Tag Archives: indie movie

Do affordable special effects open the door for indie spectacles with story?

2 Jul , 2011,
Chip Street
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Have special effects finally gotten so accessible that indie spectacle filmmakers can focus on story?

Red Giant Software Magic Bullet 11

The short film Plot Device was put together to showcase the new Magic Bullet Suite 11 from Red Giant. So yeah, it’s a “gee whiz look at the affordable but awesome FX extravaganza” whose primary aim is to highlight the software.

But it goes a step beyond that, and includes some great acting, a fun story, something of an arc, and a truckload of homages that are lovingly included (my favorite: The simple fact that he’s barefoot throughout the story).

Read More…

Grave Dawn: WWII indie movie

26 Sep , 2009,
Chip Street
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2 comments

gravedawn

Charlie Hofheimer (Father’s Day, Black Hawk Down, The Village, Blur) co-producing WWII indie film based on a true story.

A few years ago I worked on a film project titled “BLUR“. It was a challenging experience, but through it I met a lot of people, many of whom I still work with when I can, and some of whom continue to work in the field in LA or elsewhere.

Among those are Charlie Hofhemier, R. Alan Shoef and D.J. Turner. Along with their colleague Shannon Lucio they’ve continued their creative collaboration, and are hard at work on a WWII project titled “Grave Dawn” under the banner of the start-up independent production company Filament Features, in association with Kindest Cut, LLC.

They’ve started with a 25 minute short, shot on the RED at 4K (making a high quality film-out possible). They’re seeking finishing funds for the short, and hope to use that to raise capital for the feature-length version. Smart business people that they are, they’ve shot it in such a way that all the footage used in the short can be integrated into the feature, so they only need to shoot another 65 minutes or so to complete the full length version. And, they’ve left room for as-yet-unshot significant roles that will interest a “name” performer to add to the distribution value.

I had a chance to catch up with Alan and find out more about the project.

CS – So tell me, what brought you guys together on this film?

RAS – We all met up during production on BLUR. We got along well and decided to work together on projects that mattered to us and demonstrated our skill at producing projects on time and within budget.

CS - And this is a project that matters. What’s the story behind it?

RAS - It’s based on the true story of a German Soldier in WWII, who is over-heard by his commanders making defeatist remarks about the German war effort in 1945. The soldier, named Erwin Bucholtz, is then re-located to the Eastern Front of Austria so that he may die at the hands of the Russians. Only when he arrives at his new camp does he realize his incredible luck, for he just missed the German offensive in Vienna. Erwin is instead put on guard duty of a group of starving and injured Russian POW’s. It’s at this moment he has a revelation in this story about karma and humanity in the middle of horror.

CS - The trailer looks fantastic. High production values, great performances, good sound… Where’d you shoot? What was the production like?

RAS - Grave Dawn was shot in Petaluma, California in the beginning of April 2009. This was because the equipment we wanted to use was based there, plus it turned out that the location stood in well for Austria in the Spring. Production lasted 5 days starting on a Wednesday on through Sunday. We shot the project on 2 RED One cameras. And used Jack Morocco Pyrotechnics for our explosions.

CS - And not just explosions, but you’ve got tanks, and artillery, and piles of guns. That’s serious shit.

RAS - Some of the equipment we used on this project was a German 88 — one of less than half a dozen in North America — a Russian T-38 battle tank, all kinds of other German artillery pieces, authentic 1930’s truck, Willie’s Jeep, too many rifles and machine guns to really keep track of… besides the MG-42. That thing shot something like 1500 rounds per minute! I’m proud to say that we were fully insured – thanks to the hard work of Charlie. It ended up being just over a 5th of our total budget – which wasn’t much to start with!! However it was well worth it. Most of our valuable resources wouldn’t even work with us with out it.

CS - It’s all in German, with English subtitles. Why is that?

RAS - We shot the project in German and Russian as we thought our markets would be larger in Europe.

CS - I hope that works out… and it shouldn’t exclude domestic distribution. The recent success of Inglourious Basterds shows that movie goers have an appetite for both WWII flicks and extensive subtitles [as further discussed at JohnAugust.com]. So it’s in the can, you’re well into post. What’s the status? What’s next?

RAS - At this point we’re finishing up Post Production, having just finished our first official trailer. It runs at 2 minutes and looks killer – IMO. Couldn’t be happier with it. We’re going to post it to our official site in the next couple of weeks. (www.filamentfeatures.com). We’re currently looking for After Effects artists for a few elements that we want to add in. Looking to finish the full short project by November 2009. Our goal is to use it to attract distributers and other financing elements to a feature length version.

