Monday, October 31, 2011

So You Want to Make a Movie - Finding the Money

You’ve caught the bug, and you’ve decided to make a movie. But where do you start? The good news is today there are fewer barriers to overcome in order to produce a film. Thanks to digital filmmaking, the costs have dropped dramatically. In reality, practically anybody can become a filmmaker.  No one article can answer all of your questions or take you through the entire process; however, I want to offer you 15 key steps that will at least steer you in the right direction. Think of these steps as the big picture or the 30,000 foot view.

Step 4. Reevaluation

Now that you’ve done your budget, you’re probably staring at a very big number, maybe, 7 figures. Ask yourself this question, can I raise that kind of money? You need to take another hard look at your budget. Start paring it down. What do you absolutely need to make your story work? It’s time to get real. Do you have too many locations, props, characters or special effects? Chances are something has to go.

If your screenplay calls for a desert location, can you rewrite the scene for a location that you can afford? Remember, everything in your script will cost money to shoot. Find alternatives. At the end of the day, it’s possible that the story you have chosen is just too expensive to produce; therefore, you will need to go back to the drawing board and find a simpler, small-scale story that is centered around a single location with only a handful of characters. Most first-time filmmakers or beginners usually think they can raise a ton of money. With no proven track record, that is unlikely to happen.

Step 5. Building Your Team

By this time, things are getting serious. You have some decisions to make. What position are you going to play in your movie? Up to this point, you’ve probably functioned as a producer and/or executive producer. Are you going to continue on in that position or bring in somebody to take over? It’s a big decision. Of course that depends on your budget. You could hire a production company to take care of everything. Then all you will have to do is raise the money.

It's important to build you team before you enter the fundraising and investor phase of your project. Who’s going to be your director and cinematographer? Can you get a named actor attached to your movie before the main casting takes place? This is all about building credibility. Step 5 is not about hiring every single crew member. All you need to do, is just get a few key people on board.

Here’s what’s probably going to happen. You’ll end up at the very least producing the film and maybe directing it as well. If you have never directed a film, it can be overwhelming. If at all possible, find a director and concentrate your efforts on producing the film. Don’t try to do it all.

Step 6. Finding the Money

Like most of us, I’m sure you don’t have deep pockets, but if you can self-finance your movie, you can skip this phase. However something tells me you’re going to continue to read on. Here’s the question I know you’re asking yourself. Where do I find the money to make my movie? Most first-time filmmakers finance their movie with the help of friends and family. That will probably get you started, but it will not meet all of your needs or raise enough money to make your movie.

It’s time to find some investors. By now, you should have established a limited liability company. By doing so, you will protect your assets and financial condition. Having an LLC allows you to seek investors. These investors will expect to get paid back with interest and make a profit. So where do you find investors? You could waste hundreds of dollars on books and videos that promise some magic formula. The truth is there is no magic formula. It’s just a gimmick to get your money.

Finding investors comes down to hard work, pounding the pavement, and shaking a lot of hands. It’s good old fashioned networking. It starts with the people you know, the people they know, and the people that these people know. I recommend that you attend every event, fundraiser and banquet you can get invited to. Everyone you come in contact with is a potential investor.

Friday, October 28, 2011

So You Want to Make a Movie - Script and Budget

You’ve caught the bug, and you’ve decided to make a movie. But where do you start? The good news is today there are fewer barriers to overcome in order to produce a film. Thanks to digital filmmaking, the costs have dropped dramatically. In reality, practically anybody can become a filmmaker. There is no shortage of books, videos, and online resources to help get you started.

An entire cottage industry on how to produce a film has popped up overnight. It seems everybody is trying to make a buck today offering their inside filmmaking secrets. Some of the stuff out there is excellent, but a lot of it is a waste of your money. So where do you begin?

The task seems overwhelming. No one article can answer all of your questions or take you through the entire process; however, I want to offer you 15 key steps that will at least steer you in the right direction. Think of these steps as the big picture or the 30,000 foot view.

Step 1. Motivation

Nobody will care about your movie or project more than you will. Are you motivated enough to see it through to the end? Making a movie is a lot like going to war. There will be a lot of battles to fight. Some you win. Some you lose. Do you have the drive and determination? Do you believe in the project? Can you sell it? You have to be the visionary. If you don’t believe in your movie, nobody else will. Do you have the charisma necessary to convince people your project will be successful? Can you continue to stay motivated when you don’t have the budget up front or the outcome of your movie may offer little or no commercial success?

Step 2. The Script

Of course, everything starts with a script. You don’t have a movie unless something is written down on paper. So where does the script come from? You have three options. Either you write the script, commission someone to write it, or you obtain a spec script. Every year over 130,000 screenplays are registered with the Screen Actors Guild. So there’s no shortage of scripts. You need to ask yourself, can I write a great screenplay, or recognize a great script when I read it.  How do you know if you have something that can be turn into a great movie? You need honest feedback from people you trust, not what you want to hear but an unbiased opinion.

