So You Want to Make Movies (Part 1)

January 13th, 2014

A couple of years ago I had a mid-life crisis. I was feeling a lack of meaning and that I had a lot more to contribute to life than what I was giving. I always knew that hidden underneath the layers of bitterness from working jobs I hated and the beer gut I put on over the years that I have a voice that is unique, powerful and needs to be heard. I decided that I wanted to pursue the one true passion I have in life and produce movies.

No, you probably never heard of me. Hell, even some of my closest friends have never heard of me. Even after reading this article, you probably will still be unaware of my existence. But the fact is that I got together with people who wanted the same thing: we wanted to make movies. And so we did. No, you won’t see our shorts as nominees at the Oscars. Yes, we made some mistakes and need to improve. But our movies are out there, forever. This all happened simply because we wanted to make movies and we made it happen. That simple.

First let me say this: do not waste your time and money going to film school. Why should you get into colossal debt so you can hear Professor Hoity-Toity Thompson give you 1,001 reasons why Citizen Kane is the greatest movie of all time because the NY Times critics or whoever film farts says so? If you want theory, go to the library and take out theory books or look up theory stuff on the internet. Better yet, form your own theories merely by watching all kinds of movies. Unless the courses are teaching technical skills such as camera operations or sound recording, save time and money and find a way to get onto a set and learn from the pros.

Film Set

For years I had let myself become intimidated by the stigma that comes with starting a film career: not finding work because I don’t have a film degree, finding work but it’s not steady, finding work but not getting paid for it or getting paid very little, struggling to make a living, arrogant film people squashing your pipe dreams of becoming the next great director. These thoughts must be controlled or overcome in order to achieve your goals. Whether you have the stomach to take on these challenges will tell you whether you have the desire to last in this business. I find that it’s best not to think, just do!

Once you decide to jump in, unless you have skills with a camera, lighting or sound recording; you will most likely have to get started as a production assistant. While it may not be the most glamorous work, it can be an opportunity to get experience and network with people for future work. It all depends on how you approach it. Chances are you will not get paid for your first few PA jobs. That is the unfortunate reality. Try to look at it as an investment for potential paying work in the future. If you stay the course, those paying jobs will come.

How do you go about getting on a set? Stay tuned…

New York City Film Festivals

December 18th, 2013

I was asked what some of the key film festivals in New York were. My first thought was that there are now quite a lot. Then I did some research. Couldn’t really find a good list, so I started to compile one. Learned that there are way too many. So here we go, with dates if available and links as I find them.

Astoria Long Island City International Film Festival
Athena Film Festival February 6-9, 2014
BAMcinematek Presents: Migrating Forms Film Festival December 11-17, 2013
Brooklyn Film Festival – May 30-June 8, 2014
Brooklyn Girl Film Festival
Brooklyn Short Film Festival – June 12-13 2014
CineKink NYC: The Kinky Film Festival February 25-March 1, 2014
City University Film Festival
Crown Heights Film Festival
Film Comment Selects February 17-27, 2014
Fusion Film Festival March 5-8, 2014

Gotham Screen Film Festival & Screenplay Contest

International Film Festival Manhattan
Manhattan Film Festival
Manhattan International Film Festival February 28-March 2, 2014
Native American Film and Video Festival
New Directors/New Films March 19-30, 2014
New Filmmakers New York

New York African Diaspora International Film Festival

New York Asian Film Festival
New York City International Film Festival
New York Film Festival
New York Indian Film Festival
New York International Children’s Film Festival March 7-30, 2014
New York Jewish Film Festival January 9-24, 2014
New York Polish Film Festival
New York WILD Film Festival January 24-25, 2014
NY Disabilities Film Festival March 6-11, 2014
NYC Downtown Short Film Festival
NYC Independent Film Festival – Oct 2014
NYC PictureStart Film Festival
Queens World Film Festival March 4-9, 2014
Rooftop Films
SOHO International Film Festival NYC
the Art of Brooklyn Film Festival
Tribeca Film Festival – April 16-27 2014
Tropfest 2014
Williamsburg International Film Festival
Winter Film Awards February 27-March 1, 2014
Zero Film Festival

Thats a lot of festivals for films. Let us know if we missed anything, and we’ll try to build a list so that they’re all in one place, you know, in case someone is looking on line for the same info I was?!

