Thursday, October 29, 2009

Fables: The Dark Ages

I'm not a big comics guy. I had cousins who were big into comics when I was little, but I was a casual enjoyed of them at best. In fact, I kinda sorta feared them. Especially when it comes to the bigger characters. There's just so much goddamn story, and where the hell do you start?! I'm the kind of person who needs to start at the beginning and there's just not enough time in the day to do that when it comes to your Spidermans, Batmans, and the like.
And then I discovered Vertigo: A DC off-shoot label. I have to admit that my discovery back into comics came when I finally bought a copy of Watchmen a few years and inside of it the comic-clerk slipped a little "50 must-own comics" document. So in reading it I discovered that there was more to the comic world that the old standbys and more importantly I found two titles that interested the hell out of me Y the Last Man and Fables.
I realize I'm getting sidetracked here, but if you're even remotely interested in comics, and if you like a smart, funny, entertaining story then you need to run to your local comic shop, hell most big bookstores carry them now too, and pick up the entire run of Y the Last Man. There's ten collected books and the run is over. You could easily read the entire series over a weekend, and you probably will. It's that good.
But to what I came to write about: Fables.
I a am a big fan of fucking with established stories. I love the idea of mucking around with ideas that have been around forever, and the kid in me loves the old fairy tales. In highschool I co-wrote a play messing with fairy tale characters and more recently my writing partner and I have written a feature spec about a little girl who finds a portal into a world that houses all of the fairy tale characters. So Fables is something that's directly up my alley. It's smart and playful. Funny, yet intense. These are the characters of myth, but they're real. They have flaws. They win, they lose. They become heroes, they have their hearts broken, and yes, some of them even die. I'm not going to get into specific plots here because I believe in being spoiler free - but if you're even remotely interested in comics and have a love of fairy tales then I beg you to do yourself a favor and start collecting the Fables series. There's twelve books in total thus far. I can't even remember how many times I've bought the first volume as a gift for someone. And I have to be honest, while even the first volume is quite good it doesn't even come close to how great it becomes. The first two volumes merely introduce you to the world of Fables, starting at volume three the real story kicks into high gear - and it's a wonderful ride with some wonderful tangents of it's own.
Apparently ABC is developing a pilot for a television series. How much would I love to get a gig writing on that show. It would be intimidating and fantastic all at the same time.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

1283 - Whatever Works

This is the first Woody film in a long time that I completely missed in theatres. And what a shame. It's not surprising to know that he wrote this back in the 70's originally for Zero, but shelved it when he died. It actually makes you curious whatever gems he's got locked away in a drawer somewhere. Woody is one of the most impressive filmmakers to me, if for no other reason than his sheer output. This being his 40th film, and you know damn well he's not going to stop until he drops (please please please don't drop Woody!).
Larry David does pretty well in a role that has no obvious redeeming qualities. It's not a big character arch type role. Evan Rachel Wood continues to impress and she's fantastic here. Truly. It's a film packed with brilliant one-liners and I can't wait to explore it again. If you're even remotely a Woody Allen fan, especially vintage Woody Allen, do yourself a favor. Get it. Now.

1282 - Saw VI

Wow. This could possibly be the best of the Saw sequels. In fact... I might have liked it better than the original as well. Ironically it almost seems to say something here with it's political slant. Who'da thunk it?
The walls are closing in here, and it's interesting, it's starting to feel more like an on-going series than stand-alone films. I can't imagine coming into this thing having not seen the previous ones. I could care less about the torture-porn aspects of these films, what I like is all the plotting. I realize the use of flashbacks gives the writers lots of outs, but this film seemed to have a lot of fun with paying off things planted in previous films - to the point where I can't think of any lose threads from the previous films outside of what-happened-to-Dr. Gordon (a surprise I'm sure they'll save for the final film). For fans of the series it's a must see, for those new - start catching up now, there's a lot of pipe laid before this one, some of it better than others.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

TUWOPS - Test Screening Results!

So let me set the tone for the screening first and foremost. It was a shitty night. It was cold. It was raining. We started late. In fact you might think that part of it was a social experiment to try to get people in the foulest possible mood before screening the film.

We held the screening at the University of Toronto in, what I believe to be, a classrooms/screening room. Holds several dozen seats and has a projector (of questionable quality). I gave a little introduction, explained the status of where the film is at and then let everyone know that a questionnaire needed to be filled out afterwards.

So here’s the details. Our audience was made up of 51% females and 49% males. In terms of age groups 6% were 12-24, 63% were 25-39, and 31% were 40-60.