Without a great script, there is no point in moving forward. Here are questions you need to ask yourself. Do you scenes work? Do any of the lines in your script sound plausible coming out of the mouths of real people? Are the parts so difficult that you need great actors you can’t afford? What do the characters mean to you? Do they have depth? Is there any truth in what they say or do? If there is, how do I know this? And don’t settle for the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd version of your script. Rewrite is your friend. Learn to love it. It’s the only way your script is going to improve. And don’t be afraid to bring other scriptwriters in to help you in the process.

Step 3. The Budget

What does it cost to make a movie? Do you know? Have you done your research? How much do you have to pay your actors and crew? How long will it take to shoot your film? How many pages can you shoot per day? What does equipment cost? What about location, wardrobe, transportation, food, props, lighting, and grips. As you can see, there are a lot of things to consider. If you don’t know what the fair market value of the things necessary to make a movie, you’re shooting yourself in the foot That’s why you need a detailed, line-item budget.

A budget starts with a script breakdown, which is an analysis of all the elements contained within a script. By using colored pencils or markers, make a key that tells you exactly what each color represents. Go through the entire script scene by scene and highlight each of the elements in the appropriate color. For example, elements include locations, vehicles, SFX, stunts, wardrobe, props, set dressing, cast members, crew, camera equipment, lighting, etc.

Script breakdown helps you define what elements you have to pay for, what you can find for free, and when it has to be there and at what time. Go through your script and decide what is absolutely necessary. Decide what is extraneous for the script, story and characters.

Another question you have to consider when putting together a budget is whether or not your movie is union or nonunion? If it is union, which guilds are you planning to register with? This will have a major impact on your overall budget.

No budget is complete unless you’ve thought about which distribution channels you are pursuing. Are you looking for a theatrical release, straight-to-video, or an online streaming provider?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Star Wars Effect

What is your favorite movie or television show? Who are your favorite bands? Chances are you probably will not have trouble naming them. But can you discover a pattern to what you like? Some movies and music will stay with us forever. More than likely, your favorites will be from your youth. If you are in your teens or 20s, the music you like now will, undoubtedly, be your favorite music 20 or 30 years from now.

Contemporary music, television, or movies will never have the same impact. For example, I’m in my 50s, and my generation grew up and came of age in the 1970s. So most of my contemporaries like the same music I do, such as the Eagles, Pink Floyd, The Who, and Led Zeppelin to name a few. In other words, I like just about everything that fits into classic rock.

My favorite move is Star Wars. I can’t imagine a movie that will ever have a greater impact on my life. It captivated my imagination and helped me to differentiate between good and evil. It wasn’t just the special effects that caught my attention. It was the ideas being expressed in the film—that one person can make a difference and that we had to combat and face evil no matter what the cost.

Star Wars helped shape my worldview. We are the most accepting of media influence at a younger age. That’s why Star Wars had the opportunity to speak to me on such a profound level. I call it “the Star Wars Effect”. As we get older, this effect starts to diminish. Our worldview becomes more rigid and resistant to new ideas. What we see and hear before we’re 20 will have a major impact on the person we will become as an adult.

Never underestimate the Star Wars effect. You might be surprised that what you believe and why you believe it may have originated from movies, TV shows and other media sources you viewed while growing up. Recently, I watched a couple of films I hadn’t seen in over 30 years. I had forgotten much of the plot; however, I picked up on a few things that seemed strikingly familiar: certain words, speech patterns, and thoughts that are part of my daily life, may very well have originated from these films.

Here’s my main point. If all of this media influence is capable of shaping our worldview, what impact does it have on our decision to accept Christ as our personal Savior? The Barna Group says that 85% of Christians made their decision to accept Christ before age 20. Furthermore, there is only a 6% chance of becoming a Christian after your teen years. What you see and hear before the age of 20 is absolutely critical to your development as a person.

As followers of Christ, we need to embrace and encourage the production of media that supports Christian principles, especially when it is geared to younger audiences. Perhaps, our best opportunity to reach youth as well as older adults is through entertainment and media. Most people have heard the message over and over and, frankly, they are sick of being preached at. But, when you are watching a movie, you are relaxed and more open to the message.

Films can portray and express the total human condition. We can see ourselves in the characters, both good and bad. Movies can help change our perspective and can lead us to ask questions about our own lives. Films express our wants, fears, desires, hurts and conflicts. Media has a unique ability to educate and enlighten us. Movies challenge us to consider our lifestyle choices as well as the pathway we are currently pursuing.

Considering there is only a 6% chance that you will become a Christian after 20, it’s pretty obvious that our current forms of outreach are not effective. Maybe, we should take a closer look at how we can use media and entertainment to reach the world for Christ.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Stop selling your soul

By Cheryl Wicker, Christian Movies Examiner

It is a common enough dilemma for Christian authors and filmmakers — to promote or not to promote... themselves, that is. Picture this: An independent filmmaker who has a great story to tell that will change the lives of viewers yet there he is, outside of Hollywood's great golden doors, trying to make his knock heard by the industry's bigwigs. Or a Christian actor who could hold himself up with the entertainment industry's respected artists but has not gotten the opportunity to show his stuff to mainstream moviegoers. The reality is, in this fickle-minded industry, faith-based professionals need to be creative and promote themselves.... and sustain it. However, as Christians, they are still bound to Paul's words of wisdom: "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves."

