Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Oscar Nominations, 78th

Here are the nominations for the 78th Annual Academy awards. I'll post later about which ones I've seen to date and which ones I think will win...

Academy Of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences
78th Annual Academy Awards Nominations

Philip Seymour Hoffman - Capote
Terrence Howard - Hustle & Flow
Heath Ledger - Brokeback Mountain
Joaquin Phoenix - Walk The Line
David Strathairn - Good Night, And Good Luck.

George Clooney - Syriana
Matt Dillon - Crash
Paul Giamatti - Cinderella Man
Jake Gyllenhaal - Brokeback Mountain
William Hurt - A History Of Violence

Judi Dench - Mrs. Henderson Presents
Felicity Huffman - Transamerica
Keira Knightley - Pride & Prejudice
Charlize Theron - North Country
Reese Witherspoon - Walk The Line

Amy Adams - Junebug
Catherine Keener - Capote
Frances Mcdormand - North Country
Rachel Weisz - The Constant Gardener
Michelle Williams - Brokeback Mountain

Howl's Moving Castle
Tim Burton's Corpse Bride
Wallace & Gromit In The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit

Good Night, And Good Luck.
Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire
King Kong
Memoirs Of A Geisha
Pride & Prejudice

Batman Begins
Brokeback Mountain
Good Night, And Good Luck.
Memoirs Of A Geisha
The New World

Charlie And The Chocolate Factory
Memoirs Of A Geisha
Mrs. Henderson Presentspride & Prejudice
Walk The Line

Brokeback Mountain Capote
Good Night, And Good Luck.

Darwin's Nightmare
Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room
March Of The Penguins
Street Fight

The Death Of Kevin Carter: Casualty Of The Bang Bang Club
God Sleeps In Rwanda
The Mushroom Club
A Note Of Triumph: The Golden Age Of Norman Corwin

Cinderella Man
The Constant Gardener
Walk The Line

Don't Tell
Joyeux Noèl
Paradise Now
Sophie Scholl - The Final Days

The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe
Cinderella Man
Star Wars: Episode III Revenge Of The Sith


Brokeback Mountain
The Constant GardenerMemoirs Of A Geisha
MunichPride & Prejudice


"In The Deep" - Crash
"It's Hard Out Here For A Pimp" - Hustle & Flow
"Travelin' Thru" - Transamerica

Brokeback Mountain
Good Night, And Good Luck.

The Moon And The Son: An Imagined Conversation
The Mysterious Geographic Explorations Of Jasper Morello
One Man Band

Ausreisser (The Runaway)
The Last Farm
Our Time Is Up
Six Shooter

King Kong
Memoirs Of A Geisha
War Of The Worlds

The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe
King Kong
Memoirs Of A Geisha
Walk The Line
War Of The Worlds

The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe
King Kong
War Of The Worlds

Brokeback Mountain
The Constant Gardener
A History Of Violence

Good Night, And Good Luck.
Match Point
The Squid And The Whale

Monday, January 30, 2006

Oscar nominations are tomorrow!

If you're a frequent reader of this blog, you know how much I care about who wins the Academy Awards. Tomorrow morning at 5:30 AM PST, the nominations are going to be made at long last and I can barely contain my excitement! And look, I know it's stupid, but every year I get more excited about the awards because I feel I'm very very slowly getting closer to actually getting a chance to go sometime. Who knows what will really happen, but if Morgan Spurlock and Matt Damon and Ben Affleck can stand on that stage...

Anyway, here is the link to find out who gets nominated.

Trust me, I know what I'm talking about

NPR ran a piece a while back about how camera makers were hiring salespeople to walk around in pairs on the street, presumably a man and a woman, acting as if they were a married couple, and "innocently" ask passersby to take their picture. When the unsuspecting mark tried out the new camera, the couple would usually say something like, "Cool camera, huh? We just got it..." which would then segue into a private and improvised, but very carefully controlled, commercial. This is the new face of advertising, appropriately dubbed, "Guerilla Marketing".

It comes in many forms, too. I first heard about "Sock Puppeting" from Will Shipley on his blog where he talks about how his competitor anonymously plugs his own product. Then today I just read about this:

I interviewed for a guerilla marketing business in San Francisco that targeted web forums.

I was told that if I accepted the job, I was to have at LEAST 50 identities on as many forums as I could muster (they wanted 100 eventually), with a goal of 5 posts an hour. The posts had to be well thought out, and the idea was that I was to establish multiple identities with a history on the forums, so that when the timing was right a well written but subtly placed marketing post could be finessed in. And regular visitors would recognize the post as coming from a long time poster.

They had 12 people working there full time, and were hiring 10 more. You do the math. No wait, I'll do it for you: that's 880 posts a day (if minimum was met). However he said the better ones could do around 8 or 10 an hour. And they had different "verticals" so there was the sports guy, and the games guy, the hentai, excuse me I mean anime guy, etc.

But the most critical point was this: develop and integrate the identity. No random "HEY EB GAMES IS AWESOME BUY THIS" stuff.

Kinda spooky.

Didn't take the job. It was a fucking mill.

Seems a little silly to pay $1 million to get a few people to buy your product, no? Why not spend $1 million to make your product rock? Word of how good your product is should get around all by itself.

But I can do you one more... The BBC just broke a story on a newly declassified document about the US military's plans for "information operations":

Late last year, it emerged that the Pentagon had paid a private company, the Lincoln Group, to plant hundreds of stories in Iraqi newspapers. The stories - all supportive of US policy - were written by military personnel and then placed in Iraqi publications.

And websites that appeared to be information sites on the politics of Africa and the Balkans were found to be run by the Pentagon.