The questionnaire was two pages and had some generic and some more specific questions. Obviously there’s no point in relating the specific information here since it will spoil moments of the film, so I’ll just give you some of the highlights.

The big question, of course, was how do people base their enjoyment of the film on a scale of one to ten – ten being the highest. Without boring you with all the numbers, I can tell you that the average over-all was a score of 8 out of 10. On top of that, when asked if they could see themselves recommending our film to friends or family 88% said ‘yes’, 12% said ‘maybe’ and absolutely no one said ‘no’. This, combined with the enjoyment rating, is a success to me. A film like ours is going to live or die based on strong word of mouth. We couldn’t have asked for more encouraging results. This isn’t to say that there weren’t some constructive criticisms that we’ll be addressing, there were, but by and large any issues that came up are fixable. As a director who also edits his own stuff I can’t say how crucial it was to me to have this screening. The biggest thank you to all that came out on a cold, rainy night. You guys rock!

I’ll leave you with some of my favorite comments from the feedback forms:
“I have friends who could relate to the characters, the movie wasn’t predictable, and it had a great ending. It’s hard to find a good ending.”
“It was intelligent, witty, funny, and moving. A great story. Everything you want in a rom-com”
“The intimacy was effective in conveying discomfort and a sense of dread. It affected me deeply.”
“I thought it was a unique way to present the idea of love and relationships as the film pointed to ideas and situations which felt more real that the typical "romantic comedy".”
“Everyone can relate to this movie in one aspect or another. Its intellectual without pontificating, and it’s not dumbed down – it was entertaining and funny. Also comforting to know that we’re not alone.”
“It was funny yet serious/dramatic. It was a great portrayal of life and relationships and dared to ask questions and explore ideas that most people tend to avoid.”
“Well written, well acted, funny, solid story, relevant, creative, different, and meaningful.”

Saturday, October 24, 2009

1281 - Saw V

Okay. Now I wouldn't say I'm a Saw fan - but I do find something interesting about this series, so screw it, I'm a fan. I like the mystery element. Even if the films themselves are... okay... I like the way they tease and never fill in all the blanks. Hell I'm still waiting for Cary Elwes to come back! Mostly I just watched this to gear up for the new installment which I'll try to check out sometime this week.
This isn't the strongest film in the series, but that's okay. It feels like everyone's getting a kick at the can of directing one of these films, and so here's the production designer taking his turn. He directed it like a production designer would. It looks great, but the acting suffers more in this installment than in any of the others.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

TUWOPS - Final role cast & screening prep

But wait... didn't we wrap shooting at the beginning of September??? How could we possibly have cast another role? Are we re-shooting?! Nope.
The majority of the film is scene through the lens of a camera operator named Phil who we (almost) never see, and so it's a voice only role. We always had a pretty good idea of who we'd use and we were always just going to wait until the final sound mixing to record it, but right now I'm using my own voice as temp and holy shit does it suck - so we brought David Tompa (pictured above - sorry Dave, love that pic and I couldn't resist) in to do a temp track early. So kudos to Dave for doing that for me this morning. And a huge thank you to Mr. Stew Horsley for letting me use his home studio/tool shed to do it in. I think having an actual actor do the read makes all the difference in the world, and now I no longer have to cringe when those sections in the film come up.
So tomorrow night we're doing a test screening of the film with an audience of around forty people. As far as I know none of them have much or any knowledge of the film's story so hopefully we'll get a good idea of how it's playing to a fresh audience. At any rate it's one step further along. I know that some filmmakers have a love/hate relationship with test screenings, but I think they're essential. At some point you just need to step away and see what others think. I'll let you know how it goes!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

1280 - Ghosts of Girlfriends Past

Jon Lucas and Scott Moore are the writers of this... film. You probably don't know who they are, but they're the guys behind last summers "The Hangover" which was a really great comedy. They also wrote "Four Christmases" (which I haven't seen), so they're basically the high-concept guys right now, and it sees to be serving them well. It doesn't however, keep this film from sucking. I'm sorry. I said it. And because I know a little bit about the process, I find it hard to blame these two guys - because they've clearly proven that they're good writers. I just can't bring myself to believe that they're behind this and to blame.
There are some decent jokes in this film, but it's always blunted by the fact that you're not quite sure what the tone is. It goes from slap-stick to edgy humor, and unfortunatly the two don't mix. If I'm to be completely honest the film feels like a lazy adaptation that could have been beaten out over the weekend, since it doesn't stray that far from it's source material and doesn't really try to do anything unique with it. The film feels like the first draft of a script/film that could have been really interesting. I hate throwing down the negative, but this film was pretty... not good.
If you want a special treat of bad, check out the song that was obviously written for the film that plays over the closing credits.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

TUWOPS - Set Photos!