Well, cheer up, for there is a way to do it without violating moral integrity. Thanks to the combined gifts of Christian creatives Paula K. Parker, Mike Parker and Torry Martin — altogether offering 55 years of professional experience — Christian actors and filmmakers can now 'strut their stuff' in a way that does not deviate from their faith. Their book, "Shameless Promotion and Networking for Christian Creatives," has the answer to the challenges of building many an independent Christian filmmaker's business and career.

"'Shameless Self Promotion and Networking for Christian Creatives' is designed to help equip creative individuals and organizations with the tools for successful self-promotion, without the need to sell your soul for 15 minutes of fame," explains Paula, an accomplished author, playwright and journalist who has written over 1,000 articles for major national print and online publications, such as Christian Single, Living with Teenagers, ParentLife and HomeLife.


Monday, October 24, 2011

Disconnecting the Cable

I have worked in the media and youth ministry for years. I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard a parent tell me that the solution to solving negative media influence was to disconnect the cable box. They were convinced that their kids were now protected from the evil influence of today’s media. It’s a nice fantasy. Perhaps, it might help you to sleep at night, but it doesn’t work. Disconnecting the cable box is not the answer.

Media influence is everywhere. In fact, it’s led to a media culture where media and culture have combined a force that is capable of creating its own reality and truth that we accept as normal. If you think about what I have written, it can be an unsettling feeling. You could run to a bunker, but of course that’s not the answer either. It used to be much simpler before the age of mass media

Back in the 19th Century, most people lived on farms and rarely traveled more than twenty miles. They had little or no contact outside of their immediate family or community. Media influence was practically nonexistent. But when people started moving to the big cities, everything changed. Now we are forced to deal with it whether we like it or not.

The first step is to recognize that media does influence us, often in subtle and sometimes not so subtle ways. But the key to understanding media influence is to think of it as a process that occurs over time and takes place through five distinct levels.

Level I – Direct Contact. Is there any question that we are influenced by the movies, music and television programs we view and listen to?. I can offer you study by study about media influence. But here’s the best example that I think we all can relate to. Advertisers spend billions of dollars to convince you to buy their products and services. Who in their right mind would spend $3 million on a 30-second spot in the Super Bowl if it didn’t work? Most people don’t want to believe that they are being influenced by the media. But the facts don’t lie.

Level II – Indirect Contact. You and I are influenced by the people around us—our friends, relatives, co-workers, neighbors, etc. The people you know have been influenced by the media just as much as you’ve been. Chances are by movies and other forms of media that you have not directly been exposed to; therefore, you will be influenced whether consciously or unconsciously by the people you come in contact with. The important thing to remember is much of the media influence in your life will come from sources other than you being directly influenced by consuming it firsthand.

Level III – Institutional Contact. We are influenced by people we will never meet. How is this possible? This occurs through our institutions—schools, churches, government, business, and the media in general. Nothing exists within a vacuum. Our institutions are influenced by you, the people you know and the people you don’t know. Our institutions are made up of embedded values that develop over time. For example, our schools in some cases are changing text books and may be in the process of rewriting or erasing history. There has been a big controversy over this recently in Texas. But does history really change? By changing history, we change what people think as truth. Just because someone doesn’t have the same view, it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. And whose version of history are we talking about? For years, the media has questioned and continue to question the role that Judea-Christian values played in the founding of our nation. Today, that view is being reflected in what is being taught in our schools.

Level IV – Cultural Contact. You, the people you know, the people you don’t know and our institutions eventually form our cultural framework. Culture is more than just going to the opera. Culture helps to define our beliefs, attitudes and behaviors. We soon understand what’s important and what’s not important by their inclusion or exclusion. We take our cues from culture, and culture takes its cues from the media.

Level V – A Shared Consciousness. Culture eventually leads us to a shared consciousness, a collective way of thinking. Think of it in this way. We are wired and programmed to think in a certain way by the values and principles the culture believes are true. Our myths become reality because the media has the power to influence you, the people you know, the people you don’t know, our institutions and our culture.

Our collective consciousness leads us to an understanding of what is right or wrong. For example, why do men and women use separate bathrooms? We know instinctively that it is wrong for a man to use the women’s bathroom or vice versa.

Although, this concept is cut and dry, others are not. As a result, our collective consciousness has led us to some disturbing trends in the past few years. Our media culture is teaching us that truth is relevant. You and I, therefore, must now determine our own truth based on our circumstances and situation. The collective consciousness defines truth as a moving target. It is not consistent. This is in conflict with our Judeo-Christians principles where truth is defined by God’s Word.

