Sunday, January 29, 2006

The Social Welfare State Hard at Work


Positive Development

Well here's a positive development. According to The Independent, a UK newsrag, John Lasseter, the Pixar guru recently named as head of Disney Animation, has axed Toy Story 3. The story is that Disney had put 100 writers and animators on the job in opposition to Pixar which did not what to dillute the franchise with crappy sequels. Though I suspect those 100 writers and animators may have a different opinion, this looks like Pixar is going to stay true to course.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Pixar Crawls into the Mouse Hole

Wow. Steve Jobs on the board of Disney. Pixar employees cashing checks from the mouse.

That can only mean one of two things. Either Disney is going to start putting out remarkably better product or Pixar is going to make The Santa Claus Part 5.

I wonder when Disney will try to renegotiate contracts with Pixar employees.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The Savages are Becoming Cannibals

Well, Soderbergh and IFC have announced that they will release films simultaneously in theaters and on DVD (or in IFC's case on their channel.) Regal Cinemas, which is a major nationwide chain, has said they won't show Soderbergh's film in their theaters. Why would they? I haven't heard if they're going to do the same thing with IFC, which has said it will release it's next 24 films that way, but I wouldn't be at all surprised.

I think that a requirement for running a film studio should be that you have to spend a year running a small business. You should have to actually live in the real world of supply and demand.

Think about this - you bust your ass to get a small business loan and buy a franchise - say KFC and then bust your ass to build up your business so you can make a living. THEN KFC opens it's own store across the street and starts selling it's chicken cheaper.

I mean what do they think is going to happen????? It's called cannibalizing your market.

Producers need theaters- if not for the billions of dollars that are actually made that way each year - then for the publicity value alone. If you CANNIBALIZE your audience something's going to hurt. If Toyota made the Prius and another compact sized hybrid car for around the same price then what would happen? They wouldn't sell twice the number of cars, they'd sell the same number, but half of each. The cost of producing each line would rise (no economies of scale) and the profit margin would SHRINK. Unless they raised the price in which case that hybrid Honda makes might start looking pretty good.

It's funny the way Hollywood/ Entertainment is thought of as a unique business. In the real world if a product doesn't sell, it doesn't get put on the shelves. In Hollywood if a product doesn't sell it must be the audience that's changing and different shelves are looked for. It's really just a shifting of blame in a world where performance has nothing to do with promotion. I mean think about it - everything that's coming out of the major mouths of Hollywood these days relates to: "Ticket sales are down - DVD's leveling off - the AUDIENCE is changing." I mean even detroit EVENTUALLY figured out that no one was buying their cars because they were making crappy cars. But then there were businessmen running the car companies.

Try this one on for size: People want cars that get better gas mileage - Instead - maybe we can get everyone to live closer together so they don't have to drive as far.

Now while I'll admit that I rarely darken the doorstep of my local multi-plex it has more to do with the stage of life I'm at rather than the easy availability of DVDs (made all the more available by Netflix.) I mean home video began years ago and I think I probably watched the same number of movies on VHS as I have on DVD. Sure those DVDs look better but do I really need the 10 minutes of crap they scrape together for most of them? (Do I really NEED (really, really NEED) the director's commentary on "Stealth?") But if I could afford to go to a movie theater (meaning, baby sitter, dinner, theater tickets) I would do it every every weekend.

As it stands I still do pine for a darkened room filled with people (as long as they realize they aren't sitting at home in their living room and that pointing lasers at the screen doesn't really mean they're touching Julia Roberts...) So this news of simultaneous release saddens my heart. It will eventually cause the theatrical market to shrink causing studios to raise the price of DVDs so they can make their money and it will eventually make it that much harder for independent films to find an audience because who's going to buy a DVD without Jennifer Aniston's smiling face on the cover?? And I mean, she can only do so many films in a year.

In fact the indies are going to be the first ones that get burned by this. From a practical point of view, if I owned a theater chain, I'd tell IFC to go fuck themselves when they came knocking on my door to show their movies. And a year from now when they realize that they're not making the same money they used to, because HBO has no interest in buying a film that's played 75 times IFC and they come back to me (Mr. Theater owner, desperate for a screening time) I'm probably going to say, "Maybe it's time we sat down and talked about the percentages again..."

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Currently Listening To... a Soundtrack in my head.

Sometimes when I direct scenes - or visualize scenes in my head I have a soundtrack running. I do this when I write too. I find that a song will set a mood or a tempo even if it really has nothing to do with the material at hand. It's mostly the music. It probably goes along nicely with my idea that a film is like a Symphony. It's a long an complicated theory about how each musician has his own skill that lends to the overall voice, the way individual technicians, actors etc have their own skills that lend to the overall voice of the film. There's a whole lot more too it, but being as I've had the SAME DAMN COLD for two months now, I really don't know that I can put it together coherently enough.