So I've been busy cutting away at the film, Anthony's been busy trying to get a sense of music and the licensing of it for the film as we're gearing up for a test screening next Friday that should prove useful in making the final tweaks in the film. Ideally we just want to know that the film is working for people outside of just the core group of people that have made it. Trying to invite a good mixture of people from different backgrounds, age groups, etc… just to get a general sense of how people react to it. I'll try to post the findings from the questionnaires (unless everyone hates it - then I'll just tell you that the screening was cancelled...)

So. Set photos. If you're a friend of mine on facebook you can see more, but here's a nice selection (in no particular order):

This was actually taken right before the last shot of the film. Anthony Grani (in the middle) is notorious for not getting in any of our production stills. Zach Melnick (on the right) is having a rare smile.

Kris Holden-Reid makes Paul Shepard's office his own.

Mary & Kris get mentally prepared for "the big scene".

The lovely Mary Krohnert gets no privacy whatsoever.

That's right - we were brave and let the actors hold the camera.

My one regret of the entire film shoot is that I was not there when this went down. I was there, however, when Aron Tager started busting a move to the Beastie Boys on a nearby ghetto-blaster.

Aron Tager = awesome.

On set at Montcrest School

God bless Paul Lee for actually owning this outfit and offering to wear it.

Kris & Zoie's beautiful dance. Alex Poch-Goldin will probably never admit it, but I think he secretly loved working the sound equipment.

Kris is trying to feel me up here, I believe. (I was trying to let him)

Kris loves mornings. Zoie looking snazzy.

Kris & Alex. The odd couple of our film.

Yes. Pat Mastroianni is in his underwear. And Tricia Braun finds it very funny.

Apparently Yvonne approved of the sound on that take...

Kris and Christine on set at Veritas (King Street East)

Christine Horne willingly making a fool out of herself for the sake of our film. Bit of trivia here: she's wearing the same wig she wore in "The Stone Angel"

We had a permit.... I think...

I love this as the classic Director & Cinematography shot. I look like I'm actually making decisions! (I'm probably pointing at the craft services table)

Mary and Kris on set in Withrow Park. The kids behind them were our extras for the day. They played soccer for about five hours straight (and then left to play an actual soccer game... they lost. Sorry kids - you must suffer for art!)

Hehe. This is the second day of shooting and we were short a head-set, so Jen and I were sharing, huddled up in the bush.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Deer!

So I haven't updated. No movie reviews 'cause my wife and I are knee deep in watching television series. That and I've been tweaking the film quite a bit, and catching up on my writing. So that's been filling my days. Just wanted to throw this out because last weekend when we were up at the farm my wife finally got some somewhat decent shots of the deer that I've been going on about.

Here they are. By my count there are about five or six of them in the photo(s):

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Out with the old... in with...

I thought you might like to know that this blog entry is the very first thing that I've written on my new laptop.

So yes, I've decided to treat myself. Not too long ago I realized that my (now old) laptop was seven years old. Which, in laptop years, makes it a dinosaur. It long ago lost any resemblance of battery power and so it has been resigned to our counter top and essentially functions as something to check our e-mail or websites on during breakfast (and sadly it doesn't even really do that all that well). Despite that I've ordered a new battery for it so that my wife can use it around the house. The school my wife works at actually provides their staff with laptops (MacBooks to boot!) but because she's on maternity leave, she is sadly without hers. So for $50 for a new battery, I've given it a little extra life, and made my wife happy in the process.

There's something almost romantic about getting a new laptop. I mean, it's lovely getting any new computer, but a laptop is especially wonderful. It's more or less designed to be used for a specific person, to be linked to them, and so you feel more connected to it. Like it's a friend of yours. Someone you can tell your secrets to. For a writer it's an even more intimate relationship. I look forward to getting personal with this guy. I'm one of those people who name their computers. On Mac's your hard-drive comes named "Macintosh HD" so I always just rename that to whatever I want the computer to be named. So here's the chronological list of my computers and their names:

1. Rosencrantz (iMac - I believe it was a G3, it was one of the Ruby ones back when they were doing their jewel coloured iMac thing)

2. Konigsberg (Powerbook G4 - my first, aforementioned, laptop)

3. Annie (iMac - G5 - the first generation that had the iSight built in)

and now, the new MacBook Pro's name is..….. Alvy!