So it appears even the governement is hopping on the bandwagon. It's a good thing I bought Apple's newest Macbook Pro, which is powered by a dual-core Intel engine. Up to four times the speed of the PowerBook G4 and eight times the graphics bandwidth. With built-in iSight for instant video conferencing on the move and Front Row with Apple Remote to dazzle everyone in the room. Wait no more. MacBook Pro starts at just $1999. They're awesome.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Apple is "the new Sony"

The Disney-Pixar deal makes for some eyebrow-raising cross-pollination. Read what Andrew Neff at Bear Stearns had to say:

Apple is 'the new Sony' - Bear Sterns
By Jonny Evans

Apple has huge growth opportunities and appears likely to emerge as the "nexus of the digital lifestyle evolution", an analyst explained this morning.

Apple is rapidly transforming into the firm Sony always wanted to be, said Bear Sterns analyst Andrew Neff.

"In a sense, Apple is becoming what Sony always wanted to be: a visionary that seamlessly integrates the best-of-breed hardware with content to fundamentally alter the way we live - and iPod is just the beginning, like Walkman before it," he wrote, according to Forbes.

Neff warns investors not to underestimate Apple, a company that creates products that are renowned for their ability to create disruptive change, he warns.

Apple's move into video, for example, has changed the way video is created (Final Cut Pro, iMovie) and how it is consumed (iTunes Music Store and iPod video).

Looking ahead, Neff predicts Apple will make further moves into consumer electronics, suggesting it may even reveal an HDTV device with iPod features built in, a new mobile phone, or even an iPod camera may emerge.

Neff's comments appear as his colleague, Robert Peck, warns that search giant Google may have plans to launch an iTunes-competing service of its own.

Bear Strerns rates Apple as an "outperforming" stock with a $103 target price.

And then, there's the word on the street. Roberto's Myspace bulletin about this cracks me up:

Disney=Pixar=Apple Computers=Pixar=Disney?!

Steve "owns" Apple.

Steve "owns" Pixar.

Disney owns Pixar, now.

Disney owns Pixar owned by Steve who owns Apple Computers, Inc.

On top of that Steve is Board Member at Disney, Pixar CEO, and Apple CEO.

John Lasseter, the UTTER AND IMMACULATE GENIUS Creative Director (AKA Genius) at Pixar is now Creative Head Cheese at Both Pixar and Disney overseeing both creative projects AND theme parks?!

And Disney will work EXCLUSIVELY with Steve's Apple Computers with Digiital Software AND Video Media, not to mention content for the Viddy iPod AND the fact that Disney has TV stations galore with cool stuff?

Yes! This shall be known as Disney Year 1 EAE (Era After Eisner).

(Eisner SUCKED! He was a horrible horrible man who hated children and puppies and sucked the blood out of Disney and ousted Roy Disney! HE OUSTED ROY DISNEY! WHAT A SICK F**K!!!)

THIS is going to be interesting. :-D

Saturday, January 28, 2006

The Rise of Hollywood, Part 2

I didn't even know about this film when I posted my first post about The Rise of Hollywood, but obviously there are some clever minds still left in Hollywood who saw digital as the future in filmmaking and decided to embrace it, rather than ignore it. Can anyone say, Issac Asimov's Foundation?

And hey, if you're lazy, just read the boldface:

The movie that enters the unknown (Excerpted)
'Bubble' to come out on all kinds of screens Friday
Thursday, January 26, 2006; Posted: 3:57 p.m. EST (20:57 GMT)

NEW YORK (AP) -- "Bubble," about a murderous love triangle at a small-town doll factory, was shot on high-definition video and runs just 73 minutes. It had no script: Doebereiner and her co-stars, all non-actors from the southern Ohio-West Virginia border where the movie was set, improvised their dialogue based on an outline by screenwriter Coleman Hough, who also wrote Soderbergh's similarly stripped-down "Full Frontal."

But the most unusual part of all hasn't even happened yet. When "Bubble" comes out Friday, it will appear simultaneously in theaters and on cable television, with a DVD release scheduled for just a few days later. Amid dwindling box-office numbers and rampant piracy, it's an experimental alternative to the traditional movie-release method.

"The biggest thing is people having access to the movie who might not have access to it for a while," Soderbergh told The Associated Press. "They might have read about it and they're interested but they don't live near an art cinema, or they don't have a video store that carries this kind of stuff, and this way they can get it and get a hold of it as soon as they've heard about it."

Friday, January 27, 2006

The Fall (and Rise?) of Hollywood

Steven Spielberg is one of the only major directors who still refuses to shoot in digital. His friend George Lucas, a perennial pioneer, has been trying to wear him down, but Spielberg's getting old and has become pretty set in his ways. But that's the way of the modern world, isn't it? You either embrace the new ways and learn how to profit from them, or you stick to the old ones and risk becoming obsolete.

The problem with going to digital is that almost everyone sees how great it could be—to view a theatrical film digitally would save everyone millions of dollars and no one disputes this—but the cost of upgrading everyone involved is simply so large, and so spread out over distributors and producers, that no one is willing to flip the bill. The weakest link in the chain has always been cost, or rather the lack of willpower to incur the costs to upgrade. Thus the reason why great achievements are usually led by entrepreneurs with enough clout to stand at temple's altar and demand, This must be done.

Yesterday Disney bought Pixar, which suddenly makes Steve Jobs the largest individual shareholder of Disney shares on the planet. His vision is to make Disney the forerunner of digital entertainment and after reading the below Macworld article, I believe this Disney-Pixar deal, when we look back on it years from now, will be considered the crucible upon which Hollywood was reborn.