Another example would be that our shared consciousness has embraced the importance of consumerism and materialism. We are defined by the things we own. Remember the car commercial that goes something like this: the things we make, make us. The products we now use are an extension of our lifestyle. We are the products, and the products are us. How did we get to this point to believe and accept such things? It’s very simple. The media culture is shaping our worldview and our shared consciousness.

Bottom Line: There are no easy answers to media influence. But pulling the cable box, dismantling your satellite, or dropping out of society is not the answer. Begin paying attention to what you see and hear on television, especially the commercials. Look for media that supports and embraces a positive influence which can lead to positive change in you, the people you know, the people you don’t know, our institutions, our culture and, ultimately, our shared consciousness as a people.

If you want to research this subject, check out my book, The Red Pill, The Cure for Today’s Media Culture. I have spent several years researching this topic.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Meek's Cutoff

Do you have an unusual taste in movies? Are you looking for something off the beaten path—shall we say something unconventional? Then I have a little gem you might be interested in, Meeks Cutoff. The film is based upon actual historical figures and true events. Meek’s Cutoff is from acclaimed director, Kelly Reichardt (Wendy and Lucy and Old Joy).

Let me be clear. This film is not for everybody. It’s very slow. Did I say slow? I mean verrrry slow. In fact, it crawls. If you are looking for action, look elsewhere. If, on the other hand, you are interested in a film that builds tension, fear, and uncertainty, while at the same time offering up a heavy dose of mood, Meek’s Cutoff is for you. The Washington Post describes the film as “a mesmerizing, cinematic journey…thoroughly redefines the American western”. I whole heartedly agree.

Meek’s Cutoff takes place in 1845 in the early days of the Oregon Trail. Mountain man Stephen Meek, played by Bruce Greenwood, is leading a group of pioneers into the Oregon territory by means of a short cut that he claims will offer easy access across the mountains. What should have taken two weeks has now stretched into five weeks. Tension among the settlers has increased as precious water reserves run scare and supplies start to dwindle.

The men, lead by Solomon Tetherow (Will Patton), begin to question whether Meek knows the way. The trail crosses the high desert country of Eastern Oregon and, with no landmarks, the settlers begin to wonder if they are lost. Making matters worse is the possibility of a hostile Indian attack. Meek and Solomon capture a Native American who has been following the group. As a result, alliances begin to shift. The women, lead by Emily Tetherow, the wife of Solomon, begin to openly question Meek’s intentions. Should they kill the potentially hostile Indian or trust him to lead them to water? Or do they continue to put their trust in Meek.

It’s a slow burner but an interesting character study. With the squeaky wheels and the blowing wind, Director Kelly Reichardt, captures our imagination as to what it must have been like travelling through such an isolated and dangerous landscape. Death could be lurking around any corner.

Although this may be a low-key approach to filmmaking; nevertheless, Meek’s Cutoff manages to fill each frame with interesting and captivating images. The sage brush, blue skies and stark landscapes pop and explode on the screen, thanks to outstanding cinematography by Christopher Blauvelt.

Meek’s Cutoff offers one of the most realistic presentations of what life must have been like on the Oregon Trail. The film feels real and genuine, not your typical Hollywood western. The movie has received a significant amount of critical acclaim. For a relatively unknown film, it has played at the Sundance, Venice, and Toronto film festivals.

Meek’s Cutoff is unusual in its portrayal of the strong-willed women, who were not afraid to speak their mind. The women are just as strong and capable as the men. This is a different view which is not found in most typical westerns from this historical time period. Michelle Williams is excellent of her role of Emily Tetherow. You certainly get the message. Without the women, the men folk would be lost. Michelle Williams, a two-time Academy Award nominee, also collaborated with Director Kelly Reichardt’s last film, Wendy and Lucy.

One of the other things you can’t help but notice is the importance that God played in the daily lives of the pioneers. They called out to him for both sustenance and direction. The film also offers a fair dose of Bible reading and prayer.

Meek’s Cutoff presents an interesting look at how different cultures and ethnic groups interact and relate to each other. Most of our westerns have presented only a one-dimensional view. We know the pioneers are afraid and suspicious of the Native Americans. But what about the Native Americans. What did they think about the strange people coming into their lands? What did they want? Why are they here? It must have been frightening to them as well. This is a view that is rarely ever presented in other westerns.

If you are a history buff, you’re going to love this film. Or if you have discriminating tastes in film, you’ll want to check out Meek’s Cutoff.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The 10 Immutable Laws of Storytelling

By Andy Goodman

1. Stories are about people. Even if your organization (a) is devoted to saving flora and/or fauna, (b) toils in the dense thicket of policy change, or (c) helps other organizations work more effectively, human beings are still driving the action. So your protagonist has to be a person. And since this person also serves as the audience’s guide through the story, it’s essential to provide some physical description when he or she is introduced. This helps your audience form a mental picture—after all, it’s hard to follow what you can’t see. And don’t forget to include your characters’ names. Audiences will relate more readily to “Marcus” than “the at-risk youth,” even if you have to use a pseudonym to protect your subject’s identity.