Carrboro Film Festival 2013 Recap

November 29th, 2013

The 8th Annual Carrboro Film Festival

It was truly an honor to have our first short ‘Alphabet Soup’ be selected at this year’s Carrboro Film Festival (the 8th annual film festival at Carrboro). Kudos to Nic Beery and his staff for expanding to two days and two venues. It was a great event for the community and a wonderful gathering of North Carolina filmmakers and enthusiasts.

Here’s what I took away from it and some favorites:

SHORTS ARE THE FUTURE OF FILM/VIDEO: There’s more to it than the fact that there is an ADHD epidemic. Short movies allow for more experimentation and creativity. Features have appeal because that is what we all grew to accept what ‘real’ movies are. You don’t see Tom Cruise in a little 10 minute short! But who can afford to see a Tom Cruise movie these days anyway? As prices go up at the box office and content continues to decline, shorts will continue to get more attention from the average moviegoer.

Here are my five favorite shorts from the festival:

THE CRANE WIFE by Daria Dorafshar (animation) – After saving a wounded crane and nursing it back to health, a poor man is visited by a beautiful woman with a talent for weaving. Based on a Japanese folk tale.
https://vimeo.com/42100012

THE POSSUM DROP (documentary) by Mindy Keeley – The New Year’s Eve traditions of a town in the Blue Ridge Mountains are being threatened by PETA who feel that lowering a possum in a box is inhumane. Hilarious!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H0ISVP8LjA4

HELPLESS (narrative) by Christene Hurley and Evan Scott Russell – Leah confesses her true feelings for Chayse in the school library while unknown malice lurks in the hallways. Chilling and powerful.
https://vimeo.com/74379060

LUMINARIS (narrative) by Juan Pablo Zaramella – In a world controlled and timed by light, an ordinary man has a plan that could change the natural order of things. From Argentina.
https://vimeo.com/24051768

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KEN LOVE (stop motion) by Catherine Chao – A lonely doll travels around NYC looking for love and finds it but now must carry a deep, dark secret. (Sorry, couldn’t find this online, so if anyone knows where it is, please let us know.)

Hopefully this will be the first of many film festivals we will be a part of!

Top 10 Movie Filming Locations in New York City For Those With Low Budgets

October 31st, 2013

Sure there are loads of articles that talk about top locations to film in NYC, and the five boroughs are filled with great locations depicted in many a classic movie. However, as nice as filming in Harlem, East Village or Tribeca can be (as per many a movie listed on articles such as http://www.nyfa.edu/students/resources/filmmaking-in-new-york.php), its not ideal from a DIY perspective. In fact filming in most parts of Manhattan is getting tougher by the day.

So here are 10 great scenic locations for filming in New York, for those that might not have a big budget and can’t afford to close off Times Square on a Thursday night or seal off Avenue B at 2am without wondering about who will stray onto the set.


Our DIY semi-guerilla Top 10 NYC film locations, in no special order.

LIC-IMG_1725

1) Maspeth – Other than the Diner scene in Goodfellas, Maspeth isn’t exactly a top location for many, in fact one thing that is great about it is most people have no idea where it even is.

But in a midst of warehouses and cemeteries, perched atop a hill that gets great views of the city and some highways, many city street scenes can be cut here. Especially if you’re looking at shooting something with a retro feel, the few buildings and homes in the warehouse area can sure take you back a few years if you make sure to avoid the cellphone towers. And best of all, rarely will pedestrians or cars interrupt your scene.

2) Red Hook – Even if you live in Brooklyn, Red Hook can be a tough place to get to. That’s the best part. Great city views, open streets and old fashioned buildings have made this part of town start to become more popular for filming.