(If you're saying, "Reborn?" then you haven't yet heard by diatribe about Hollywood's demise. Keep reading. Also, the articles in this post are fairly long, and not really crucial to catch my drift, so I'd suggest skipping straight to my comments.)

Jobs will put the 'd for digital' in Disney
By Macworld staff

The Pixar-Disney deal could drive Hollywood to a digital dawn, reports claim.

The deal also means Apple CEO Steve Jobs - who becomes Disney's biggest individual shareholder - now has a bigger stake in Disney than anybody else on the planet.

Business Week predicts a modern Pixar touch will be applied to Disney's established characters, such as Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck, "putting new life into the mouse-house", the report states.

More intriguingly, Apple's leader will set the tone for Disney's digital plans, and the deals are done between the two firms may become a template for similar deals between Hollywood and digital firms.

"Could it be that everything that has happened so far in Jobs's professional life has been a mere prologue to the creation of the 21st Century's first real media giant?" Business Week concludes.

Analysts agree the possibility is there. Investors Business Daily states: "Jobs can influence Disney to take forward-moving steps where others aren't yet and set the bar higher," according to Ben Bajarin, an analyst at research firm Creative Strategies.

The day before the deal, CBS launched a digital arm called CBS Vision, to be led by David Poltrack: "The media business is in a state of transition to a digital, nonlinear model," Poltrack said.

BBC chairman Michael Grade belileves a shift to video online is inevitable: "I am as sure as I can be that on demand is the future," he said this week.

Apple will use its CEO's position to broker significant deals to drive video to iTunes, and to help it sell Macs.

Hollywood in Decline
As some of you know, I've started to feel like we're witnessing the middle of a trend towards Hollywood's decline. (Curtis & Dave, forgive me if paste in my emails to you about this, but they are terribly a propro)... not that this decline can't be reversed—it can—but it will take a lot of skull sweat to turn the tables back again. Joel Silver's comment is especially enlightening:

"I'm looking at big buildings and soundstages [here in L.A.] and all the things you need to make a movie, but what do I have to do? Get on a plane and fly thousands of miles so I can look at big buildings and soundstages and all the things you need to make a movie. And why? Because of costs. It all comes down to costs."

If our ex-actor Governor gets tax credits for the Hollywood studios, California might be able to reverse the trend and compete again with other film studios, but producers have already tasted what other states can do for their purse strings, so it might only be a matter of time now. The Punisher, for instance, was shot in Miami because of Florida's favorable tax credits—otherwise, that film might never have been made. Those who remember Michael Moore's Roger & Me know that GM abandoned its Michigan plant because it was cheaper to set up a similar plant in Mexico. It is, as Silver says, all about costs. It is always about costs. Costs are the ultimate Darwinian juggernaut which keep a species alive or which make a species go extinct.

With the proliferation of reality TV shows and Hi-Def, it could get even worse for Hollywood. Still, everyone said TV would kill radio and it didn't, so Hollywood will simply have to slim down to compete with out-of-state filmmakers. That just means the non-Hollywood filmmakers have a better chance now than ever to compete with the big boys.

Here's the entire Yahoo article about Hollywood's decline. (Skip to the end for even more commentary.)

Hollywood's New Backlot? The U.S.
By John Horn Times Staff Writer
Wed Aug 17, 2005 7:55 AM ET

NEW ORLEANS — Danny Retz has been a Hollywood film editor for nearly three decades. His 50 features include "RoboCop," "Cutthroat Island" and "Collateral Damage." For the last several years, though, steady work has proven elusive.

He longed for a place where work was plentiful and life was affordable.

"I don't have any more wiggle room left," Retz said a few days before he boarded a plane for Louisiana, where he was born 57 years ago. "I was bleeding money."
Retz wasn't returning to New Orleans just to be close to good food and extended family. He was chasing Hollywood.

For an increasing number of people working in the movie industry, some of the best jobs no longer carry the "Made in California" label. Over the last two decades, scores of movies have left town in search of the cheapest labor, weakest currencies and best financial incentives. At first, producers fled to Canada. Then they set off for more distant lands, such as Australia, England and, more recently, Eastern Europe.

But the hottest front in the production wars these days is much closer to home, as California finds itself competing with almost every state in the union. Thanks to an array of tax incentives offered from Rhode Island to New Mexico, screenwriters are recasting their plots to accommodate new locales, producers are learning new math to stretch budgets and Hollywood has settled into a multiple-time-zone way of life.

Hollywood remains the place where most movies are conceived and financed. And the economic and emotional effect of so-called runaway production has been blunted by a fresh wave of television shows made in town — TV production has surged 64% since 2000, as local movie filming fell 8%.

But there's no masking the fact that moviemaking has turned into part of the national economy. The Hollywoodization of America, according to the U.S. Census, has turned into an industry that generates $9.3 billion in American salaries each year.

"I'm sitting here at my office at Warner Bros.," said Joel Silver, who produced the "Matrix" movies. "And I'm looking at big buildings and soundstages and all the things you need to make a movie, but what do I have to do? Get on a plane and fly thousands of miles so I can look at big buildings and soundstages and all the things you need to make a movie. And why? Because of costs. It all comes down to costs."

One of Silver's upcoming movies, the Hilary Swank thriller "The Reaping," is being filmed in Louisiana.

The drive to lure Hollywood across state lines is tearing down ideological boundaries: Louisiana's popular incentives were drafted by a conservative Republican state legislator, and were being hawked to the industry by a liberal lieutenant governor.