2. The people in your story have to something. A story doesn’t truly begin until the audience knows precisely what the protagonist’s goal is and has a reason to care whether or not it is attained. So within the first paragraph or two,make sure it’s clear what your hero wants to do, to get, or to change. And given that stories are driven by some kind of desire, beware the passive voice! When you write, “a decision was reached,” the people in your story magically disappear and suddenly the action is forced by an unseen hand. (For more on problems with using the passive voice, see Gonzales, Alberto.)

3. Stories need to be fixed in time and space. Audiences don’t require every detail of longitude and latitude up front, but the moment you begin telling your tale, they will want to know: Did this happen last week or ten years ago? Are we on a street corner in Boston, a Wal-Mart in Iowa, or somewhere else? If you help them get their bearings quickly, they will stop wondering about the where and when of your story and more readily follow you into the deeper meaning within.

4. Let your characters speak for themselves. When characters speak to each other in a story, it lends immediacy and urgency to the piece. Audience members will feel as if they are the proverbial fly-on-the-wall within the scene, hearing in real time what each person has to say. Direct quotes also let characters speak in their idiosyncratic voices, lending authenticity to the dialogue. “The name is Bond, James Bond,” is way better than, “The agent introduced himself, characteristically repeating his surname twice.”

5. Audiences bore easily. Human beings are hard-wired to love stories, but in this, The Age of Too Much Information, people don’t have time to wait for your story to get interesting.Within the first paragraph or two, you have to make them wonder, “What happens next?” or “How is this going to turn out?” As the people in your story pursue their goal, they must run into obstacles, surprises, or something that makes the audience sit up and take notice. Otherwise they’ll stand up and walk away.

6. Stories speak the audience’s language. According to national literacy studies, the average American reads at a sixth grade level. So if your ads, posters, and publications are intended for mass consumption, plain speaking is the order of the day. Good storytellers also have a keen ear for the colloquialisms and local slang that quickly establish common ground between the teller and listener.

7. Stories stir up emotions. Human beings (which should, hopefully, comprise the majority of your audience) are not inclined to think about things they do not care about. We all have too much on our plate as it is. So even when you have mountains of hard evidence on your side, you have to make your audience feel something before they will even glance at your numbers. Stories stir the emotions not to be manipulative, not simply for melodramatic effect, but to break through the white noise of information that inundates us every day and to deliver the message this is worth your attention.

8. Stories don’t tell: they show. Intellectually, your audience will understand a sentence such as, “When the nurse visited the family at home, she was met with hostility and guardedness.” But when you write, “When they all sat down for the first time in the living room, the family members wouldn’t look her in the eye,” your audience will see a picture, feel the hostility, and become more involved with the story.

9. Stories have at least one “moment of truth.” At their essence, the best stories show us something about how we should treat ourselves, how we should treat other people, or how we should treat the world around us. Since the first forms of humankind gathered around the first fires, we have looked to stories to be containers of truth, and your audience will instinctively look within your story for this kind of insight.

10. Stories have clear meaning. When the final line is spoken, your audience should know exactly why they took this journey with you. In the end, this may be themost important rule of all. If your audience cannot answer the question, “What was that story all about?” it won’t matter how diligently you followed rules one through nine

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Film Fading to Black

By Debra Kaufman

While the debate has raged over whether or not film is dead, ARRI, Panavision and Aaton have quietly ceased production of film cameras within the last year to focus exclusively on design and manufacture of digital cameras. That's right: someone, somewhere in the world is now holding the last film camera ever to roll off the line.

"The demand for film cameras on a global basis has all but disappeared," says ARRI VP of Cameras, Bill Russell, who notes that the company has only built film cameras on demand since 2009. "There are still some markets--not in the U.S.--where film cameras are still sold, but those numbers are far fewer than they used to be. If you talk to the people in camera rentals, the amount of film camera utilization in the overall schedule is probably between 30 to 40 percent."

At New York City rental house AbelCine, Director of Business Development/Strategic Relationships Moe Shore says the company rents mostly digital cameras at this point. "Film isn't dead, but it's becoming less of a choice," he says. "It's a number of factors all moving in one direction, an inexorable march of digital progress that may be driven more by cell phones and consumer cameras than the motion picture industry."

Aaton founder Jean-Pierre Beauviala notes why. "Almost nobody is buying new film cameras. Why buy a new one when there are so many used cameras around the world?" he says. "We wouldn't survive in the film industry if we were not designing a digital camera."

Beauviala believes that that stereoscopic 3D has "accelerated the demise of film." He says, "It's a nightmare to synchronize two film cameras." Three years ago, Aaton introduced a new 35mm film camera, Penelope, but sold only 50 to 60 of them. As a result, Beauviala turned to creating a digital Penelope, which will be on the market by NAB 2012. "It's a 4K camera and very, very quiet," he tells us. "We tried to give a digital camera the same ease of handling as the film camera."

