Archive for the ‘General Resources’ Category

JAMAN Gives Independent Films a New Outlet for Digital Distribution

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007

Independent filmmakers from around the world are embracing a new website called JAMAN – as a new means for showcasing their work. At this time, Jaman houses over 2,000 independent films and they expect to double that in the up coming months. The company is embracing the social aspects of the Web 2.0 world by creating an interactive community and delivering “better-than-DVD quality” films from indie filmmakers. Filmmakers can upload their films directly to the website and Jaman members can then rent, download and/or buy it.

Jaman upgraded their site this month by improving their search capabilities into a new Movie Finder. This search tool allows you to find the kind of movies you want to watch by adjusting the 4 category “sliders” that match your search criteria. You can adjust from – (1) Serious to Funny, (2) Mellow to Charged, (3) Deep to Shallow, (4) Tears to Bullets [see picture below].




The Dialogue Series: Screenwriter Interviews

Monday, October 22nd, 2007

I recently discovered a new (to me) screenwriter interview series called The Dialogue: Learning From the Masters (also available on Amazon and Netflix. Each 90 minute DVD has an exclusive interview with established screenwriters like Paul Haggis (Crash, Million Dollar Baby) [IMDB Info], Jim Uhls (Fight Club) [IMDB Info], Billy Ray (Shattered Glass, Color of Night) [IMDB Info] and several others. Each episode explores the craft of screenwriting via a one-on-one interview conducted by film industry veteran, Mike De Luca [IMDB Info].It’s interesting to see the different processes utilized by each screenwriter. For instance, Paul Haggis relies on outlines as a way to structure his thoughts and ideas when constructing his screenplays. He used this approach while developing the script for “Crash” – which began years after he was carjacked in real life. From there, he outlined a series of questions that led him to all the intersecting story lines that earned him an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.

Jim Uhls in the other hand despises outlines. Uhls feels that they restrict the creative process by making you “serve the outline” – which shuts down your intuitive side. His process involves taking copious notes for character development. This even includes writing fictional interview sessions with the characters. Uhls plays the part of the aggressive interviewer, who tries to push his characters buttons – revealing their true selves.

The Dialogue Series was released last year, but YouTube has a channel promoting it with 12 of the interviews in condensed 10 minute clips. Here are some of the notable ones – including the Haggis and Uhls samples that I’ve mentioned:


Get “Creative” With Your Film Score

Friday, October 12th, 2007

Music can be an essential part of film’s emotional connection to its audience. As an independent filmmaker, you may not be thinking about that aspect of your film until you are in post-production. Although you will have this budgeted in pre-production, you may not have accounted for all the costs involved in licensing music. There’s a great article at that explains some of these details:

Properly securing the rights to popular songs is expensive. To use any song, you need to obtain two different licenses: The Master License and the Synchronization (Sync) License. The Sync license grants permission to use a song’s composition (all the lyrics and the composed music)–this is often owned by the performer/composer. The Master license is giving permission to use a particular recording of that song in your movie–often the recording label/company owns this.” [excerpt from MicroFilmmaker Magazine – “Tips & Tricks – Music & Score”]

This even includes the “Happy Birthday” song. If you have a scene in your film that has the characters singing “Happy Birthday” at a party, you’ll need to pay the copyright owners for that license.

Independent artists – be it filmmakers or musicians – have similar goals and obstacles that can form a symbiotic relationship of sorts. There are many resources out there that can help you get quality music for your film from indie artists as yourself.

MySpace is a great place to find, sample and contact indie musicians that want exposure for their music. The Foureyedmonsters directors (who I’ve blogged about before – 1, 2) have utilized MySpace for their film and podcasts.

Some established composers want to “give back” to the indie community from which they came from. Moby – the techno composer/DJ/activist, is now allowing independent and non-profit filmmakers to use his music in non-commercial projects. He’s made about 60 songs available. “If you want to use it in a commercial film or short,” Moby declares on his website Moby Gratis. “Then you can apply for an easy license, with any money that’s generated being given to the humane society.”

Creative Commons licenses have also emerged as a godsend to indie musicians who want to expose their music to the public without the restrictive copyright laws enforced by the RIAA. Filmmakers can now take advantage of the flexibility of these licenses which invite multiple uses of a musician’s work. Here are some sites with available CC licensed music:


Will the RED ONE Camera Eliminate the Use of Film?

Sunday, September 9th, 2007

For years, filmmakers have been anticipating the evolution of moving from film to digital. The reality has always been that 35mm and even Super 16mm film looks better on the big screen – bar none. The most recent HD cameras have made great inroads in that field with the 2K Sony/Panavision Genesis and Thompson Viper cameras. The films shot with these cameras (Superman Returns, Zodiac – respectively) did look great in the theaters, but these cameras are not cheap. I am not sure what a new Viper costs (I saw one on eBay for $48,000) and the Genesis is owned by Panavision – so you can only rent it.

No one will deny the cost savings that come from not using film. For most independent filmmakers that has always been the deciding factor in choosing video versus film. Now, the RED ONE camera promises to tilt that pendulum towards the digital world by leap-frogging over the top of the line industry standard digital protocols. And most importantly, its price: $17,500 for the basic camera (without accessories).

Is the RED ONE camera the one that will finally replace film? Let’s look at this one detail: It’s the only camera to reach a 4K resolution (see the Red One forum for a detailed explanation). Compare that to the aforementioned 2K Genesis and Viper cameras. The difference is four times the resolution (see chart below). It’s supposed to be the closest endeavor to reach the quality of 35mm film with convenience of pure digital.