Even within California, a push for similar incentives is being supported by both the studios and the Hollywood labor unions, who on almost every other issue sit on opposite sides of the table.
The profusion of incentives across the country, which have even more value with the fall of Canadian exchange rates, has created a politically prickly challenge for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Having made a fortune in the movies, the $20-million-a-movie actor must now convince the state's lawmakers and taxpayers that Hollywood needs — and deserves — a financial handout.

"People say, 'Why should I give a tax credit to these rich studios?' I hear that all the time," said Amy Lemisch, film commissioner for California, which has virtually no financial incentives. She has been lobbying for a bill that would mimic other state incentives, which could surface in the current legislative session. The bill's chances could be helped by a new study due soon that tracks how much tax revenue and jobs a TV show or movie generates. That effect, Lemisch says, is not always easy to see.

But it's highly visible in the Deep South.

Louisiana has been home to Zydeco music, Cajun spices and po-boy sandwiches. Now it's also where you'll find Manhattan, Milwaukee and Orange County.
The story line for "Just My Luck" unfolds in New York City, but the movie was filmed almost entirely in Louisiana. The movie "Mr. 3000" is about a Milwaukee Brewers baseball player. It, too, was largely made in Louisiana. Although the plot for "Big Momma's House 2" develops in Orange County, the movie was shot for only three weeks in Southern California, with the other eight weeks in and around New Orleans.

The upcoming Denzel Washington thriller "Déjà Vu" was originally set in New York. But in the current screenplay revisions, Long Island Sound has been replaced by the Mississippi River, and a bomber hiding out in the Long Island Pine Barrens is now holing up in the Louisiana bayou.
Director Donald Petrie estimated "Just My Luck" saved about 20% on its budget by relocating to the state. The Louisiana incentives helped movie production spending soar to more than $125 million last year, up from $3.9 million in 2002, the state says. Along the way, an estimated 3,000 jobs were created.

"It's been wildly successful," said Louisiana Lt. Gov. Mitchell Landrieu on a recent visit to Los Angeles to drum up more business, his third trip to Southern California this year.
Other states offering new incentives are reporting similar results.

The New York Mayor's Office for Film, Theatre and Broadcasting says that since the start of this year, the state and city incentives have attracted $325 million in new film and TV production spending, creating jobs for about 6,000 New Yorkers. Among the bigger fish the state's incentives have landed: Martin Scorsese's "The Departed," even though the story is set in Boston.

The Illinois Film Office estimates that its tax incentives helped secure the movies "Roll Bounce," "Ice Harvest," "The Amityville Horror" and "The Weather Man," bringing $77 million to the state's economy in 2004, up from $25 million in 2003. The incentives offer a tax credit of 25% for wages paid to state residents working on Illinois sets, with an additional 10% for producers hiring from economically disadvantaged neighborhoods.

To lure production to its state, New Mexico offers tax rebates of up to 20% on local spending, dollar-for-dollar salary matches for job training and promotion, and no-interest loans of as much as $15 million a production. Since the incentives were introduced in 2002, 30 movies have been filmed in New Mexico, and the New Mexico Film Office says those productions directly contributed about $133 million to the state economy over the last three years.

Few states have gone from zero to hero faster than Louisiana. Introduced in July 2002, its production incentives have generated a surge in film and TV movie production that are creating a new moviemaking entrepreneurial class.

In 2004, 27 feature films and TV movies were made in the state, up from five features in 2003. By the end of this year, the state will have hosted Washington's "Déjà Vu," Ashley Judd's "Bug," Sarah Jessica Parker's "Failure to Launch," Martin Lawrence's "Big Momma's House 2," Kevin Costner's "The Guardian" and the television series "Thief."

For movie producers, the Louisiana deal was almost too good to be true because it didn't rigidly distinguish between money spent in or out of the state (that loophole was recently closed). Universal Pictures filmed only about 30% of its new thriller "Skeleton Key" in Louisiana, but nevertheless earned about $3.4 million in state tax credits on the film's $43-million budget.

Louisiana last year paid out $67 million in tax credits to movie and TV productions, and has dispensed about $40 million already in 2005. The state estimates that 2004 productions generated $39.4 million in production-related payroll to state residents and a total of $125.9 million into the economy.

Steve Scalise is a tax-cutting conservative in the Louisiana House of Representatives. He does not consider show business a leftist blight. Instead, the Republican legislator sees Hollywood as part of his state's economic fabric and a spigot for job growth.

"I don't know much about the film industry outside of going to the movies," Scalise said. But what he does understand is that tax policy can drive economic development, which the state sorely needed when he was first sworn into office nine years ago.

Several years into that first term, a Scalise constituent from the New Orleans suburb of Harahan named Alex Middleton complained that he couldn't make ends meet with his New Orleans Studios, particularly because Canada offered production incentives and a weak currency compared with the U.S. dollar.

"He said, 'They are filming French Quarter scenes in Vancouver. What can you do to help?' " Scalise recalled Middleton telling him. Movie production in Louisiana had slumped from about $70 million in good years to about $20 million in lean ones.

The state was losing more than movie shoots. From 1995 to 2000, Louisiana had a net population loss of 76,000, the only Southeast state to see more people leave than arrive.

"We used to be just oil and gas," Scalise said. "And I saw [Hollywood] as an industry that just fit really well." So Scalise wrote a group of bills offering tax credits to Hollywood.
Scalise's first attempt went down in flames — "I got slaughtered in committee," he said — but the next bill passed in 2002. Although the bill was too late to save Middleton's studio (which is now running under a new owner), it immediately started attracting Hollywood scouts.

"My goal was to get $100 million in the first three years," Scalise said. "Now we think this can be a $1-billion industry."