Panavision is also hard at work on a new digital camera, says Phil Radin, Executive VP, Worldwide Marketing, who notes that Panavision built its last 35mm Millennium XL camera in the winter of 2009, although the company continues an "active program of upgrading and retrofitting of our 35mm camera fleet on a ongoing basis."

"I would have to say that the pulse [of film] was weakened and it's an appropriate time," Radin remarks. "We are not making film cameras." He notes that the creative industry is reveling in the choices available. "I believe people in the industry love the idea of having all these various formats available to them," he says. "We have shows shooting with RED Epics, ARRI Alexas, Panavision Genesis and even the older Sony F-900 cameras. We also have shows shooting 35mm and a combination of 35mm and 65mm. It's a potpourri of imaging tools now available that have never existed before, and an exciting time for cinematographers who like the idea of having a lot of tools at their disposal to create different tools and looks."

Do camera manufacturers believe film will disappear? "Eventually it will," says ARRI's Russell. "In two or three years, it could be 85 percent digital and 15 percent film. But the date of the complete disappearance of film? No one knows."

From Radin's point of view, the question of when film will die, "Can only be answered by Kodak and Fuji. Film will be around as long as Kodak and Fuji believe they can make money at it," he says.


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

I Can Do Bad All by Myself

Who do you think is the hardest working person in show business today? That individual would be Tyler Perry. Somehow I doubt that he was top on your list. According to Forbes Magazine, he was recently named entertainment’s top money maker, earning over $130 million last year. He’s involved in everything from plays, movies, and television series. But, amazingly, outside of the African American community, he is relatively unknown.

Tyler Perry’s movies have interested me for years. He has a remarkable ability to mix drama and comedy, along with a heavy dose of faith. He displays the entire human condition, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Nowhere is that better displayed then in one of his recent films, I Can Do Bad All by Myself. Billed as a romantic musical comedy/drama, Perry writes, directs, and produces the film. He also plays his signature roles in the movie, Madea and Joe.

Considering the man is multi-talented, no wonder he is show business’ top earner. Let me say this before we get started. You either love or hate Tyler Perry’s work. There is no middle ground. I’ve come to love what he does. He is bold in his willingness to express faith, belief, and Christianity in his films. He never forces the content. It always works organically and naturally. It’s just part of life.

Perry has many critics who have criticized his portrayal of the African American community. But Perry contradicts this view by stating that he only portrays what he saw growing up. All of his characters are based on real people. Maybe that’s why his movies are so effective. We’re all a little different and sometimes weird, and we can relate to that. And that’s certainly true of his characters Madea and Joe.

Getting back to I Can Do Bad All by Myself, the film stars Taraji P. Henson in her first starring role as April. She is an alcoholic, night club performer who is totally self-absorbed. April in an abusive relationship with a married man. Her niece, Jennifer, and her nephews Manny and Bryan, have broken into the home of Madea and Joe. The kids have been on their own for several days and offer up a sad story. They live with their grandmother, who is nowhere to be found. Madea shows up on April’s doorstep with the kids in tow. She decides not to press charges if April will take responsibility for the kids’ actions. But April doesn’t want to be bothered and has no interest in helping the kids.

Complicating matters is Brian, a local pastor (played by Marvin Wynans), who gets involved when he discovers the kids’ grandmother is missing. He sends over Sandino, played by Adam Rodriguez, to help April repair her home and keep an eye on the kids, while they look for their grandmother. From this point on, events spiral out of control. Will April get her life together? What happened to the grandmother? Will the kids need a more capable caretaker? Is there a romantic interest between Sandino and April? Where does the shady boyfriend fit in? Needless to say there are some strong themes in this film.

Also, Tyler Perry is not afraid to offer up a heavy dose of preaching. But it never feels over the top. The message comes in the form of some outstanding musical sequences from Wilma (played by Gladys Knight), who performs The Need to Be, and from Tanya (played by Mary J. Blige) who performs the movies signature song, I Can Do Bad All by Myself. It’s fair to say that the central theme of this film could be summed up as how can I love when I don’t love myself.

Perhaps, one of the best scenes in the movie is when Jennifer (played by Hope Olaide Wilson) asks Madea how to pray. Mades’s heart might be in the right place; however, she is short on her knowledge of Bible stories. What results is comedic genius. Perry knows how to have fun in his movies while, at the same time, offering a serious message. As I said, he pulls this off time after time in his movies. His audiences have come to expect this and eat it up. Sure, I Can Do Bad All by Myself might feel a bit contrived here and there; however, I feel the characters are genuine and interesting. You want to root for April. You have the sense that she is on a journey to discover the true meaning of life.