Unfortunately the big hollywood companies have started to see this too, for example the upcoming “Winter’s Tale” starring Russell Crowe, Will Smith, Jennifer Connolly and Colin Farrell was shot here in late 2012, despite it being one of the worst hit neighborhoods by Sandy not too long prior. In fact Sandy was the theme of the recent 2013 Red Hook film festival – http://www.redhookfilmfest.com/html/festival.html

3) Outer parts of Astoria – Astoria used to be known as “that Queens neighborhood”, people heard of but no one went to. That seems to have changed drastically in recent years and setting up a quick shot in Astoria is a lot harder these days. Unless you hit the edges, such as the western parts near Vernon Boulevard or above the Grand Central Parkway where a few empty blocks still rein.

4) Northern Greenpoint – I guess you could say similar about Brooklyns equivalent in Greenpoint, the home of the dreadful G train that never used to even have a person on it. Greenpoint has a more warehouse and empty lot feel, particularly in the northern parts of the area. And on the western side, you can get a good Manhattan backdrop.

5) East Williamsburg (north of Bushwick) – One of the last standing of the old warehouse neighborhoods (along with the one above) still in some ways, though many an overly priced loft conversion has invaded the hood. Still, this area is not too crowded… yet and there are many locations where transitions to and from outdoor building scenes can be pulled off quite well.

Staten-Island-IMG-20110708-00066

6) Various parts of Staten Island – A modern day timewarp! Full of historic houses and hard to find locations, there are a lot of visual opportunities here. Of course some of the more popular locations include Snug Harbor, http://www.snug-harbor.org/event-rental-2/ – home to many big name films and tv shows and likely not at a cheap price.

7) Long Island City – This might be falling off the list soon, as they have piled on a ton of new high rise apartment buildings in the area, which is a shame. However, a lot of them are still empty or under construction and make a decent urban backdrop if you pick the right spot. Plus it has another good city backdrop and there are still a few empty roads around the area. Works well for subway track backgrounds too as the area by the 7 overland and Queens plaza undergoes a clean up, as well as some still unbuilt areas near Hunters Point and Skillman Ave.

8 and 9) Pelham Bay Park & Flushing Meadow park – Moving away from neighborhoods, here are a couple of parks that are easier to pull off than say Central Park.

One thing worth mentioning is that permits for filming in New York City parks used to be free until Bloomberg’s administration changed things in 2010. The permit now costs $300 and is on a per movie basis. Note that the city said it would waive the initial fee if a low-budget production could demonstrate “unreasonable hardship.”

The form does require you get insurance and send a copy of the scene/script/etc

Info about the 2010 change – http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20100427/FREE/100429865

Somewhat contradicting the 2007 change:
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/28/nyregion/28film.html

But to be specific – it means you do not require a permit so long as you just have a camera and a tripod. However, the minute you want to bring lighting or dolly tracks or any other such equipment to the street or the park, you definitely need a permit.

That said, a bit of daytime work with limited resource in Flushing Meadow, which is always surprisingly empty but scenic on a sunny day, and you’ll be able to pull it off. The bigger the operation, the bigger the risk though.

10) Morningside Heights – It was tough to include any Manhattan locations for this, and frankly even this one has blown up in recent years, such as noted in articles like http://northattan.com/2011/12/16/video-hottest-spot-for-film-scouts-the-union-theological-seminary/ from a couple years ago.

The article itself has an interesting quote too: noting someone in the NYC film department as saying “Only for parking privileges, or a light generator or light stands do you need a permit. Even a lot of students film without permits. We cater to everyone.” And indeed there are a lot of scenic old city spots to film here.

And of course, you have to use your judgement. If you have a lot to risk, a lot of cast and equipment, you may want to get it written up properly. But like with any interior location, it doesn’t hurt to ask. Some places are a bit stuck up and even somewhat extortionate about letting you do a low-budget or no budget flick on the cheap, but at the same time, many places will be ok with it too.

Let us know how it goes. We’ll keep you posted on the same.

Halloween Movies That The Kids Like

October 31st, 2013

trick-or-treat-Halloween-candy

Double header of posts today, and about time too. Anyway, whilst on this Halloween evening I had to help someone out with trick or treat visitors. So I figured I’d make this of some interest too. If the kids wanted candy, they had to answer my survey style question. The question was, what is your favorite Halloween movie? Everyone got candy, don’t worry, the question was for research purposes!