New Orleans is famous for its Mardi Gras baubles, and Dan Kelly's Beads by the Dozen has helped adorn many drunken revelers. But now Dan and his brother Kevin have found a business that's even more fun than making Mardi Gras necklaces: converting commercial warehouses into movie soundstages. The brothers operate 28 warehouses, and space that recently housed coffee beans and copper is being used for "Big Momma's House 2" and "Déjà Vu."

"It's great business," said Kevin Kelly. "And when products just sit in buildings, it's not very exciting."

Inside a converted Kelly warehouse in New Orleans' Elmwood Industrial Park portable air conditioners burn through $1,500 of fuel a day, pumping additional frigid air across the sets for the "Big Momma's House" sequel, trying to keep pace with Louisiana's oppressive summer weather.
"We shed about 17% on our budget" by coming to Louisiana, said the film's producer, David T. Friendly. "And that was the difference between development hell and a green light. That's amazing."

As Friendly spoke, director John Whitesell was rehearsing a scene in which Big Momma (Lawrence) visits a luxurious spa. The spa was filled with a dozen beautiful women wearing little more than a towel, yet the Louisiana talent pool was so thin that the film's casting director had to hire women from Texas and Tennessee.

Filmmakers say that's part of the downside of relocating to the state: There aren't enough qualified people to go around.

"I've done a lot of movies in Canada and the trades are built up," said "Big Momma" production designer Craig Stearns. "It's hard to find people here. They're new, and there's a lot of competition."

It's not just personnel that's in short supply. "Big Momma's House 2" costume designer Debrae Little said she had to import everything from buttons to bluejeans from California.

The state's infamous heat and humidity means working outside can be unbearable, and thunderstorms can create ear-splitting rackets inside the uninsulated warehouses. "Glory Road" star Josh Lucas said that while filming the upcoming basketball movie in a gym, interior temperatures reached 135 degrees. "Things," Lucas said, "were starting to melt."

Adrian Staton is following the money. The actress just moved to New Orleans, convinced it was the best place to establish her career. A USC graduate, Staton had been living in South Carolina, making mostly TV commercials for local businesses such as King's Grant Golf Course in Fayetteville, N.C.

"I was thinking about moving to Los Angeles," Staton said. "But when my agent told me she was going to open a New Orleans branch, I thought it would really help me build my resume. And it's much cheaper to live here than in Los Angeles."

Since moving to Louisiana this year, Staton still has to take jobs on the side to make ends meet but has been cast in one feature film and one TV movie — work that she previously couldn't get in Los Angeles and South Carolina. The very day she returned to New Orleans from a summer vacation, she was back on the audition circuit.

The push for tax incentives may be anchored in job creation, but civic pride has played a crucial role in putting the issue on the map. Illinois jump-started its incentive legislation soon after 2002's "Chicago" was filmed in Canada. "The embarrassment of 'Chicago' being made in Toronto brought [incentives] to everyone's attention," said Brenda Sexton, managing director of the Illinois Film Office.

New York similarly didn't get its incentive bills signed until after 2004's "New York Minute" was made in Toronto and the 2003 television movie "Rudy: The Rudy Giuliani Story" was filmed in Montreal.

"They never gave us a chance," Katherine Oliver, commissioner of the New York City Mayor's Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting, said of the Giuliani movie. She also said the Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen movie "New York Minute" left the state for Canada in "a New York minute. People wouldn't even consider New York because there wasn't a tax credit."

It's the same reason so many movies are leaving California: Even factoring in travel and hotel costs, it's often cheaper to leave the state. A June analysis conducted by the Independent Film & Television Alliance showed that a hypothetical movie that would cost $19.24 million to produce in Los Angeles would cost $17.8 million in New Mexico and $18 million in Louisiana.

"I've been trying for years to try to get [California legislators] to do something for us. And they don't seem interested," said Jim Brubaker, president of physical production for Universal Pictures. "They say they can't afford it. If California had any kind of incentive, you would never have to leave the state."

Said Silver, who produced Schwarzenegger's "Predator" and "Commando": "They are driving the industry out of the state. You have a governor who was a movie star. It doesn't make any sense. They could fix it in one minute if they wanted to — but no one seems to want to."

(Times staff writer Mary McNamara contributed to this report.)

After reading this article, my filmmaker friend Curtis said:

It reminds me a lot of what Walter Murch once wrote in his essay, comparing big budget films shot on celluloid to frescos. Digital represents the artist moving to the canvas. Sure, it won't be as impressive as a fresco, but every now and then you'll get a Picasso. The fat little girl in Indiana who makes the next Lawrence of Arabia on video.

As for movies moving out of state - it's not just limited to other states. They're moving to other countries. Shooting in Canada and Romania because of cheaper costs. Everything is being outsourced. It's a sign of a shifting economy and we should see it as a wake-up call, not just a small crack in the dam. The dam will burst one day and we'd better be ready to move with the times.

Totally. You either embrace the new ways and learn how to profit from them, or you stick to the old ones and risk becoming obsolete.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

The Hollywood Experiment

Here's a clever idea—give new, fresh film directors a chance to break into Hollywood by grafting the principles behind "open source" programming onto filmmaking:

The Hollywood Experiment

Objective: To break every Hollywood convention

Description: Quite simply, we want to make a movie using the talents and creativity of actors, directors, and crew from all over the world. Is it possible to make a movie without ever meeting anyone? We want to find out.

So, how do you fit in?

Zone15 Studios is giving you the opportunity to be a part of an opensource film bound for Sundance and Cannes. You write the script, design the set, direct the actors, and film the scene. That's right, the movie is yours! We show you how the last scene ended, and you take it from there.

