Thursday, June 30, 2005

Required Reading: SHOOTING TO KILL

There are tons of useless books out there by so called filmmaking "experts". SHOOTING TO KILL is one of those rare exceptions of a book written BY and FOR film producers. Down to earth, sample budgets, distribution strategies....and written by none other than N.Y. Indie producer icon Christine Vachon....... damn funny read too. find it on amazon.

A.D.D. Film Review #12: DARK PASSAGE

Bogie in Bandages
Originally uploaded by moalboalmango.
I must admit a certain weakness....not for noir...but for that surreal subgenre of "people who's faces get completely bandaged up". Films like THE INVISIBLE MAN, Frankenheimer's SECONDS , and Georges Franju's THE EYES WITHOUT A FACE tickle me pink, as well as get imprinted into my permanent subconcious.

Imagine my joy in seeing Bogie in bandages. Solid San Francisco noir. Bogie escapes from San Quentin, determined to find his wife's real killer...of course Bogie ends up shacking up with Bacall (they were actually married at the time), finds the killer, and ends up somewhere far far away (no spoiler this time!) Oodles of SF location shooting. Voted best surrealist film by some obscure French Surrealist Society back in 1951...If that isn't reason enuf to check it out, what is?
written and directed by Delmer Daves. B & W. 1947

three out of five empty film cans OOO

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Miranda July Quarantines Herself for Discipline and Productivity

OK, OK, I guess it's my turn to write something about Miranda July.
Anytime someone gets so much hype for a first feature I get a queezzy feeling in the pit of my stomach. It smacks of corporate bigwigs and publicists hard at work planning on shoving someone or something down my gagging throat. I have not seen her miracle film ME AND YOU AND EVERYONE WE KNOW (opens Friday), but I have read a few interesting things about Berkeley-raised July.
First off, she was rejected twice to the Sundance Screenwriting Lab before finally getting in. Sundance lab director Michelle Satter said "Miranda is a fierce artist. Her work ethic is like no one I've ever seen."

After she scored a Rockefeller Grant, she moved from Portland to L.A. Whereas most people would see this as a necessary evil, July is more philosophical : " It's still really exciting to me to live in such a big place. It's sort of like (in Portland) I quarantined myself, to teach myself discipline and a life that's not distracting in any way, and LA is completely distracting." Did she say "quarantined"?

Satter eventually called IFC Film's Holly Becker (VP of production and development) on July's behalf. Turned out Becker was already a fan of July's performance art piece LOVE DIAMOND which she saw in NY six years before. Don't want to make the financing of the film seem like a wasn't.. but ultimately....

Talent+hard work+a good producer+Sundance connections+luck+quarantining+a sprinkle of name recognition=ME AND YOU AND EVERYONE WE KNOW

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Behind Every Successful Director, is .......a Producer

Xandra Castleton
Originally uploaded by moalboalmango.
They don't teach you in film school that professional filmmaking is raising endless kibbles and bits of excrutiatingly fussy, and cynical investor at a time.....for years.
Thanks to the relentless fundraising efforts spearheaded by local S.F. producer-writer Xandra Castleton, the approximately $1.5 million funding is largely in place for the start of production of the indie comedy FULL GROWN MEN...currently being shot in Director David Munro's old stomping grounds, Florida.
No rich uncles, no real estate to cash in, no trust funds.....just endless preparation, fundraising, business plans........By Munro's own admission, sometimes he feels the need for an MBA more than his MFA.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Yoda Moves Into the Presidio

Originally uploaded by moalboalmango.
Lucas is an easy target among bitter, unsuccessful Indie filmmakers. I'm just as guilty as anybody at taking the occasional "Lucas-shot". People of power are tempting targets.
But today I'm going to give George Lucas full credit. Lucasfilm officially moved to San Francisco last Saturday...with the selected invitees "grooving" to Boz Scaggs, and entertained by "summer of love" dance moves by Joan Baez...
Lucas did it. Civic pride and his love of San Francisco made it happen. In his own words Lucas said he had a distaste at the thought of a shopping complex there in the Presidio.
Thanks George. You've accomplished a lot. Your facility cost $350 million.