CS - Well, I’m impressed. I’ve worked with you guys, and you’re a bunch of tireless, dedicated sons of bitches with that hard-to-find balance of commitment to creative integrity and business acumen… I know you’ll finish what you start. I’d work with you again in a heartbeat, and if anybody out there has the resources to help see this sucker to completion, they should want to jump in with both feet. Good luck! Pass my regards on to DJ and Charlie.

RAS - Much Thanks!!

pocahauntus

10 Jul , 2009,
Chip Street
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A few years ago I ended up talking with Veronica Craven about her upcoming slate of horror films. We chatted about me writing a zombie flick for her but that project didn’t come together (at least not with me).

pocahauntus-facepocahauntus-wardrobefullShe did, however, have a project going into production called “Pocahauntus” — a cheezy B horror flick shot on a dime. It aimed for fun straight-to-DVD fare and as far as I know it hit it. And come on, “Pocahauntus“? Somebody had to make a film called “Pocahauntus“.

I ended up doing a few character dev sketches for the film. Never saw it. But it’s on NetFlix. And here’s a few clips from YouTube.

enigma – low budget indie sci fi

5 Jul , 2009,
Chip Street
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4 comments

EnigmaPoster

FOLLOW UP: I’ve seen the movie. Here’s my review.

Stumbled across this series of clips today from the low budget sci fi actioner “Enigma” from The Shumway Brothers* and Frontier Studios.

Love to see this kind of ambitious filmmaking in the indie sci fi genre… the technology is so accessible and affordable now that films like this can be made for a fraction of what Hollywood does it for… and there’s no good excuse for it to look shitty any more unless shitty’s a “look” yer going for. (For another great looking no-budget indie sci fi action flick see The Men Who Fell -which I also haven’t seen but like the look as well.)

The Enigma rundown:

  • 50K budget
    Shot in HD on the Panasonic Varicam
    225 effects shots
    42 minutes long
    9 day shoot
    FX background shots are simply matte paintings handled in Combustion and PhotoShop

No I haven’t seen the whole thing, just the trailer and a few clips. My only negative comment(s) based on that: Googly eyed cartoon monkeys didn’t work in Lost In Space and I’m guessing they don’t work here; Why go to so much trouble to make something that’s not a short and not feature length? It might make an hour’s worth of TV programming with enough commercials but why the hell not make a feature and give yourself the best possible shot at distribution?

It’s a hell of a calling card though.

Here’s the trailer:

Clip One:

Clip Two: (Oh, Gawd, it’s that awful big-eyed cartoon monkey from Lost In Space. Was that necessary?)

Clip Three:

Go to their Website or YouTube channel to learn more.

FOLLOW UP: I’ve seen the movie. Here’s my review.

*I have lots of brothers. Maybe if I could talk one of them into making movies with me I’d be able to get this career off the ground.

"Away We Go" gains instant indie cred via hand drawn title font

16 Jun , 2009,
Chip Street
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3 comments

Away We Go is just the latest in a long line of “indie” films to leverage the oh-so-cool “hand drawn title” font, lending it serious street cred and instant indie validation before anyone even sees the film.

juno

Recently popularized by 2007’s JUNO, the quirky hand-made title font brought visions of diary entries and emo-teen angst-filled journal poems, setting appropriate audience expectations by screaming “We’re an honest unassuming micro-brew movie!”

nickandnorah

Leveraged again in 2008’s Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, the wacky font inferred the hand written liner notes of a home-made mix tape. Plus, it promises that the movie is probably intimate, personal and low-fidelity-artsy, reminding us of the days of cassette mix tapes and Bic-penned song lists rather than CD’s and laser printered liners.

awaywegoSo then does 2009’s Away We Go not only give us a title font designed in the margins of a high-school English quiz, but an entire poster cartooned/rotoscoped like a modern-day Yellow Submarine (1968) or 1971’s The Point… or more contemporarily, hearkening right back to 2007 and JUNO’s opening title sequence — or the JUNO Soundtrack cover (See below). How quirkily indie-filmishly self-referential and hip. (Do the kids say “hip” any more? Or am I just fixated on “hip” because mine hurts?)

juno2

Yes, the same design firm (Shadowplay Studio) did the titles for both JUNO and Nick and Norah (not sure yet about Away We Go, but I’m guessin’). Anyway, sure they do fine work and all. But how long will it be before looking just like JUNO has people saying “What, again?” instead of “Ooh! Again!”.

Got more examples? Please share.

NOTE: In all fairness and in the interest of full-disclosure, I really enjoyed JUNO, plan to see Nick and Norah (love me some Michael Cera – Superbad rocks) and think Away We Go has two of my favorite funny people in it. But come on. This Title design trend is going to become as stereotypically “indie” as the wacky Grampa character addicted to porn.