Every two weeks, Zone15 Studios will call for the next scene in their revolutionary new film--The Hollywood Experiment. The call will be posted on www.craigslist.org and www.TheHollywoodExperiment.com . Applicants will have two weeks to create and submit their original scene (see official rules). The producers will select one scene from each call as the winning entry. Winners will be notified by email and on our site www.TheHollywoodExperiment.com. The winning entry will then be posted at www.TheHollywoodExperiment.com along with the call for the next scene.

When all the scenes have been selected, the Producers at Zone15 Studios will create and publish the final film. Remember, this movie is headed for the biggest film festivals in the world! So be creative, inventive, funny, dramatic, professional, and daring. Only the very best scenes will be chosen.

Good luck, and don't be afraid to take a risk!

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Peniferella Creative... great web site design!

This is a shameless plug for a close friend. A well-deserved plug, nevertheless, but now you know.

My very first impression of Jena Starkes was in the basement offices of 96, rue St. Dominique, Paris, France... headquarters of The Planet, our school newspaper where we forged our cutting journalistic barb. I looked up from my Mac Plus to see Jena do a flawless impression of Butthead from Beavis & Butthead.

Shut up, Beavis.
*insert a guttural pre-pubescent laugh*

And then she did it again, perfectly. And again. Within five minutes, I don't think I ever laughed so hard. That was, oh, almost 17 years ago. (Holy crap, that was almost 17 years ago!)

After college, we kept in touch, then lost contact for a while. By the time she looked me up again in San Francisco in 2000, we had discovered we both had the filmmaking fire. In fact, Jena had already made three short films and was working on her forth. So we collaborated on a 3 minute film of mine, Metronome.

Around that time, Jena began shoring up her web design portfolio and my how well the years have treated her since then. She took the headlong plunge into Flash and it shows. Why, just go see for yourself:


In fact, I recently recommended her to the producers of Something In The Clearing, and they loved her work.

So if you need a cool, original web site design, Jena's your gal. She's a pro, she'll try hard to work within your budget, and (though she might never say so herself) she takes a lot of time to explain things that you don't understand. For that last reason alone, she's worth every dime.

Plus, she's just damned funny.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

CHESS: (Don't) Bring out your Queen

Here, on move 19, White chooses to exchange Knights which leaves his Rook unprotected. This leads to his Rook getting captured, and the c2 pawn, plus an exchange of Queens. By move 23, White also misses a King-Rook fork which destroys his last realistic chance to win. Gallantly he strides on for 38 more moves hoping that Black makes a mistake to allow him a pawn promotion or a stalemate, but to no avail.

The seeds of White's doom were planted on move 2 when White boldly brought out his Queen to try a four move checkmate with a Bishop battery. Black decides to teach White a lesson by pushing White's Queen back between his own pieces like a bad pinball game. Instead of using his opening moves to developing his pieces, White instead spends these precious moves struggling to keep his Queen out of harm's way.

View this game online interactively here.

1. e4 e5
2. Qd1h5 Nb8c6
3. Bf1c4 Qd8f6
4. d3 h6
5. g4 g6
6. Qh5h3 Bf8c5
7. Ng1f3 h5
8. gxh5 Rh8xh5
9. Qh3g4 Ng8h6
10. Qg4g3 d6
11. Bc1g5 Bc5xf2
12. Qg3xf2 Rh5xg5
13. Nf3xg5 Qf6xg5
14. h4 Qg5g4
15. Rh1g1 Qg4f4
16. Nb1d2 Bc8g4
17. Rg1f1 Nc6d4
18. Ra1c1 Nd4f3
19. Nd2xf3 Qf4xc1
20. Ke1e2 Qc1xc2
21. Ke2e3 Qc2xf2
22. Rf1xf2 Bg4e6
23. b3 Nh6g4
24. Ke3e2 Ng4xf2
25. Ke2xf2 O-O-O
26. Nf3g5 Be6xc4
27. bxc4 Rd8f8
28. Ng5h7 Rf8h8
29. Nh7f6 Rh8xh4
30. Kf2g3 Rh4f4
31. Nf6d5 Rf4f1
32. a4 c5
33. Nd5e7 Kc8d7
34. Ne7d5 f5
35. Nd5e3 f4
36. Kg3g2 Rf1a1
37. a5 Ra1a2
38. Kg2f3 Ra2xa5
39. Ne3d5 Ra5a3
40. Kf3e2 Kd7e6
41. Nd5c7 Ke6f6
42. Nc7b5 Ra3a2
43. Ke2f3 Kf6e6
44. Nb5c7 Ke6d7
45. Nc7d5 a5
46. Nd5c3 Ra2d2
47. Nc3b5 Rd2xd3
48. Kf3g4 Rd3g3
49. Kg4h4 g5
50. Kh4h5 f3
51. Kh5g6 f2
52. Nb5xd6 f1=Q
53. Nd6f7 Kd7e7
54. Nf7xe5 Qf1f6
55. Kg6h5 Rg3h3
56. Kh5g4 Qf6e6
57. Kg4xg5 Qe6f6
58. Kg5g4 Rh3h6
59. Ne5f3 Rh6g6
60. Nf3g5 Rg6xg5
61. Kg4h4 Qf6h6 0-1

Monday, January 23, 2006

THREADING OVER DARK: Fangoria article

Just heard that the film I worked on last year got an article on Fangoria's web site:

January 23: Final, gruesome THREADING trailer* now on-line

Writer/director G. William Stechman alerted Fango that the final official trailer for his grisly shocker THREADING OVER DARK has been posted at the movie’s official website. The news comes with Stechman’s warning that the trailer* is unrated and intended for mature audiences only, reflecting his uncompromising aims for the serial-killer thriller itself. “This is not a ‘fun’ horror film made to entertain you—this is a film you see once and go home shaking,” Stechman says. “Most horror films make a promise to you—a promise with the audience—that even though the horrible events you are seeing on screen are ‘scary,’ the lead character will escape, that he’ll find the guy responsible for killing his friend at the film’s final frame and seek revenge, and the audience can then breathe a sigh of relief. THREADING breaks every promise it makes to the audience. No one is left untouched. There is no sigh of relief. Horror films need to remember what they ought to be—horrific.”

