Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Podcastin' up a storm! Episode 3 and 4 recap!

Wow, the Brainwrap in Theater 3 podcast has really gotten off to a great start. I mean, it's not getting insane ratings or anything, but I've had some really great guests on the show so far. It's already  looking like I'll be able to put an episode out every week, which I guess is the major benefit of doing such a lo-fi/hi-tech podcasting service and being limited to a half-hour an episode.

If you haven't kept up, here's a convenient little player from BlogtalkRadio that can stream all four episodes from January!

Subscribe to the podcast on Stitcher Radio!
Not only that, but we're now on Stitcher Radio, which is a really awesome app for smartphones. It will allow you to listen to the show right on your phone and not have to download and sync to a mobile device. I'm really stoked about this, because that's how I listen to other podcasts that I love.

Anyway, I also got on Twitter for the podcast, despite saying that I'd never go down that road. I don't have a lot of followers, so if you've been enjoying my film related rambles, then follow me @BrainwrapPod. It's also the easiest way to find out when I have guests, since I don't always get to set down for a blog before a show.

Mark Pirro, shooting his 1986 film Curse of the Queerwolf
The last two episodes of the show have been pretty great. We had Mark Pirro, the director of A Polish Vampire in Burbank, Deathrow Gameshow, and other fun cult comedies on episode 3. He's also got a new movie out called The God Complex.

Mark shared a lot of great stories behind the making of his low-budget Super8 films, though it's clear he's not too keen on ever revisiting the format.

It's interesting how in 2011, the people who are shooting Super8 are the filmmakers that have only been around in the era of non-linear video editing that want to try and "get back to the roots" of making movies. For example, 2:22 producer Tim Anderson (who also co-financed my film, Die and Let Live) is currently raising funds for a film to be shot on Kodak Tri-X black-and-white Super8.

However, the guys that were making Super8 films back in the day might not be as interested to revisit the format. I'd say from Mark's recollections, the risks taken in physically having to cut your only camera print are just too stressful. And while a Super8 telecine at 1080p will look fantastic and fit perfectly into a Final Cut or Avid workflow, there's always that chance of a faulty cartridge or failing camera that could greatly risk your image quality. The Super8 filmmakers of the '70s and '80s know that horror all too well.

But still, filmmakers who are trying to add grain and damage to simulate a film look to their digital video production: you're not fooling anyone. Shoot it on film if that's what you want. You might even learn how to calculate a shooting ratio and stop shooting 20 hours of video for your 30 minute short!

I tweeted Jack Frost director Michael Cooney about appearing on the podcast and sure enough, it worked. He was a really fantastic guest on the show and had a lot of information to share about his background as a playwright, as well as some exclusive stories about the creation of Jack Frost.

For example, did you know that the film was originally intended to be a big-budget science-fiction/action film? According to Cooney, the script was written with an Abyss-era James Cameron budget in mind, but ended up taking an offer of $1 million from Prism - a studio that went bankrupt as production began.

As a result, the budget was slashed even further and the film's effects were played for laughs more than horrors. And I must say, Cooney certainly succeeded in making the film as entertaining as possible with all the problems they faced.

He was also able to make our short half-hour show as entertaining as possible, providing some great stories about the production, as well as some exclusive news:

Michael Cooney is currently working on a pilot for ABC called Inhuman. He also has a new movie coming out from The Weinstein Company, but it seems that they're not certain on the title that it will be released under. The production title was Shelter, but The Weinstein Company are considering changing the title to Possessed.

But regardless of the title of the film, it will still be coming out on Feburary 25th, 2011 and stars Julianne Moore and Jonathan Rhys Meyers. Michael asked us to get the word out about the film, since they're going to be very far behind in marketing with the title switch. We'll be sure to keep you posted on when Possessed/Shelter is available and hopefully we'll get to see Inhuman hit ABC in the fall!

Keep listening to the show!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Oh no, I'm on Twitter now.

Episode 2 of the Brainwrap Podcast went over really well, even though our guest Chris LaMartina called in about 10 minutes late. We were also joined by my good friend, frequent collaborator and star of my webseries 2 Dudes and a Sweet Prince, Zane Crosby.

We discussed all sorts of fun things, including how shooting a movie on a DSLR is a pain in the ass, wacky movie theater stories and Chris told about playing a 16mm print of "Deafula" to an unflattering crowd in Baltimore. You can download the show now at the Blogtalkradio page or stream it with this convenient player:

Also, to help promote the show, I've started a Twitter account for the show. This is after claiming I would never start tweeting, but now that I have a podcast I'm trying to get people to listen to, it seems like a good idea.