The kids ranged from 5 to 15 for the most part, but it was the more 10 and older bunch who had quick answers – in many cases just blurting them out with a “ok ok, now gimme the candy” style follow up. From this study I learned that if I timewarped and asked kids 10 years ago, or asked myself and perhaps my school class back in my own childhood, not much has changed.

There are no new halloween movies that have revolutionised things for this audience, which was a bit of a disappointment. Here are the responses I got today.

– Nightmare on Elm Street
– Friday the 13th (referred to often as the Jason movie or “Freddy vs Jason” in particular)
– Scream (and its sequels, quote “all of them”)
– Halloween (but no one knew which one, though some kids blurted out “the original”)
– Chucky (which I assume is “bride of chucky” or the “Childs play” series)

Certainly no “kids movies”, no Potter, no Monsters Inc, etc. It was a lot like the list at Box Office Mojo, which I guess makes sense in some way, also since in some cases the elder sibling or parent had a influential vote too – http://www.boxofficemojo.com/genres/chart/?id=slasher.htm but it got repetitive after a while. Still it was interesting to see what they all liked. And when I asked why? Not because they were scary. It was generally followed by “Come on, just give me candy”! Scary stuff indeed!

Carrboro Film Festival 2013 – Official Selection

October 23rd, 2013

Great bit of news from the Carrboro Film Festival 2013, as one of our short films was an official selection.

Carrboro Film Festival 2013

Looking forward to seeing the line up and being at the festival on November 24th and 25th. Starting to get more involved on the NYC side of things too, and while we were too late to submit anything, did check out a friends film the other day, as well as a few other shorts at the Crown Heights Film Festival.

So hopefully we’ll get more involved on that side too in the near future, but from the NC State side, we’ve got our own film selected there – one that in fact was filmed in Carrboro earlier this year. More info to come soon, exact schedules not announced yet but should be a good weekend anyway.

Top 10 Halloween Movies To Watch During October Nights

October 17th, 2013

Movies to watch during halloween season. At first I was going to do a top 10 of halloween movies, but I’m not sure if all of these were necessarily “halloween” releases, a couple of which spring to mind. But they are worth a watch during the season of movie marathons.

10 – Nightmare on Elm Street / Friday the 13th / Carrie (1984 / 1980 / 1976) – I was reluctant to put these in, as they were a bit on the novelty side at times and sequels of each were a bit too many. But they exemplify 80’s horror movies. To this day they get remade over and over again, in fact a remake of Carrie has just been released this month. Ignore those and see the originals.

9 – Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) – Lofi horror movie before it was a genre. Sure all the remakes and recent films have more gore and blood, but a lot of it was influenced by this one.

8 – Nosferatu the Vampire (1979) – Werner Herzog’s version has a haunting score and a memorable performance by Klaus Kinski. I know the original was a pioneer in film-making but this one does not feel dated at all.

7 – The Thing (1982) – Another remake that tops the original and in fact that could be a list of its own, with Texas Chainsaw, Frankenstein and many others. This one was so good that they thought they’d remake it a third time in fact.

6 – American werewolf in London (1981) – Best wolf related movie and great use of effects without any CGI. Dark humor and gory scenes that started many of the 80’s horror trends.

5 – The Fly (1986) – I know we’re going remake heavy here but Jeff Goldblum vomiting flesh burning ooze on a man’s hand David Cronenberg-style is classic.

4 – Carnival of Souls (1962) – Produced and directed by Herk Harvey for an estimated $33,000, it literally features a carnival, whats more scary than that?

3 – The Exorcist (1973) – It sent my head spinning, literally, one of the movies I remember watching when I was a kid, and thats probabaly not a good thing.

2 – The Shining (1980) – I’ve seen this a bunch of times, I guess it messed with me. Now it just amazes me. Not really a halloween movie perhaps – in fact I don’t know the time of year it was releases, but when scary winters come into play, The Shining is an absolute classic.