I'm going to get a little reflective here. Apple Computers have been a huge part of my life. As a filmmaker they've essentially made me who I am. When I was in high school I met Zach Melnick, and I can admit it, I was a PC user back then. After hanging out with Zach and starting to do video projects and see what computers were capable of, there was simple no turning back. To say that Macs have changed my life, is an understatement. They've made it possible for me to become the storyteller that I am. I write on them, I use them to plan production, I edit on them, Hell, I use them for marketing tools such as this blog. I'm not trying to suggest that all of this wouldn't be possible with a PC, however there's something about Apple that seems to fuel creativity. I know that sounds ridiculous, but it's the truth for me.

In a few weeks I'll leave the cushy life I've currently got of sleeping in, working on the film, and writing new stuff, and return to editing a series (don't get me wrong, it's a fun series and I'm looking forward to returning to it). Before I directed TUWOPS I was working full-time at a post-house but now I'm going back into the editing world as a freelancer - so I knew I'd have to get a new laptop. Especially since the post-house I'm going to be cutting the series at uses PC Avids. That's right. I have to edit on a PC. Thankfully Avid is pretty much the exact same machine whether it's on a PC or a Mac, so that's fine - but I pretty much refuse to use a PC for anything else. Especially since Carlawood is a show that I like to add little animations, etc… to, I need something to do After Effects on. That and I find that I do more and more of my writing up at the farm. So it was a necessary evil to buy this new beast. I decided to go big or go home and bought the high end 15" MacBook Pro (2.8 GHz). It might actually be more computer than I need, but in the end, it'll make itself last longer.

Now I just have to cross my fingers and hope that I can transfer over most of my software without having to re-pay for it. I've been using the same copy of Final Draft for… geez probably since I bought my old laptop - and I'm concerned that I may have to actually break down and buy the new version (which I hear is big heavy).

So we're back up at the farm. Emily's grandmother isn't doing so well and we fear that this might be the end for the old girl, so we wanted to be around since nether of us have to be in the city for any specific reason right now. I might even sneak my laptop into suburbia and register it online stealing the neighbours wifi before I get home.

So that's it for now. I'm going to play with my new toy, including iWeb, which intrigues me. Who knows, I might just have a spiffy website by the time I get back (all made using templates of course!)

1279 - It's All Gone, Pete Tong

It's been years since I've seen this film. Anthony mentioned it the other day when we were talking about our favourite Canadian films. Emily had never seen it so I figured since we were heading up to the farm I could bring it along. It's an unfair trick I play, I bring along a limited selection and I stack it with films I know that she has absolutely no interest in seeing, and then some little gems like this that she, on her own accord, probably wouldn't watch. I think she's starting to believe me when I say that there are good Canadian films out there and this is one of them.

The film just feels really really nice. Paul Kaye is brilliant as Frankie Wilde, to the point where in the beginning you're not quite sure that you want to follow this guy on a journey, but by the end you're just soooo interested in what's going to happen with him. It's a joy, really. I need to listen to Michael Dowse's commentary to this at some point in the near future - I'm interested in him as a filmmaker and can't wait to see what he's been working on since this and Fubar.

1278 - Shoot the Piano Player

I haven't been good lately about keeping up on my classic cinema. I've been training my writing mind about what kind of stories people are interested in today, however I have to remind myself that storytelling is cyclical and that good stories, no matter how old, are timeless.

I think of the foreign masters that Truffaut is pretty high up there. I was on a huge Bergman kick for a long time, mostly because of how much he influences Woody Allen, but I find that I relate more, and re-watch Truffaut a lot more than I do Bergman. Eric Rohmer is another that I admire the more I watch. That being said I don't think I've put even a into Truffaut's filmography. Something I need to remedy.

Now that I've babbled, this film was an interesting one. One thing Truffaut does really well is telling stories about people falling in love, being in love, and falling out of love. And he does so in a way that you can really relate to the characters. There's some really funny back and forth banter between a lot of the characters, some absolutely wonderful observations. In terms of story, it's mostly just there to service the characters, and in that it's nothing phenomenal, but then he's more interested in exploring his characters than making them go after anything.

Not in the upper echelon when it comes to Truffaut's films but it's entertaining nonetheless.

