Thursday, January 28, 2010

R.I.P. Miramax

Ready to be consolidated?

Nothing seems to signify the end of an era better than the news that Miramax is closing its New York and Los Angeles offices.  It will continue to operate on a small scale after being "consolidated" within Disney Studios.

Friday, January 8, 2010

3D Converges on Us

Technology marches on at an amazing pace.  I will be focusing this year on how to integrate storytelling into interactivity and multi-platform delivery rather than worrying about more new technology to buy.  3D, literally, gives me headaches.  I think engaging the audience is more important than employing another technology to enhance the passive viewing experience.

I can't wait for the first 3D wedding videography.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Indie Apocalypse

For a particularly bleak outlook for independent film, check out this article, extracts from the diary kept by director John Hillcoat during the making of The Road.   The diary ends with this epilogue:

My own new project – with a much-loved script by Nick Cave and a dream all-star cast – has fallen apart. The finance company that we began The Road with has also fallen apart, having to radically downsize to one remaining staff member. The great divide has begun, with only very low-budget films being made or huge 3-D franchise films – the birth of brand films such as Barbie, Monopoly: The Movie – who knows what’s next, Coca-Cola: The Movie?
I end the year appropriately – gazing into the apocalypse of my own industry.
Nice analysis here of the backstory on Cinemablend.  Further signs that the only indie films will be no-budget this year?  While I do think we shouldn't extrapolate too much from the emotional state of one obviously very tired director, I do believe that it is time for the non-mainstream cinema to embrace change and to embrace its changing audience and new economic circumstances.  The cinematic experience, as it is currently exists, is over a century old and stuck in the past.  Funding/distribution?  Maybe not as old of a model, but rooted in an outdated command and control mentality (I am being extremely polite here) that seems destined for a shake-up, analogous to what the record industry went through during the past decade.

Blurring the Line Between Fiction and Non-Fiction

We all know that a lot of "reality" TV is largely scripted.  And I've spoken before about documentary filmmakers (Herzog, Morris) taking liberties with factual truths in their own obsessive searches for more poetic Truth.  But what about narrative filmmaking that blends non-fiction/documentary aspects?

I recently made my way through two TV series produced by Section 8 (George Clooney and Steven Soderbergh), Unscripted and K Street.  Both were limited run, one-offs for HBO, K Street directed by Soderbergh and Unscripted directed by Clooney and Grant Heslov.  They are similar in their blending of real people (James Carville, Mary Matalin, Krista Allen, Bryan Greenberg, lots of famous politicians and actors), using real events mixed with fictitious characters and storylines to give authentic experiences of certain aspects of Hollywood and Washington D.C.  I have to admit that I was quite skeptical when I started watching them but found them both engaging and wanted more when I reached the last episodes.  The cinematography in both is, well, what I will call Soderberghian (if you've seen The Girlfriend Experience or Bubble, you'll know what I'm talking about).  That is to say, they were shot with almost only available light and almost taunting you with their homeliness at times (particularly in K Street).  They were both shot primarily by Tom Inskeep.

They are interesting variations on Soderbergh using "real" people to play fictitious characters (Bubble).  For Unscripted, there was no written dialogue, it was largely improvised from incidents in the actors' lives.  Each episode of K Street was based on a breaking news story and shot within days of airing on HBO.  I'd like to do a little deeper analysis at some point, but for now wanted to point out these interesting experiments.  They are all worth a watch and available on Netflix: Bubble, K Street, Unscripted.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Old and New

My New Year's resolution is to spend less time running to keep up with technology and finding more time to creatively explore the technologies to which I already have access.  Speaking of old technology, I finally got to operate a carbon arc lamp recently (thank you, Corwin Nunes at Mole Richardson).  The light that they generate is incredible.  It wraps around faces beautifully and creates incredible eye highlights, little teeny diamonds.   No creepy HMI spectral discontinuities, just pure lighting goodness.  Sigh. 

I also got to go to screen dailies for a project that I worked on that was shot in 35mm on the new Fuji Vivid Eterna 500.  It is a quite nice stock. It's color reproduction struck me as a little more subdued than with the Vision 3, with very subtle flesh tone gradations, especially to black.  Word that I heard is that Fuji is committed to film (it is a very small part of their overall business) for the long-term.  It's nice to remind yourself of the subtle joys of "analog" now and then.

Next week I will be color grading my first 5D Mark II project (the same camera that took this still).  I'm very curious as to how well it will hold up.