In the end, I Can Do Bad All by Myself is an entertaining, inspiring, uplifting, and redemptive film.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Who Am I to Think I Can Change Anything

Have you ever had a discussion with someone that had the potential to change the direction of your life? For good or bad. If you haven’t, I guarantee you that at some point it will happen. And the thing is you might of heard the same words or statements from other people in the past, but this time its different. Somehow the words went to the heart and made an impact on a very personal level. You will have a choice to make, continue on your pathway or abruptly change your course.

A few years ago, I remember having a talk with this guy that utterly shook my world. He was a total stranger, and I don’t even remember his name; however, I do remember that he held a major position within a well-known Christian organization. We were talking about the media and how Christian could make an impact in Hollywood. His words still haunt me today.” How do you think you are going to change Hollywood? How can you have a positive influence in media and entertainment when it seems that you have very little to work with?” Perhaps, from his perspective, I must have seemed crazy.

I was attending a banquet in an old church ( Old St. George in Cincinnati ) that had been converted into a ministry center. A few months earlier I had left my job and founded a media ministry and moved into the basement of Old St.George. This gentleman I was talking to was sitting at my table and had just finished a tour of the building. He asked me what I was doing. I told him I worked in the building, and I had founded a new ministry called Victory Videos.

We were planning on launching a media and training ministry for the development of future media missionaries. We had recently acquired air time to launch a new show on our local ABC affiliate, Channel 9. I also told him we were in the process of building a studio in the basement of the building. I’m sure he could hear the excitement in my voice as I said that we wanted to change culture by producing positive and uplifting entertainment with a Christian message. It’s then that he made the above comments and gave me a look I will never forget. I looked at me as if I was an alien with three eyes. I’m sure he was thinking there’s no way you can change anything or make a difference. He had seen my space. He knew it was a makeshift studio at best with little equipment.

I don’t remember how I answered his question. I’m sure I said something like with God all things are possible. To be honest with you, my confidence was shaken. Maybe he was right. How could I change anything working out of a 130 year old church basement, 2,500 miles from Hollywood with no money or resources? I don’t know if this guy had given up. Maybe he thought the problem was just too big and too complex. Perhaps, he was right. No one person can make a difference. The odds are too overwhelming. Who was I to think I could change anything?

I had a decision to make. Do I move forward or throw in the towel? I know I heard from God to start this ministry. But this guy was right. I had nothing. The next few days were pretty rough, but I was determined to not let this guy talk me out of the decision I had made. So I pressed on. And I learned something along the way. First, you just have to show up and make yourself available. Second, you’ve got to believe that it’s possible to change things. In other words, YOU can make a difference. If you don’t believe this, nothing is going to happen. And, finally, you just have to let God move. Just be a conduit and let Him use you.

Victory Videos went on to do amazing things. We aired on 15 networks and over 200 TV stations worldwide. We had hundreds of e-mails every month from people being impacted by our broadcast. Many people who went through our training program are actually working in Los Angeles as well as elsewhere in the media and entertainment industry. Maybe the best way I could have answered this guy’s question was to say I realize I can only have so much influence and I can only change so much. But if I have influence on one person, that one person can have influence on people that I don’t have access to. That’s how we can make a difference.

We never really get to see the big picture or the influence we really have. It doesn’t make it less true because we don’t see it. Today, I want to give you a word of encouragement. You can make a difference no matter what obstacles you face. And don’t listen to the people who are telling you it’s impossible to change our world.

Whether you work in the media or film industry or any other job, let God use you where you are planted. See your workplace as a mission field. I encourage you to adopt a missional lifestyle by building trust, relationships and friendships. I’m convinced we can change our world by living the principle that Jesus has taught us. We just have to believe it’s possible.

I’m glad I didn’t listen to this guy all those years ago. Trust me. I was discouraged. But I picked myself up because I still had faith that I could make a difference as long as I wasn’t doing it by my talents or in my strength. Don’t stop believing because belief is all we really have.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Soul Surfer

To tell you the truth, I wasn’t expecting much from Soul Surfer. For weeks, I found one excuse after another for not reviewing the movie. Frankly, most Christian films are not very entertaining. Well, I was wrong about Soul Surfer. Not only is it entertaining and inspirational, but it’s also flat out a solid piece of work. No, it’s not going to win an academy award, and it does contain some flaws; nevertheless, it has all the elements of a good movie.

Soul Surfer is what they call in the industry a crossover movie. It’s a rare bird. A film that can appeal to a primarily Christian audience but at the same time has the ability to reach a broader mainstream audience. And according to the results, Soul Surfer has been a big success earning over $44 million at the box office. There’s a fair amount of Christian content within the film, but it never overwhelms the story. Soul Surfer is not an excuse to be a church resource or study guide. It’s a real movie. The Christian content is authentic and works well within the story.

The film is based on the life of Bethany Hamilton, who lost her right arm in a shark attack off the coast of the Hawaiian Islands. AnnaSophia Robb plays Bethany in the film. Hamilton is a rising star in the world of competitive surfing. At the age of 13, after the attack, her life is in ruins. She’s a natural talent born to surf. She is also a committed Christian, who has to deal with why God would let this happen. Her identity is wrapped up in her pursuit of surfing, and without it her future is uncertain because she believes God made her to surf.