1 – Halloween (1978) – Of course, the original one an not the sequels (though the Rob Zombie one was actually suprisingly decent too), is a classic that still sends chills to this day.

As for the rest of the team here, Justin’s pick for a Halloween movie worth checking out is – Let the Right One In / Let me in (2008) “Låt den rätte komma in” (original title) – A unique art house take on the vampire genre via Sweden. Once again American studios felt compelled to make a dumber and tasteless remake.

And overall, bonus points for Thriller (full length music video which was revolutionary and traumatised a friend of mine) and any David Lynch movie (even the non-horror ones). Plus Psycho (1960) which is another example of how one can categorise horror or halloween. Let us know if we missed any others or if any suggestions.

Also, there was this movie I saw on TV in the 80’s where someone was buried alive and that was a big part of the plot. It was more a psych thriller than a bloody gory flick, but I’ve been trying to find out this film for ages. It freaked me out as a kid. Anyone know what it was?

Happy Halloween!

An Idiots Guide – Short Film with Notes From The Director

October 2nd, 2013

Well after having our lead actor go MIA and 5 inches of rain pour down in half an hour, seeping into Bowbarr and delaying our shoot, we are proud to present our latest short “An Idiot’s Guide (On How Not to be an Idiot)”. This movie is only possible after years of extensive research where I had to work in food service jobs and hang out at local bars in college towns in order to understand the makings of an idiot.

The original cut was 11 hours and 47 minutes long and was to depict the whole night from start to finish, with various moments for directors and actor commentary. But Niall felt that our message would not reach a wide audience at that time (good thing he didn’t see the director’s cut at 32 hours and 28 minutes – known as the “Full Weekend Edit”). We compromised at 7 minutes and 58 seconds (though I feel that simply isn’t enough time to cover the subject). Since so much info was cut out, here are a few tips on how not to be an idiot that was not covered in the film. Note that this includes the coffee shop morning after scene and the emergency call scenes that have been cut from the original 32 hour cut – if it was up to Niall, we’d be left with 5 minutes.

1. When you order your latte, DO NOT look at your phone! You know that person that stands across from you as you mutter something unintelligible while you play Fire Drop on your Iphone? That is a human being who deserves the human decency of eye contact and undivided attention when you order. After all, this is the person who is making your drink and can add any ingredient they wish…even if it’s not on the menu.

2. If you’re going to call 911 because you “ditched going to rehab and drank all night instead” and now you don’t feel good, remember to put your ginormous stash of weed away first. On calls classified as “altered mental status”, cops come along with EMS too. While her husband was laughing hysterically and walking around in only his tighty-whities, the cops seized the contraband as we were wheeling out his wife. Wonder if he was still laughing when he came home and found his pot gone…if he made it home.

3. Do not walk into a coffee shop, sit at a table, open your laptop, not order anything and then ask if you have “free-wifi”. Just don’t.

4. Do not use Starbucks language when you place an order at a respectable café. It just makes you look bad and you will definitely be the target of ridicule amongst the baristas when you walk away. Not to mention you drink bad coffee.

5. If you’re going to complain about Mexicans, make sure that the person you are complaining to IS NOT MEXICAN. Not all Mexicans look the same. Many have European roots and are not “brown”. See the term conquistador.

Editors note: Thanks Justin for the post, and thanks to everyone that helped make the film on that stormy day in North Carolina.

An Idiot’s Guide (on How Not to Be an Idiot)

September 20th, 2013

Long time no post! But we have been working on stuff, such as our recently completed short movie ‘An Idiot’s Guide (on How Not to Be an Idiot)‘ and we would like to invite you to Bowbarr (same place we filmed) on Sunday 9/22 at 8 PM for a screening.

An Idiots Guide (On How Not To Be an Idiot) at Bowbarr

We will also include another short that we did last year (Alphabet Soup) and a sketch we did the earlier this year (Lessons and Blessins with Kurt Weathers).

Bowbarr is at
705 W. Rosemary Street
Carrboro, NC 27517
Sunday 9/22 @ 8PM


View Larger Map

We will provide some snacks and Bowbarr will be open for drinks. If you have any questions, let us know, otherwise, see you Sunday night!