So, you can start following me @BrainwrapPod. It's probably a good idea, since I'll be more likely to hit up Twitter to announce a cool guest or something before the blog. I'm pretty sure that's the whole point of Twitter anyway, right?

But with that being said, I got some cool guests on the way in the coming months. Keep your eyes posted.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

New Podcast! Recording LIVE tonight at 6:30pm!

Also, there's going to be another episode of the Brainwrap Podcast tonight at 6:30pm. I know I'm posting this a little late, but expect to hear special guest Chris LaMartina and I discussing DSLR filmmaking, as well as movie theater stories with Zane Crosby!

Tune in at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/brainwrapintheater3 and the live call-in number is (805) 669-0209. Archived versions will be available a few hours after the show!

Remastering the Stakes

So, both of my feature films, Raising the Stakes and Die and Let Live, have been out-of-print for quite a while.  Die and Let Live became unavailable after the demise of our distributor, Heretic Films, and it took almost a year for me to finally get the rights to the film transferred back to me. In the case of Raising the Stakes, I had taken the movie back from our "handshake deal" with friend Henrique Couto's DVD-R company Freak Productions. Originally, I was intending to start burning and printing the same DVD-R edition he had authored, but I never got around to it.

Truth be told, I wasn't exactly happy with Raising the Stakes after the initial pride of making my first movie had worn off. I can remember sitting at Grafitti Film Festival at the Warner Theater (where I would later find employment), where Raising the Stakes had it's last public screening. Though I had watched the movie literally hundreds of times (the worst part about being your own editor) and several times at our other screenings, this was the first time that I really felt uncomfortable with it.

Every single flaw seemed to resonate with me and since this was a movie I made when I was 16 years old, there were quite a lot of them. I was just a kid who saw all the shot-on-video horror movies that were getting real DVD releases and thought I could do it. Apart from making some backyard short films on a Digital8 camera, I really didn't know what I was doing and there's plenty of evidence to back it up.

I ended up leaving the theater claiming I never wanted to watch the movie ever again.

Well, that didn't actually hold true. Around the time that I got the rights back to Die and Let Live, I had a handful of people ask me about Raising the Stakes and how they could get a copy. At this point, I had either given away or sold every single copy of the original Freak Productions DVD-R, so there was really no way for me to fill any demand other than to completely re-create the disc.

About that same time, the Twilight phenomenon was kicking in full-force and I realized that my little comedy about fantasy nerds becoming vampires might have actually been somewhat prophetic. So, I started to cue up the MiniDV masters of Raising the Stakes to begin creating a new DVD from scratch.

While I was watching the film be captured, I noticed three things:
  1. I was actually enjoying watching it again after some time had passed.
  2. A lot of the mistakes could have been cleaned up in post-production.
  3. MiniDV tapes aren't really the best medium for archiving video masters.
I had three different masters on MiniDV tapes for Raising the Stakes: a master copy, a backup, and an M&E version (which separated the dialogue from sound effects and music for possible foreign distribution deals - oh, what it was like to think that someone in another country would want to watch, let alone dub, my movie). Every single copy had some sort of flaw or error in different scenes, so I started to realize that I'd have to patch together a new master from all the tapes to get a suitable master.

While I was doing this, I started to think about actually fixing the mistakes I had made or not corrected. I got out some of the original camera tapes for these scenes and was surprised to find that they had held up better than the master tapes. As I waded through the tapes, searching for the exact clips (wasn't smart enough to use a clapboard or label things properly at that age either), I started to discover that there were actually takes that were better than what I had used in the original cut.

The little experiment soon bloomed into a full reconstruction and remastering of the film. I fixed whatever gaffes I could, made scenes run tighter, extended some scenes, and completely excised a subplot that never worked (as a result, completely taking actress Ellie Santy out of the film - sorry!).

By the time I was done, I was proud of the movie again. Especially because a lot of the stuff that actually works in the movie are the same cuts as the original version, but the stuff that didn't work has been either cleaned up or thrown out. There's a bit of low-budget CGI touches and color correction that were simply inserted as they were from the original edit and I really think they look quite good for something I did with no money and very little experience.

So, to any indie filmmakers who might have a microbudget movie that they later end up loathing, you might want to see if time and experience can allow you to make something you enjoy out of it.

At this point the new cut of Raising the Stakes is set to hit Amazon Video-on-Demand here in the next few months. We're working on getting it out as a double feature DVD with Die and Let Live and that disc has been my main focus for a while. Expect an announcement soon!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Brainwrap in Theater 3 - Now in convenient podcast form!