Monday, October 05, 2009

1277 - Entourage: season six

What a season this was. First of, this show is amazing in that it's a comedy that doesn't really write a lot of jokes. It's just the characters that are interesting and funny when played up against one another. This season was all about the characters coming into their own, and growing up a little bit. Each of the five staples had a major life event to get through (except maybe Vince) and it played off quite well. This show is not even close to being the best show out there right now, but I still look forward to it. It's a guilty pleasure for sure :) If you're not a fan of the show give it a whirl.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

1276 - Funny Games

First off I want to make it clear that I watched this film as a recommendation for something I'm in the process of writing. Secondly, I'd like to state for the record that I would never ever consider making a film such as this.
Before I go on a rant, I'll say this - I've never seen a film so rife with tension. So that's it's best and only quality. I've also never seen a film so soulless and empty. What's terrible and irritating about the film is that the director didn't make it to tell a story. He just wants to punish us for wanting to see this movie in the first place. So while I know saying this might just pique your interest, please do yourself a favor and do not see this film. It has zero redeeming qualities and practically makes a film like Hostel seem like a wholesome family film.
I will never, ever, watch any film by Michael Haneke again.

1275 - Mamma Mia!

I'm going to keep this brief, because I don't like being a hater - but I hated this film. I really did. I've never seen the musical, so all I knew going in was that they had an awesome cast and ABBA songs. This film was the equivalent to a porno. The thinest storyline possible, existing merely to get us from song to song. It was a showcase at best of the songs, sung poorly, and uninspiringly shot. If you've seen the stage version and loved it - go for it. But I, a self confessed lover of musicals, just didn't find anything to recommend in this. Sorry.

Coolest. Cookie Jar. Ever.

Anyone who knows me knows I'm a big movie geek, and if you really know me you know I'm a Woody Allen geek as well. Now if you're a Woody fan then you also know why a cookie jar that looks like a safe is probably the coolest Small Time Crooks memorabilia you could get. So imagine my surprise when on a walk in our neighbor I found this, just sitting on the shelf in a store for practically nothing. I'm not a huge collector of memorabilia, but I love this kind of stuff.

Now, onto the real reason I'm writing about this. The place I found this is called Pegasus and it's at 931 Kingston Road, Toronto, ON (between Main & Victoria Park). I pimp this store out because it's a really awesome store. It's like a community yard sale kind of store. Everything in it is donated and all the profits go towards helping out Adults with Special Needs in the area. And stuff in there is well priced. I got the cookie jar for $6 (there's one just like it on Ebay right now for $30). The store is filled with a little bit of everything - so if you're looking for a fun little store to browse through, or if you've got a bunch of stuff that you're looking to get rid of, please do keep them in mind. They love donations. Now I'm going to try to convince Emily to make some cookies... :)

Thursday, October 01, 2009

TUWOPS: Exec Screening

So tonight we screened a rough cut of the film for our exec producers. I saw it as a good sign that I was excited and not nervous to show it to them. As far as I could tell it went over extremely well. They laughed often and in all the right spots, and through these multiple viewings I’m getting a really strong sense of what’s working really really well, and what can use some further tweaking. We didn’t have time to do a big chat, and I think that in all fairness they’ll need to watch it again before they can give any critical comments, but things are feeling really good. So I look forward to their notes and to setting up some test screenings with people who know nothing about the film.

I probably haven’t done this yet, and so there’s no better place than here to do so. I just want to give a big shout-out to our execs. I’m not sure if they’re cool with me naming them here, so I won’t – but they’re a bunch of class-act fellas. They’ve given us a lot of creative freedom and room to play in and I think that it’s given us a chance to really shine. Moreso I’m glad that they seem to be happy with this film in it’s early stage. I joked with them at the beginning of the screening that it didn’t matter if they liked it or not since they’ve already paid for it, but to be honest I would have been sad if they weren’t happy. I’m glad that they are. Still some road ahead of us. I’m looking forward to playing some more with the footage and then getting it in front of a virgin audience.

1274 - I'm Not There

I've been looking forward to this film for a long time, and I have to be honest. I was sadly disappointed. I applaud the idea, and I'm not quite sure what I expected, but I didn't get whatever it was. I think what bothers me is that I don't feel like I learned anything about him. I suppose part of the point is that he's a complete contradiction and there is no absolute truth to him, in which case, if that's true, than this film serves as little more than an experiment in performance in style, in which the film excels at. All the above performances were quite wonderful, and the film looked gorgeous, it's just a shame that I didn't give a damn.