Thats a lot of indie features (Lost in Translation was budgeted at $3.5 million) But then, that's a topic for another editorial.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Steve Zaillian : The Most Famous SF State Cinema Alum Most People Have Never Heard Of..

Originally uploaded by moalboalmango.
UCLA has Coppola, USF has Lucas, NYU has "too many to list". There's a lot of local blah blah about how great the SF State Cinema Dept is...but why don't we have at least ONE big name director to our credit?...This may very well all change this December 16.

Writer Director Steve Zaillian, Hollywood mover and shaker, (1975, B.A. Cinema, S.F. State :"go team!" ), will release the much anticipated Oscar-bait ALL THE KINGS MEN (currently in post production). A remake of the 1949 best pic Oscar film of the same name, Zaillian's version will include a knockout cast of Sean Penn (as corrupt Louisiana politician Willie Stark), Jude Law (as investigative reporter Jack Burden), with supporting roles by indie favorites Patricia Clarkson, Mark Ruffalo, James Gandolfini, Kate Winslet, and on and on.

Zaillian's credits are.....well......stellar. 1993 Oscar Best screenplay for SCHINDLER'S LIST, Screenwriting credits for GANGS OF NEW YORK, HANNIBAL, CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER, and a favorite of mine: FALCON AND THE SNOWMAN (starring a young Sean Penn during his Madonna phase). He directed SEARCHING FOR BOBBY FISCHER, and A CIVIL ACTION.

And it all started in a shabby SF State classroom undergrad Cinema 355 screenwriting class...

Friday, June 24, 2005

Director-Writers, Start Yer Engines

Originally uploaded by moalboalmango.
The American Zoetrope 3rd Annual Screenplay Contest is underway. This year's contest will be
judged by local boy Terry Zwigoff (Ghost World, Bad Santa), who will award the grand prize of $5,000 buckeroos.

The winner's and top ten finalists' scripts will be considered for option and development by American Zoetrope, Samuel Goldwyn Films, Sony Pictures Classics, Alphaville, Fortis Films, Shangri-La Entertainment, GreeneStreet Films, FilmColony, The Schiff Company, Pretty Pictures, Hart Sharp Entertainment, This Is That, Phoenix Pictures, Number 9 Films, Matinee Pictures, Michael London Productions, and Bull's Eye Entertainment. Polish your Pitch gang! Those writers will be considered for representation by ICM, UTA, Paradigm, William Morris, The Gersh Agency, CAA, and The Firm.

For complete information and to enter, go to Registration for the early deadline ($30) must be completed by August 1. The final deadline is September 1 ($40).

Thursday, June 23, 2005

A.D.D. Film Review #11: D.O.A.

You gotta luv that title. I recently picked up Nathaniel Rich's little paperback "San Francisco Noir", and stumbled upon this low budget noir treat. Edmond O'Brien plays a Notary (of all things), who needs a vacation from his annoying codependent girlfriend. What to do? A week in jivin' Frisco is the ticket. Needless to say, he gets more than he bargained for. In a
"jive" nighclub on the Embarcadero called the Fisherman (insane beatnik scene by the way), our hero is slipped a poison scotch and water (or was it bourbon?). And so it goes...who dunnit? why? The plot is twisted and relentless. I especially enjoyed some of O'Brien's running scenes on the streets of San Francisco...bumping into surprised and unsuspecting passerby's---this was definitely shot on the fly, and these were NOT extras (look and learn kiddies!).Director Rudolph Mate.B & W.1950.Available at LeVid

three out of five empty film cans OOO

35mm is oil, Video is water color, shoot 35mm now!

Originally uploaded by moalboalmango.
Video is great for doc's, but when you go narrative, 35mm is luscious. Here's your chance to shoot 35mm. An Arriflex BL-1 sound sync 35mm package (Kubrick's favorite camera) can go hand held, set of primes, (2)400 ft cans, and (2) portable batteries. Camera and an Operator/DP to go with it! $250 bucks a day. Get some Kodak double XX B & W stock, and shoot your own little noir. 415-504-9014 or leave comment here.I'll be in touch. Lets make a Deal!