Scriptly for iPad screenwriting app review

August 16th, 2013

Finally some time to post another review as I churn through various screenwriting apps on the iPad, wondering how writers lived without such shortcuts like the screen knowing I was going to type a character, or a scene, or a parenthetical, and so on.

Scriptly by http://studiomedia.com/ pushes the “free” aspect, and states that “Scriptly is the only full-featured screenplay formatting app designed expressly for the iPad.” Though I’m not sure about either.

Unlike Scripts Pro and various other Screenwriting Apps, this one was free to download, which obviously is a big factor in appeal for users looking to try using their iPad for writing a screenplay. However, you learn fast that its only sort of free. The free version allows you to only have one screenplay. That’s fine though, if you’ve churned through one using Scriptly, you’re probably ready to give this a shot overall. But if you want to have more than one project, it will cost $4.99.

It also has some decent features, such as the index card option where you can draft up the order of scenes, one scene per card, mix them around and transfer them into and around your script as you finalize it. That’s another $4.99 though. Similar to that is the outline option where its sort of a more basic version of index cards for you to work out your story. It will cost you $4.99. There’s also an ability to build your story by character, adding a profile card for each character with how you want them to be presented, their notes, what scenes they are in, etc. Another $4.99 though. Just under 20 bucks to spend. Not very free anymore. Can you use any of these options on the free version? No. I think they could have done a better job with having a Free version and a Paid version separately. Charge $10-15 for the whole lot, so I can get rid of those reminders. I paid for other screenwriting apps, and I’d pay for this potentially, but the whole partial add-on bit was annoying. If they really wanted to split costs, maybe just separate the “Pro Pack” as the default option (paying $4.99 for the basic version with unlimited script ability and perhaps some formatting improvements is a solid deal), then the full character/index/card package as the advanced version.

So yes, thats perhaps going on a tangent. The question is would I pay for the whole shebang if it was a good screenwriting app? Well the add-ons are nice to have, but other than the ability to have more than one script, you don’t “need” it. The big question is how it flows overall.

And there I am writing away, looking at outlines and notes and mockups that I have elsewhere anyway (so didn’t really need the other add-ons, hence defaulting to the pro-pack after the free trial version perhaps). However, the flow is no Scripts Pro. Double tapping to select element / element type actually breaks the flow with each line. Whereas on Scripts Pro – right above the keyboard is the ability to make that line of text Action / Scene Header / Dialogue / Parenthetical, etc really smoothly as I type or even as I hit enter.

On Scriptly you need to double tap the blank area and then choose the type of text you are entering. Tedious. Its glitchy with the parentheticals too, sometimes it fits, sometimes it gets all odd with the spacing. You’re better off doing some of it manually as you go to be honest.

Scriptly For iPad

And if you want to undo the element, you can’t just backspace from it, you have to re-do the double tap highlighting. And how it doesn’t auto-cap the V.O’s and O.S’s etc, make me feel spoiled by the other app. So I don’t think its as smooth, as I don’t see myself running through 20 pages high speed with this one. Still, its not bad. Looking around, some people have said they’ve lost saved work and its a bit glitchy. And with all iOS apps, I get lost file paranoia and email myself a copy as a “save” version substitute. The main glitches I had with the app were the occasional spacing issues that seem impossible (or at least difficult) to clear. That being said, I did have the app screen completely disappear on me once, and just close by itself. However, when re-opening the script, it was right where I left off.

Overall its ok. You can export to PDF (but no TXT or DOC export option?), and tidying it up in Word is much easier than via some other app exports, such as the previously mentioned Scripts Pro. But its got several oddities to it, and the ability to quickly go through dialogue and scene changes is not quite there – in fact it gets very frustrating when you are on a roll. I think a lot of people probably give it a shot because its free, but even with the $4.99 pro pack ability to have multiple scripts, the glitches still linger around. Its a promising screenwriting app, but it needs work, and it needs to flow better when writing out scenes.

Drop us an email or a comment and let us know what you think also!