Editing and scoring of the movie are currently underway, with Stechman anticipating a summer 2006 release. The THREADING site also includes behind-the-scenes video and photo downloads. —Michael Gingold

* Do NOT watch the trailer if you're squeamish about blood and guts!

Sunday, January 22, 2006


Ever since the middle of October, it seems like every spare day has been taken up with some kind of project or social activity. But Theading Over Dark has wrapped, my mother has come to visit for the holidays and left, and only now am I recovering from an overtime-filled 24 day shoot of Something In The Clearing. After a couple days of playing Doom and catching up on emails, I've finally cleared off my desk and desktop to finish writing my film ghoti.

Things have been developing swiftly behind the scenes, too—my producer thinks they may be able to get distribution for ghoti, so I've been waiting for some long, uninterrupted time to just write.

I went around today and unplugged every phone, nailed down every door, stocked up on Ramen and Hot Pockets, brewed five hundred thousand large vats of coffee... yeah, that ought to do it.

Almost forgot: there are some new trailers on the Threading Over Dark site. And the Something In The Clearing web site is up, with new pictures.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

My latest obsessions

Netflix: my queue now is at 320 titles. Ludicrious! I'll never be able to watch them all. (Yet it is fun adding them.)

Lost on iTunes: I missed tons of episodes of Lost, but have broken down... opting instead to pay $2 per show to see them on my flatscreen monitor. Way right decision.

Serenity & Firefly: Why why why why did this show go off the air? And what was Joss thinking about Wash?

Nicheflix: I was looking for a classic French short done years ago. Now you can rent multi-region DVDs like Netflix!

Statcounter on Wednesday: why did my blog get 43 hits in one day???

Powerstructure: I am counting the minutes until I'm able to download this awesome little application for writers.

Something In The Clearing IMDB entry: I check every day to see if this film is now in the data base... not because I'm that OCD, but because I personally added this film and am curious to see how long it takes to get info on the IMDB.

Friday, January 20, 2006

When cash cows overeat, they can't move

This story amazes me... a lot of people love 7th Heaven, but now the show is a victim of its own popularity. I don't call too many things stupid... but THIS IS STUPID! Here the WB has a proven market base, and they can't give the audience what they want because it's too expensive???

As is usually the case with increasingly popular series, I suspect the actors' (and directors' and other crew members') agents are demanding a larger slice of the pie. How ironic that the 7th Heaven cash cow seems to have died a death of greed when its story is about a Christian minister.

WB: '7th Heaven' canceled over costs
Network says show is too expensive, despite ratings

Tuesday, January 17, 2006; Posted: 11:07 a.m. EST (16:07 GMT)

PASADENA, California (AP) -- The Camden family is disappearing from television in May strictly for financial reasons: the WB's top executive said Sunday that the network is losing $16 million this year on "7th Heaven."

The family drama, the most popular program in the network's history, will end its run after 10 years. The decision seems irreversible despite an Internet campaign to save it, even though "7th Heaven" is still the WB's second highest-rated show after "Gilmore Girls."

Production costs tend to jump for television series as they get older, largely because the salaries of actors and others involved grow with success. "7th Heaven," about a family of seven and all their friends, has a large cast.

Reruns of "7th Heaven" were fading in the ratings, too, and that made it tougher for the network to recoup its investment, said Garth Ancier, the WB's top executive.

"As much as we all love the show, we do have to run a business," Ancier said.

Other older WB series, "Smallville" and "Gilmore Girls," don't have the same problem, he said.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Love Song

At last, someone out there understands how modern romance works!

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The Pruden Line

I lived many years abroad, about 11 in all—eight in France and three in the UK. An uneasy compromise I had to make when moving away from the U.S. was what to take with me and what I would leave behind. What I left behind, I wanted to have it placed in a secure living space for the duration and I had to feel okay with leaving it there. With each move (I moved four times), I had to whittle down all my memories into fewer and fewer boxes. Finally, after I moved from France to the UK, I had distilled fifteen boxes into only two and those two boxes were left at my wife's house just outside of Paris. Inside those boxes were pictures from my trip to the Soviet Union, various trinkets and articles I held dear, and—most importantly—letters written in longhand from my recently deceased father. Because I had so little correspondence written directly from him, these were the most precious items I possessed.

So it was a devastating blow when I heard that those boxes had been mistaken for trash and unceremoniously thrown out. It was as if my father had died all over again.

Years have passed and I've made new memories, collected new photos... life goes on. But when one door closes, another is sure to open eventually. I must keep reminding myself of this.

About a week ago, I got an email invitation to a Yahoo email group from some genealogical enthusiasts researching "Pruden", my family name. I had always known my father was interested in our family line (on both sides) and had worked on the Pruden line in his spare time as a hobby. Mind you, my dad was born in 1929 and the bulk of his research was done in the 70s, 80s and 90s, where fax machines were just starting to be used and internet wasn't anything more than a toy. After he died in 1997, I collected most of his research and dumped it in a storage box which I hauled back with me to California. And here it sat, in my wife's closet, waiting idly by for me to rediscover its secrets.