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Hollywood Box Office Suckin' Eggs

Originally uploaded by moalboalmango.
17 Consecutive weeks of box office decline compared to last year. Overall attendance down 8.57% compared to last year. AP poll announces 73% prefer watching movies at home to going to the theatre. CINDERELLA MAN is tanking at the box office, and some pundits are blaming the shorter DVD release cycle ..."I'll wait till it comes out on video" is becoming a mantra. John "Star Wars" Doe buys a $13,000 theatre home system. Like it or not, the industry is undergoing another radical change. Home theatre doesn't mean just a projector and sound system anymore. We're talkin' Cinema Signage, Cinema Seating, Theatre style popcorn machines...the whole enchalada.
Is this good or bad for the low budget indie? Dunno. A home theatre means a family is gonna watch more movies on DVD, as well as order more stuff on-line. This new family trend of sitting on your ass at home may actually give us indies a boost. I'm for anything that levels the playing field.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Welcome to the Hood

Originally uploaded by moalboalmango.
This just in. The Wayans Brothers (WHITE CHICKS, no comment) are in discussions with Oakland City officials regarding their plans for the construction of a new film studio (tired of L.A., huh guys?). It'd be located at the old army base, and also feature a "gift shop"? Wayans paraphanelia? Whatever works. I can use a White Chicks Tee and a coffee mug.....
P.S. Spike baby, we misssssss you.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Will You Buy My Screenplay?

Will You Buy My Screenplay?
Originally uploaded by moalboalmango.
I know a 50 something y.o. screenwriting mom. She has a hipster son who looks cool, but is otherwise useless. She's sold about 4 screenplays in Hollywood with the most being about $30K. Not bad for maintaining a family life and living in the Bay Area. She wrote a marketable script about a teen in a rock band. A production company in LA loved it, and she was called in for a pitch. She walked into the conference room full of late 20 something -to- early 30 something production execs.Their jaws (and enthusiasm) dropped like a lead balloon at the sight of her grey streaks and creeping wrinkles.
A month later she got another call to pitch the project. This time, she added her hipster rocker son as the co-writer, prepped him, and had him make the pitch. Things worked out a lot better.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Tarr's Producer Commits Suicide

Originally uploaded by moalboalmango.
This is the cautionary tale of French producer Humbert Balsan of Ognon Pictures, his devotion to art cinema, and his tragic suicide.

Among many critics and art film aficianados, Hungarian master auteur Bela Tarr (WERKMEISTER HARMONIES, SATANTAGO) is much for his dark, slow, depressing East European aesthetic, as for thumbing his nose at every "good marketing sense" convention the film industry has to offer.

Sometimes I kick myself for it, but I reluctantly fall into this miniscule minority of admirers (maybe it's my Russian background, and Communist paranoia instilled in me from an early age). Tarr's uncompromising approach is legendary (WERKMEISTER took 5 years to make and went through 6 DP's ).

Fast forward to the present.The financing for Tarr's newest production THE MAN FROM LONDON took years and years to cobble together. Budgeted at $9.7 million by way of a Hungarian/French/German/UK coproduction, it was joint financed with European Public Funds (thats tax dollars you yanks). Just to give you a perspective of Tarr's marketability, WERKMEISTER HARMONIES UK theatre gross was $34,000. Even our own David Lynch can't get financing above $6 million without giving up creative control.

The biggest contributor to this co production was French producer and Tarr devotee Humbert Balsan (DIVINE INTERVENTION). Now, here's the rub....Since this is government funds , getting the cash up front for production costs is near impossible because the government wants to see the film completed first...catch 22. I can only guess that bank production financing for a project like this was not in the cards. Three days into the shoot, with 30 minutes of film in the can, $2.5 million already spent, and all of Balsan's financial resources tapped out, he hung himself in his Paris office. Monsier Balsan, rest in peace.
There's gotta be a better way.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

When's the Last Time You Saw Actors ACT on a Stage?