Indie Director Tom DiCillo’s ‘Delirious’ Blog

Tuesday, September 4th, 2007

Writer/Director, Tom DiCillo’s [IMDB info] new blog chronicles his journey through the creation and distribution of his latest film, Delirious. The film is a contemporary fable about a small time celebrity paparazzo, Les Gallantine (Steve Buscemi) who befriends a young homeless man, Toby Grace (Michael Pitt). Toby meets and falls in love with pop star K’Harma Leeds (Alison Lohman), causing jealousy and friction with Les. (check your local listings – it’s really worth seeing it in the big screen).

This is DiCillo’s first foray into the blogosphere but I feel if he continues with it beyond Delirious, it could be one of the essential reads for all aspirating filmmakers. In fact, I commented on his blog about that sentiment and Mr. DiCillo responded to my comment – “I will try to keep the blog going. It is helpful to me to put my thoughts and frustrations into something creative…”

I cannot summarize the passion and creativity of DiCillo’s blog posts (you need to check it out for yourselves), but I will highlight some of his shared insight into the filmmaking process of Delirious – and break it down into production categories:


Screenplay – DiCillo’s idea for the script was motivated by the public’s addiction to celebrity and fame. He got the idea for the main character of the film after an encounter with a paparazzo in New York during the filming of The Real Blonde. The guy went into to the shot, trying to take a pic of Daryl Hannah – DiCillo almost strangled him. Years later, DiCillo ran into to this guy at a party; They hung out in NY and LA for 2 months and then he wrote the script.


Let the Public Finance Your Film

Monday, August 20th, 2007

All independent filmmakers will struggle with finding financing for their projects. We all have that same jealous dream when we hear what the big studio productions spend and what we would be able to produce with just a fraction of their multi-million dollar budgets. Last week, I had those thoughts when I saw the amount of equipment, trucks, crew, etc. that encompassed east midtown Manhattan during the production of Adam Sandler’s latest film. According to the MPAA, in 2006 “the average cost to make and market a major MPAA member company film was $100.3 million.”

What if the funding process was democratized, allowing the public to vote on what they want to see by supporting it financially? Now, more than ever, indie producers are taking their projects to the public for financing. Here are a few endeavors worth noting:

+ Fund-A-Frame was the name and method that produced the “first ever frame-by-frame funded film,” titled, The Study Of Bunkers & Mounds In A Temperate Climate (Relatively Speaking). Director Sebastian Michael literally sold single frames of his film. Investors received a high-resolution (HD) jpeg file with their name and the time code printed on it. For an additional cost, the frames can be printed on quality photographic paper, encased in a wooden frame and signed. The film premiered at The 60th edition of the Locarno International Film Festival earlier this month.


Open Source Filmmaking

Tuesday, August 14th, 2007

The culture of “open source” has evolved beyond software; it’s now a serious trend in filmmaking. The original open source encyclopedia, Wikipedia defines this culture as “where collective decisions or fixations are shared during development and made generally available in the public domain.”

Here are several examples of open source filmmaking projects:

+ Elephants Dream is an animated short film built/produced entirely by open source graphics software like Blender. It’s billed as the “world’s first open movie… with all production files freely available to use however you please, under a Creative Commons license.”

+ The Echo Chamber Project is an open source documentary that critiques the mainstream media’s coverage of the war in Iraq through collaborative techniques. They describe themselves as “an independent filmmaker’s ‘YouTube’ combined with ‘Wikipedia’ for serious journalism.”

+ is another collaborative documentary project. This one covers copyright in the digital age.


The Sopranos Ending Secrets from the Guy Who Shot It

Saturday, August 11th, 2007

The final episode of The Sopranos [IMDB info] certainly caused a lot of controversy from its impassioned fans with how their beloved series ended (I’m assuming that everyone’s seen it). I find it to be a huge credit to David Chase [IMDB info] to be able to evoke such reactions from his creation. Stephen Pizzello, American Cinematographer Magazine‘s executive editor, interviewed the man who shot that last episode: Russian-born cinematographer, Alik Sakharov, ASC [IMDB info]. Sakharov reveals that the ending had specific influences from Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey [IMDB info] and Coppola’s The Godfather [IMDB info]. He also diffuses the rumor that there were alternate endings shot.

Here are some of the highlights from the Alik Sakharov interview podcast:


Video Podcasts: Promoting Your Film During Production

Saturday, August 4th, 2007

Many filmmakers are producing video podcasts – chronicling their production experiences. This used to be done for the purpose of adding material for the DVD package. Now it’s taken another and arguably more important role of promoting their film before it’s released to the public. By building an audience before the film’s release, filmmakers are creating a fan base that gets engaged in the production process from the very beginning. This is done by making this footage immediately available though their websites and viral distribution mechanisms like YouTube and social networks like MySpace. Here are three examples of films which used this process – in 3 budget parameters: Big Budget film – Superman Returns, Moderate budget film – Clerks II, Low Budget film – Four Eyed Monsters.


Indie Sex – An IFC Mini-Series

Thursday, August 2nd, 2007

IFC will debut an interesting mini-series tonight (8/1/07) – at midnight, on the subject of sex in film. Sure it’s been done before – but not quite like this. Particularly on how there are different standards in independent films and studio films. The four parts to the series are aptly titled for what they will cover: Censored, Taboos, Teens, Extremes.

The series’ website also has some great video extras. I’ve highlighted this one because it’s the most applicable for this blog:

“How to direct a sex scene?” (Interviews with some indie directors, including Lee Daniels (Shadow Boxer) [IMDB info], Jamie Babbit (The Quiet) [IMDB info] , and John Cameron Mitchell (Short Bus) [IMDB info] – explaining their experiences directing sex scenes).

Watch all the video extras here.