Oddly, though I frequently have music playing in my head, I'm not really good at writing with music on in reality - though I can tune it out, so to speak - while I'm working at Java Man - the little coffee shop I frequent at the beach. See - no coherency to this at all.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

A New One and An Old Superstition

I started a new script, though I'm not going to talk about this one. I have a writing superstition that started while I was a journalism major in college. Thusly: if I talk about a story I'm writing then it's already been told and I am no longer able to write it. I used to think it was really just a cop out for when I got lazy and didn't want to write, but it seems to have a strange reality to it.

Anyway, on to other things.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Revenge of the Sith

I finally watched Revenge of the Sith.

I have to hand it to George Lucas. It takes a man with some real balls to name this film (especially after the last two) with a word that is an anagram for "shit."

And that's all I'm gonna say. As a kid who stared wide-eyed at the original Star Wars (and one who has plunged heavily into the world of Joseph Campbell, Hero With a Thousand Faces...etc...) suffice it to say that I have been VASTLY disappointed by the last three cartoons from Lucasfilm. I have a theory about why they're so bad (when the originals were so great,) but I am going to once again restrain myself from film criticism.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Cel Phone Soap

I heard on the radio this morning, though I've been unable to verify it anywhere else, that one of the networks (either CBS or ABC) is in development on a soap opera they plan to broadcast via cel phone.

Your phone would have to be able to receive video for this. They're planning 2-3 minute episodes and are going to run it like an actual series.

At least that's what I heard. Though this is essentially what I've been talking about I see two problems with this.

One: Not very many people have video capable cel phones at the moment.
Two: 2-3 minutes isn't enough time. But I could be wrong. It's my impression that character development and drama might need a bit more time than two or three minutes per episode, but then again...

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Strange Brew

And as a 3rd post (I really should save these up and post them over a period of days. (or at least as one post,))

My sister gave me the DVD of Strange Brew, the Bob and Doug McKenzie film. I guess it's a bit of a guilty pleasure since there's no way in the world to classify it as anything close to the pinacle of cinema. But there are some great lines in it.

"There was nothing to do. All the bowling alleys had been destroyed, so I spent my time looking for beer."

"Fleshy headed mutant, are you friendly?"
"No way, eh! Like, radiation has made me an enemy of civilization!"

"If I didn't have puke breath, I'd kiss you."

Sorry. Please disregard my previous post about Napoleon Dynamite. It's clear I have no taste in film.

Napoleon Dynamite

As a 2nd post...

After months of watching so-called hip people walking around town with "Vote for Pedro" shirts I finally decided to watch Napoleon Dynamite. I'm halfway through and my big question is - - is there any really compelling reason for me to finish watching???

In truth I probably will only because Haylie Duff is in it. HANG ON - given that this is the internet and given that I'll probably get some traffic from some bonehead searching for Haylie Duff for some sick and twisted reason, let me point out that I have actually worked with Haylie (and Hillary) on Lizzie McGuire and had a lot of fun with them. In fact Haylie was an amazing kid because while Hillary (her little sister) was getting all the attention on Lizzie, she was happy to stand in for her and appear on camera occasionally as background. There was ample reason for jealousy and I NEVER saw it. Of course I think their Mom had a lot to do with it. She was a great lady too.

ANYWAY... back to the DVD player.


I got an email a few days ago from a reader in New York. It seems we're working on similar projects, though what's similar about them is our approach to distribution. We're both thinking of a series of shorts to be broadcast, or narrowcast, on the web.

I can't imagine we're the only two. It's only a matter of time until someone (perhaps one of us) hits with something like this and it takes off. And when it does then things are going to change.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Back to the Movies

Well, back to made-for-TV movies. We spent the holidays with family out of town and during the week spent several nights watching the entire series, Into the West. Overall it's excellent and I would absolutely recommend it to anyone interested in the history of the west, particularly the history of the Indian Wars.

The film, all 9 hours, follows an extended family, part white, part Lakota, from 1825 to 1890 ending with the massacre at Wounded Knee. It's a kind of fictionalized version of the book, "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee," which is an American History book that everyone should read. If you think you know American History, I guarantee you do not. The interesting thing is that it's not alternative history or pseudo history the way some books are, but a slice of history that was not in your high school books.

Anyway, I'm glad that someone like Spielberg got behind this and got it made because it's truly exceptional in it's scope and also gripping and emotional in it's story telling. There are a couple of pretty strong Father/Daughter moments that had me (as the father of a daughter) getting a little misty eyed. It was also very well done in terms of it's historical accuracy and set dressing. Really very good. And, as the owner of tipi (which I've spent a good deal of time camping in) it was a blast to see all the tipis in it.

Hmmm. Interesting. In building the links above, I just read a few reviews of Into the West on Amazon and apparently the DVD version has been edited from the version shown on TNT. Apparently some of the more graphic footage has been cut out of the Wounded Knee part. Considering how brutal it actually is that's saying something. Curious. I wonder what the story is with that. It's certainly out of the norm for DVD versions.

Oh and in case anyone's wondering, this American Indian thing is kind of close to my heart. You can check this out. It's an organization called Futures for Children that my wife and I have been involved with for a number of years that is really great.