Originally uploaded by moalboalmango.
San Francisco has a national reputation of some of the best improv and comedy talents anywhere. Director Brien Burroughs knows this full well and was inspired to tap into this goldmine when directing his features SUCKERFISH (available from Amazon) and SECURITY. His approach is simple: A written set of scenes, but absolutely no scripted dialogue. The results are unpredictable and unique. Improv is a learned craft, not something that you let any actor "try" and see what happens. Check out some live Improv Theatre most weekends from Bay Area Theatre Sports (BATS). They have shows most Saturdays and Sundays at Fort Mason.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

A.D.D. Film Review #10: THE JUNIPER TREE

Originally uploaded by moalboalmango.
I’m always happy as a clam making a new filmic discovery. Writer director Nietzchka Keene’s 1990 first feature is a luscious, moody, SEVENTH SEALesque black and white film starring a 19 year old Bjork playing a good witch . The film was shot in Iceland with grant money meant for some other artistic endeavor altogether! (turns out they were a bit annoyed because Keene decided to use the grant money to shoot the film AFTER she got the bucks in her hot little hands. Nice move-a true filmmaker) Anyway, the story is about two sisters orphaned by a mother who was burned at the stake. The bad witch sis pulls a love spell on an unsuspecting Icelandic stud, and things start to deteriorate. It was based on a Grimm fairly tale. Low budget, minimal actrors, minimal locations, mostly outdoors. Keene credits the long festival life of her film to the moody feel and atmosphere …..then mentions that having Bjork helped a bit too. Can we stay reality- based please? Casting Bjork was a once in a lifetime lucky break.. Writer director Nietzchka Keene, B & W, 1990

Three out of five empty film cans OOO

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

“Mind Tripping at Denny’s”, or ” We Live in a Bubble”

surrealism and dennys
Originally uploaded by moalboalmango.
I live and work in the city. On occasion, mostly reluctantly, I leave the city for a film shoot, hike, visit relatives, whatever. Last weekend I happened to be in Pacifica and stopped in at a Denny’s for an omellete. The place was plastered with MADAGASCAR posters and promotional stuff. People in Denny’s are mostly different from the people I normally see in S.F. The table next to me had a family of five. Dad was a wiry, weather beaten construction worker with a fu-manchu. Mom was a middle aged gal with old tatts. The kids wore black t shirts with rock and video game themes plastered on them. They looked exhausted. They talked about pouring concrete. Do these people give a shit about Tarkovsky or Antonioni? I think they were just out for a bit of escape and entertainment … and happy to spend their hard earned bucks to get it.

Monday, June 13, 2005

(ex)Local Filmmakers Nab Distribution for Lesbian Teen Horror Flick

Originally uploaded by moalboalmango.
In real estate it's location, location, location. In the world of film distribution it's genre, genre, genre. Local FAF Robin Eichman Screenwriting award recepients Eli Despite's and Kim Robert's WILDERNESS SURVIVAL FOR GIRLS nabbed distribution recently. It was a step by step process from the start. Planning a film with marketable genre elements (Lesbian highschoolers go to remote cabin to party but have run in with local psycho-man)was the first step. An experienced crew to max out production values was next (it was shot DV Cam PAL). Acting nabbed them a prize at the Los Angeles Festival, along with a manager and a producers rep. By the time the Denver Film Festival came around, they had the word of mouth, and representation in place to land a money up-front distribution deal with Content Films. Nothing huge, but enough to pay off some credit cards. Despites says:
"Either they like your film or they don't. Awards don't change their minds."
Roberts and Desperites say distributors prefer films that fit nicely into a genre gift box. This makes marketing easier.
With their careers on their way, and lacking film work in San Francisco, the couple made the move to L.A. Our loss, their gain.

Saturday, June 11, 2005


Originally uploaded by moalboalmango.
Burt Lancaster was my kind of enigma. One year he's in Hollywood portraying a con turned renowned ornithologist, and the next year he's a count in a European art film ala Visconti's THE LEOPARD (heheh Visconti had to be dragged kicking and screaming by his producers to use marketable Lancaster).
The film is the story of Stroud's remarkable life behind bars, with a subtext concerned with the age old question about penal systems -- is their function to punish or truly rehabilitate? Karl Malden is at his 1950's "ON THE WATERFRONT" best as the prison warden dedicating his life to breaking Stroud's character. A debate between Lancaster and Malden in the third act, about morality and the prison system is worth the price of a video rental alone. For you scribes out there, the film offers a textbook study of an entire film dedicated to a gradual, realistic character arc. And who can resist the occasional Frankenheimer dutch angle shot? It's strange that the film was called BIRDMAN OF ALCATRAZ....I guess the title "Birdman of Leavenworth"(that's Kansas-where all of Stroud's bird research took place) would not have been nearly as marketable. Aside from a few shots of the Rock from Fishermans Wharf, and a few interior master shots, the film looked like it was all shot on a sound stage.They're usinnnn' us again. Grrrrrrr. directed by John Frankenheimer, written by Guy Trosper. B&W.1962.