Until now.

Today I remembered about a large self-published book of genealogical research my father's long-lost cousin had put together. It was three inches think and extremely well researched, including maps, pictures of famous tombstones, 200 year old letters, etc. I wonder if that book would be useful now? I wondered, now that I was joining this Yahoo email group. So I dug out the box—it was lodged in the farthest recesses of the closet (of course)—and I opened it up. Instead of just finding the book, what I also found was shocking... inside were reams and reams of handwritten letters, from my father and to my father, about various ancestors he had been tracking down. There were pictures of my father's mother and her family, whom I had never seen. It was like finding lost treasure, valuable to no one else in the world but me. It was almost as if my father were sitting there, next to me—as he always did when I was fiddling with something cool I had just found—silently smoking his Carlton Lights and smiling his pleasant, contented smile.

I always knew you'd find this, he might have said. I was just waiting until you were ready. Consider it my way of being with you when you feel alone.

His research goes back as far as John Prudden of Kings Walden, County Hertford who was likely born around 1416. A simple Google search on John Prudden reveals so much information that my father would have been astonished to see me find it so easily.

Monday, January 16, 2006

"It's a wrap!" (Something In The Clearing)

The last shot of the day is called a "martini". The last shot of the film is called an "olive".

Tonight was the "olive" for Something In The Clearing, which racks up a total of 24 shooting days, the latter half of which were almost all overtime. We're beat. All of us. I have pictures I'll be posting soon, especially a great one of Scott Cramer, our 2nd A.C., looking like he's fallen asleep on the steps tonight while slating the next-to-last shot at 8:45 PM.

Today saw the wrap of Julie Anchor, Kurt Johnson and Aubrey Harwell. Ah, what a great time we had with them!

My final moments with cast and crew tonight were spent seeing some of our clips cut roughly together. My nemesis—scene 67—was shot over 4 separate shooting days and somehow does not offend so sharply that a layman viewer would ever really know. Besides, we get to color correct in post. Suckas!

Boat drinks all around, baby. I'm taking off the next two weeks to start working on my own films now. Stay tuned for pics and more stories.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Channel 13 Pictures

Here are some snapshots from the CBS story on Something In The Clearing.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

PRESS RELEASE: Something in The Clearing

So two days ago, we were shooting at a bar and we had a CBS reporter on set interviewing the lead actor and producer. Sound Recordist Dave Losko (brilliantly) suggested we turn on the bar's TV to watch her report live... while she was talking behind us only 5 feet away. Click the link to see the live report. I'm the balding guy with glasses.

Here's the press release (which I'm proud to say I had a hand in rewriting):

January 7, 2006

Hollywood comes to the Sacramento Area to shoot a feature film and raise awareness about missing children.
Something in the Clearing presently being shot in the Sacramento area.

Newly founded film production company NARROW GATE PRODUCTIONS has been shooting Something in The Clearing, a feature film about child abduction based on multiple federal kidnapping investigations. With help from Michael Dryhurst—whose film credits include the Superman films, Exorcist II and Hope & GlorySomething in The Clearing is shaping up to Hollywood standards. Film star Luke Goss of Blade II, The Man and Zig Zag fame is playing the lead role with a supporting cast and crew of over 50.

Executive Producer Gary Hamner is making Something in The Clearing to raise awareness about missing and exploited children. “Many people don’t know how frequently children are abducted,” says Hamner. “For example, one Department of Justice report states that almost 800,000 children were reported missing in 2002, which is one child every 40 seconds.” In addition to using this film to raise awareness about missing children, Hamner is presently working to partner with a missing children’s foundation. Hamner is also involved in making a deal for a 21-screen showing of the movie at 10 theaters in New York and 11 in Los Angeles.

The next filming on location is scheduled for this Monday, January 9th from 7:30AM to 7:30PM at the Valencia Club in Penryn; all media are welcome to attend. Filming for the day is a dingy honky-tonk bar scene with Luke Goss, the lead actor.

For more information contact: Gary Hamner 916-862-7624

Narrow Gate Productions
13389 Folsom Blvd Suite 300-169
Folsom CA 95630

Friday, January 06, 2006

Luke Goss on set

You can have brains, you can have good looks, but you won't go far in anything without good manners and Luke Goss has got that in spades. Luke plays the part of Randy in Something In the Clearing, the film I'm doing Script Supervision for these last few weeks. All told, Luke is just a genuinely nice guy. I should be so lucky to work with him again on anything.

Luke first rose to fame in the UK in a pop band called Bros, then saddled into some theatrical and TV work, and finally into films. If you saw last year's The Man with Samuel L. Jackson and Eugene Levy, then you'd recognize Luke as the villain they go up against (pictured at right here). If you saw Blade 2, then you'd have seen him playing Nomak, the main villain. I suppose it's about time that he gets to play a good guy in Something in the Clearing, huh?

A strange thought crossed my mind as I sat in our Video Village, where all the preview monitors and sound equipment are set up: Luke's character's name is Randy... which is strange, because "randy" also happens to be Brit-speak for "horny". This might not be an issue if we weren't trying to market Something In The Clearing to the UK, but we had already started filming so there was little to be done about it. I did breathe a sigh of relief that no other characters in the film were called Fanny. My, that would be very naughty indeed.

I'm not clear who started it, but last night around midnight, everyone in Video Village started mimicking Austin Powers. Do I make you Randy, baby? Do I make you hoooor-ny? Does this speck of dust make you want to shag?

Yes, Luke really is that handsome in real life. And no, he really doesn't make me randy.