 Hey everybody!

Tonight's the night of the first episode of the Brainwrap in Theater 3 podcast! This is a live Internet call-in show that will broadcast on BlogtalkRadio and will cover just about anything and everything related to movies! Whether it's making, watching or selling movies, it'll be elligible for discussion.

As the above image shows, the first show will be Thursday January 6th, 2011 at 11pm EST. You can listen to live at the official show page at BlogtalkRadio or download the show for free later. If you want to call in, the number is (805) 669-0209.

Enjoy the show! 

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Disappointment in VHS land

I've mentioned before that I'm a rabid VHS collector. In fact, at this point, I have around 20 movies on VHS sitting in a stack that I haven't even had the chance to watch yet. As I continue to pick up movies, new acquisitions that I'm eager to watch end up pushing the older titles further down the stack.

The latest VHS pickup that I ended up watching just days after picking it up was the Richard Linklater film SubUrbia (not to be confused with the 1984 Penelope Spheeris cult classic that doesn't have the awkwardly capitalized vowel). I had always heard this film was pretty awesome and knew it never saw the light of the DVD (odd for a film produced in 1996). When I found it for a buck, I was so excited that it ended up finding its way to the top of the stack pretty quickly.

My high expectations certainly weren't met.

The film was a meandering, poorly structured and downright pointless tale of slacker life. I can understand that a movie about a bunch of teenagers whose lives don't have much direction could lack structure, but that doesn't mean it's going to be entertaining. For the first half, I slightly enjoyed SubUrbia, but it quickly wore out its welcome and by the last half-hour took a painfully bad turn toward drama.

I think I can sum up the problem with this movie pretty easily by what I did while rewinding the tape: I looked at the cast on the box and tried to pick out who was supposed to be the character I was supposed to like. I couldn't seem to find one.

A movie full of characters you probably won't end up caring about or liking.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The laziest blogger ever... oh, and do you remember A-Pix Entertainment?

Goddamn, I'm really terrible at this.

Having a full-time job, working on my web series 2 Dudes and a Sweet Prince, and just life in general has really left me with little time for my writing. I mean, it's left me plenty of time to leave facetious Facebook comments and listen to podcasts on my cell phone during slow days at work, but I've really been being lazy about my writings. I haven't even done a lame freelance how-to article for spare cash in months.

But I plan to get this blog on track for my New Year's Resolution. Expect to see some interviews, more reviews, and just random musings about movies. In fact, I'll start now.

The other day, my friend Andrew Shearer posted a picture from the 1997 z-grade horror classic Jack Frost, the direct-to-video slasher film where a psychopathic killer is turned into a killer snowman by an experimental acid. It's also a personal holiday favorite of mine and the picture reminded me it was time to break out the DVD, even if it was almost a week after Christmas.

Probably not her proudest moment.
Apart from being known for Shannon Elizabeth's first film role (where she's raped in a bathtub by a killer snowman - probably something that didn't manage to make it on her acting reel), the film is also known for it's tongue-in-cheek style and downright ludicrous special effects. I remember reading an interview with director Michael Cooney, where he briefly spoke of the film. Apparently, the script was written in a very serious tone with a multi-million dollar budget in mind, but when only a fraction of that could be raised, they took an entirely different approach and made it a comedy.

Of course, I'm not sure if everyone finds it to be funny, as the title alone can raise either smiles or scorn out of both the horror crowd or anyone that was forced to watch it back when A-Pix Entertainment's lenticular animation VHS boxes first hit video stores.

For a time in the mid '90s, it was impossible to escape A-Pix's amazing box art in video stores. Rarely did the film quality actually stand up to the luridly Photoshopped box art, but the movies were enjoyable in their own right. Most of the time, it was because they were campy good fun or just the most ludicrously bad horror film you could imagine (though usually of significant production value that would actually merit their slots on the shelves).

I've often found myself searching for A-Pix VHS boxes, since most of the gimmicky designs didn't get reprinted for DVD. The only one I've managed to pick up is Werewolf, the MST3k classic that features a werewolf who wears pants and at one point, drives a car. I wish I could remember more, but that would require actually watching the film again. I just bought it for the 3-D cover.

It appears A-Pix has gone bankrupt, but re-opened under different names a few times. They reappeared under the name Ardustry Home Entertainment in the early 2000s and started rereleasing a lot of their '90s catalog on DVD. Now, it appears Ardustry has become Allumination Filmworks. Regardless of what their name is, they will probably never be able to top the days where all you needed to sell a movie was a box that would change when people walked past it.


..and after.