four out of five empty film cans OOOO

Friday, June 10, 2005

A.D.D. Film Review #8:GAMBLING

Originally uploaded by moalboalmango.
There's an old saying in the film business that the French make films for adults and that Americans make films for kids. GAMBLING's San Francisco based writer director J.P. Allen must definitely have some French lineage. GAMBLING is about a man who's girlfriend goes missing in Vegas. It's one long evening for this guy and the hotel security team assigned to track her down. The dialogue is top notch, and over time I really started to feel the stress of the protagonist. It's the kind of story that happens every day between couples. If you're in the mood for a film for grown ups, buy it. Very French, very Eric Rohmer. directed by J.P. Allen. 2004. Premiered at Telluride 2004.
Three out of Five empty film cans OOO

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Peter Riegert: Actor turned Director turned Salesman

Originally uploaded by moalboalmango.
Interesting little article in todays Chronicle. ANIMAL HOUSE actor Peter Riegert (now 58-how time flies!) is in town promoting his labor of love film he made called KING OF THE CORNER (essentialy he's self distributing) . It's a jewish family comedy "dark comedy, slice of life"--uh ohhhh-slice of life-does that mean no 3 act structure? . Some notable quotes from the article:
" I was told distributors liked the film but didn't know how to market it"
Translation: We'll pass, we don't market to the 35 on up demographic.
Another pearl:
on making the film "..It's also been a reminder that no one should sit on their ass waiting for the phone to ring"
Well said.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Shoot 35mm now!

Originally uploaded by moalboalmango.
Arriflex BL-1, set of primes, 400 ft magazines, and OPERATOR, available for rent...$250/day.Hey, take a class at CCSF and qualify for student processing discounts, Dr. Rawstock in LA for short ends (350 ft at $0.18/ft is not uncommon)--and you're in business. STRANGER THAN PARADISE was shot on the BL-1. Kubrick's favorite camera. Portable, can shoot hand held. A reliable workhorse, now made affordable by yours truly. Leave a comment--I'll get a hold of you.Let's Make a Deal!

Monday, June 06, 2005

A.D.D. Film Review #7: SAW (or when Lions Gate says "jump", Sundance asks "how high?")

Originally uploaded by moalboalmango.
I've seen SEVEN, I knew SEVEN, SEVEN was my friend, and're no SEVEN. First, let me apologize for even wasting blog space on this....but maybe we'll all learn something!!!
This film tries so hard to be as scary as TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE, as character driven as SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, and as visually stunning as SEVEN. The serial killer-horror genre is beloved by Hollywood execs and by most teenagers growing up in the cornfields of the midwest. The genre has produced notable films. This ain't one of 'em.
SAW has bad acting, lame dialogue, and is cliche made me more and more pissed as I watched it. Ugh...serial killer wanting to "teach" people (victims) a lesson, so they "appreciate" life ! hahah. Good one.
Aussie director James Wan, and writer-actor Leigh Wannell arrive penniless in LA, trailer in hand. Lions Gate exec sees trailer and sees $$$. SAW gets funded. They shoot for 18 days. Lions Gate gets local Marin-nite Danny Glover to sell his soul (Gawd, I can imagine the pitch...Danny, you'll be like Morgan Freeman in SEVEN!)..Danny, is Marin really that expensive?
Then the coup de grace...Geoffrey Gilmore lets this kaka into Sundance. Have you no morals Geoffrey? Well, I guess when Lions Gate says "jump!", Sundance asks "how high?"...Another coveted "indie" spot in the Sundance line up gone to waste.
The SAW aftertaste was so bad, I had to clear my palate by watching HAXAN.directed by James Wan. 2005

