all with your feelings. There’s a place for this kind of entertainment and Katz is pretty damn good at delivering it.
/Film Rating: 7.5 out of 10
The post ‘Small Crimes’ Drops Nikolaj Coster-Waldau Into a Bloodthirsty Noir [SXSW] appeared first on /Film.
“It’s happening all over again…” Netflix has unveiled an official trailer for an indie drama titled Small Crimes, from writer/director E.L. Katz, who last made the cult favorite Cheap Thrills. “Game of Thrones” star Nikolaj Coster-Waldau plays a disgraced former cop who returns to his town from a prison sentence for attempted murder, hoping for redemption only to end up trapped in the mess he left behind. This film has an excellent supporting cast including Gary Cole, Jacki Weaver, Robert Forster, Molly Parker, Michael Kinney, Pat Healy, and Macon Blair (who co-wrote the script). This trailer is actually quite impressive – the dialogue is spot on, footage looks great, there’s some cool action, I’m definitely intrigued. ›››
The Nelms brothers’ gritty thriller follows an alcoholic ex-cop who becomes hell-bent on hunting down a murderer.
There was a secret festival favorite at Sundance 2017. That film was Columbus. This quiet drama is Korean director Kogonada’s first venture into the feature length realm. He is most known for his video essays on Vimeo, and damn did all of that study of film pay off. Kogonada’s Columbus covers a lot of ground in the most elegant gestures and proves Kogonada knows his craft inside and out. From the absolutely exquisite cinematography by Elisha Christian, to the subtle yet powerful performances from lead actors Haley Lu Richardson and John Cho: this quiet film finds its way right into your soul. ›››
Continue reading Sundance 2017: Kogonada’s ‘Columbus’ is a Look at Small Town Life