Hamilton decides to fight back and continue to pursue her passion. Can she overcome her disability and become competitive? Soul Surfer is more of a sports movie than just a Christian film. In fact, you might think of it as Rocky, except with a lot of water.

Soul Surfer has an outstanding cast, which raises the overall quality of the film. The producers were wise to bring in top talent, such as Helen Hunt, who plays Bethany’s mother, Cheri Hamilton, and Dennis Quaid, who portrays Bethany’s father, Tom Hamilton. Rounding out the cast is Carrie Underwood, who plays Sarah Hill, the youth pastor who helps Bethany discover what’s really important in life.

Director, Sean McNamara, was determined to bring this story to the big screen after reading Bethany Hamilton’s 2004 biography, Soul Surfer. Finding the right studio and financing was a challenge.

Feeling that the story needed more punch, McNamara went back to the Hamilton’s and got details that were not in the book. That became the difference that made the film a reality.

Central to the story is the conflict that came after the shark attack—dealing with the pain, the family quarrelling, and how they had to come to terms with the events of that fateful day. This approach helped to lift Soul Surfer from being just another movie of the week. My only criticism is I wish they had pushed these themes a little bit harder.

What I also enjoyed about Soul Surfer is the sensational surfing segments. The cinematography is nothing short of brilliant. Of course, shooting in Hawaii doesn’t hurt. Just watching the surfing alone is worth the price of admission. I have no idea how they stay on those boards and perform their moves with such ease.

There you have it—quality acting, an outstanding story, great production values, a killer soundtrack, beautiful scenery, conflict, and one huge bad shark. So if you want to make a successful crossover movie that’s not afraid to mention faith and God, while at the same time never forgetting that it is a movie that has to entertain and captivate its audience, then your blueprint is Soul Surfer

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Building a Better Mouse Trap - Part 2

When talking about the media, Laura Ingraham and other commentators seem focused on nudity, sexuality, bad language, and violence.They see this as the main problem. Unfortunately, they are only highlighting the symptoms of a greater disease. And, as we know, treating the symptoms will not cure the disease. There’s an underlying issue that they are missing.

What’s driving today’s media culture is the relationship between corporations, big business, media companies, producers, directors and writers who have a hidden agenda. They have created a business model where everyone profits whether you’re conservative or liberal. Media and entertainment has one primary message that is essential in making this business model function. The viewer must believe he or she is more important than anything else. “You” are the center of your own universe, and you deserve to have anything you want. This is a powerful message and, most often, is deliberately hidden within the media and entertainment we view.

What’s different today is we have a force that is capable of defining and creating culture unlike anything we have ever seen in human history. And it has tapped into the human condition as an energy source. It has reinforced three principles within our society.

First, media is teaching us that there is no right or wrong. Everything is relevant to the person and the situation; therefore, the concept of sin no longer exists. In the past, people may not have gone to church nor done the right thing, but they knew they were sinning. The things they were doing were against God’s law. They had a conscience. Today, we are developing a society without a conscience. This allows us to do hideous things and not give it a thought or lose a moment of sleep over it. We are being conditioned to believe that we must define our own right or wrong.

The second thing is today’s media has created a sense of entitlement. Whatever we see or want we should have it regardless of the consequences. It is our birthright to have it. This entitlement concept goes well beyond the government providing for us. We don’t care if it’s our employer, credit card, bank account, our parents, or our society in general. We are entitled. It’s somebody else’s responsibly. The media has been very successful in weaving this entitlement mentality through the distortion of the so-called American dream. We have become a nation that loves material things because that’s what brings happiness. Our value is determined by the pursuit of the American dream through possessions and products that define our lifestyle.

The third thing is our mass media is creating a self-centered society. It’s all about “me”. When you can convince an individual that he or she is the most important thing in his or her life, that individual becomes a good consumer. You don’t think about anybody or anything else except what can make you happy. Forget about your family, society, or you fellowman. It’s all about getting yours. A self-centered attitude is the perfect recipe to fuel today’s mass media culture, and everybody is profiting. I’m not saying that consumerism is bad, but the model that we have built is out of control and has the ability to take our society down.

Laura Ingraham might blame Hollywood or the Left for what’s happening to America. But the truth is everybody is participating. While each party is blaming the other, the checks keep rolling in, nobody cares about the consequences. Big business and corporations are making money hand over fist because consumerism and materialism are fueling the American dream.

Final Thoughts

Western civilization, as we know it, probably will not collapse tomorrow. There are still plenty of people who believe in morals and values. Christianity continues to have a strong influence in our society; however, there’s no question that we are facing enormous obstacles. It remains to be seen if future generations will continue to follow Christ or some other type of belief system. As the bible says, there is nothing new under the sun. The “cheese” is the same. We just have more of it these days. What is different though is we have built a better mouse trap thanks to the expansion of mass media and the emergence of today’s media culture.