one out of four empty film cans O

Saturday, June 04, 2005


Originally uploaded by moalboalmango.
Unlike Jarmusch's cheeky COFFEE AND CIGARETTES, San Francisco writer-director J.P. Allen's COFFEE AND LANGUAGE is a serious piece of work. One location, 16mm black and white, and a compelling premise. A man reads a woman's novel, and falls in love with her. He meets her in a coffee shop and tries to emote his feelings without looking like a psycho(hey girls! you can relate, huh?). Now, I'm not a big lover of endless dialogue (and this piece was based on a play), but this was so compelling I was like "will she or won't she" the whole time. The film tells volumes about the state of trust and love between the sexes in our jaded world. Like Hitchcock's ROPE, J.P. Allen's COFFEE AND LANGUAGE proves it's possible to shoot a compelling feature in one location--a must see for all no-budget filmmakers. starring Chopper Bernet, Janice De Lucia Allen. directed by J.P. Allen, D.P.- K.C. Smith.2002. available on line from

three out of four empty film cans OOO

Friday, June 03, 2005

SFSU Film Finals:My vote for best narrative short-Marisa Stertz's SHADOW OF A POST MODERN DILEMMA (please change the pretentious title)

Last night at the Red Vic, I had the opportunity to check out a small part of the SFSU film scene-the FILM FINALS. Not bad, overall. No need to get into all of them here, but for me the narrative stand out was Stertz's "SHADOW.....". Why? because I wanted to see more. Stunning visual style, and great storytelling.The score fed into the mood. A woman bombarded with negative media is afraid to leave her house until a little fairy coax's her into showing some courage to confront and embrace the world.Unique.Not crazy about the title. Since it's silent, I would have liked the editing to hold a little longer on reaction shots. Now for my unsolicited advice!!! To Marisa:
1. Stop dwelling on the successful completion of this short and start on the next project.
2. Shoot a really short video working with dialogue and emotion-you need to beef up those directorial skills. Festivals love no dialogue, money people hate it. I'LL LET YOU BORROW MY CANON GL-1 IF YOU NEED IT!!
3. Immediately write a SHOOTABLE feature script, and start story boarding...
4. Realize that nobody is going to give you money to shoot a feature. Start the journey yourself if you have it in you.
5. Be friendly to everybody.
6. Plan your life assuming you will not get into Sundance.

other notable narrative mentions: Medoway's PLAQUE: wacky Coen Bros type take on a Dental Insurance scam-solid writing and great casting.Natasha V.'s LOVE HURTS about a gay biker Cupid - also great casting.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Dear Colonel Kurtz....

Brando as Kurtz
Originally uploaded by moalboalmango.
Dear Colonel Kurtz,
I'm really nervous. I'm shooting a low budget film (no budget actually), and the only way for it to get noticed would be to make it festival friendly. I need to figure out what people want. Any suggestions?

Want to Make a Living in Film

Dear Want,
It's a tough thing balancing your personal creative process with festival friendly work, and market demands. If you're financing it out of pocket, and you have no contacts, (i.e. you're a nobody), and it's a feature, no distributor will want it anyway. The only thing that you have left is you're creativity and not censoring yourself. Might as well let loose. You have nothing to loose (but have a job backup always!). My feeling is that long term success can only be had when you're true to yourself. Find your voice, no matter how wacky it may be. Even the ugliest girl on the block has an admirer, and so will your film. Hey, I couldn't cut it in the regular army with all those nasty rules, so I just created my own army in the upper jungles of the MeKong. If I can do it, so can you.

Love and kisses, Colonel Kurtz
P.S. Kiddies! Ask Col Kurtz anything in the comments section, and I'll answer you in a future post !"

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Zwigoff's ART SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL on the way

Originally uploaded by moalboalmango.
FAF success story Terry Zwigoff's (Ghost World, Bad Santa, Crumb, Louie Bluie) ART SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL is due out later this summer. Saw a small clip. Witty, sarcastic, and oozing with social criticism. more later.gotta go install some sheetrock.