Saturday, March 31, 2012

"Hell's Bells" On The Set Photos

Here are few snaps taken on Friday by our glamorous lead actress, Eloisa Alaniz as she waits for her sequence. This is from a scene early in the film...Jesse James Cowser and Joshua Einertson are featured, along with production assistant and slate girl, Liz Danciu, and myself...

Friday, March 30, 2012

Interior Shoot on Hell's Bells Today

The longest scene in the movie got nibbled away at today. Here are some lobby cards...

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Morning Thoughts And Sunrise Shots


I had to stay up all night, it turns out, to give director/writer Austin Bosley of Bury Shelly fame, a ride to the airport. He's going to Canada to visit his girlfriend for a week. I figured that, since I would be up, I'd wait out the sunrise over a spot I've been wanting coverage of for a few years.

Times like these give me the opportunity to relish being a filmmaker. You see, I don't want to just work in the industry. I want to write and direct films. My films. Right now, I'm pissing off the guys who 'play by the rules'. You know the type: check the boxes, do what's expected, and then be accepted by the freemasonry of an industry that is too fat and all thumbs. I'm even pissing off The Industry by saying like this in my blog, if you ask the sort of guys I'm speaking of here.

I knew guys like this in my former profession. They were the sort of fellows who loved the idea of being an agent. They loved that title before their name: "Special Agent". They loved that badge -- a FEDERAL badge! -- that they got to carry around. It sure came in handy in social situations. Yeah, they also thought it was pretty cool to carry a weapon. Damn, it sure is cool to be a federal agent! But then came time to do the actual work of being a federal agent. These guys were really good at putting together their file folders. Their desks looked sharp! They were good at talking to the boss. But, funny thing, turned out they weren't all that interested in the actual work of being an investigator. All that digging through paperwork and dusting things and the surveillance ops -- oh no, that's really boring! These were the guys who would also be sticking knives in the backs of their colleagues, jockeying for position at all times, because he who can't do usually gets real good at office politics and goes into management. Ultimately, the guys like this who I knew ended up leaving the profession after only a few years, while I ended up being  handed an operational branch serving national-level directives on a global playing field -- on only my second assignment.

Then there's the guys who had been cops for twenty years and somehow got recruited into the national security world. They hated guys like me who had started on the national security level at a young age and had already forgotten more than they would know about it. See, these guys figured they had been around longer, 'paid their dues'. It was their turn to be the hotshot. When they were faced with their limits, it really pissed them off to see someone younger going farther, in spite of the fact that said younger guy was actually more experienced at doing the job.

I've had the guys who have 'paid their dues' actually acknowledge in the end that I knew what I was doing and clearly enjoyed doing the actual work.

You see, I do like doing the job. It was that way in my former profession and it's that way now. I believe in a practical application of theory:  I desire to be a filmmaker, so I find a way to make a film. The economy is such that a lot of indie filmmakers aren't making anything. Regardless of whatever press release you may read. But there are some who want to make films so much, they find a way. I'd rather produce and have a film on DVD to market at my website than merely be talking about the film I'm going to do. I honestly would rather be making a $500 short that I control, rather than an 'industry standard' film controlled by everyone but me.

And this idea of 'paying one's dues'? It's bullshit, in the arts biz. The first time filmmaker who makes something that makes money has paid his dues. Frankly, the 'dues' are films that people enjoy, are considered good, and make money. No amount of checking the boxes or climbing through the ranks or putting in your time will ever change that, and that's what pisses some people off. The 'dues' are merely bringing something to the table. Investors? If their agenda is anything other than producing an entertaining film, they're poisoning their own waters. Real investors care about the bottom line and they trust the filmmakers to produce the film. My point is, you make a good movie the investors figure they can make money on, you'll get the money. I've pitched guys like that, I've won their faith. It's the economy that's thrown a wrench in my progress, in that regard.

It's just a matter of time before I prove myself right. I've been there before. I've outlasted naysayers more than one time and come out right where I said I would be. I've been through the forge, you might say, so I'm confident I can do it again. Sure, I might have to do it in the indie film world. That's perfectly all right with me.

Anyway, I stayed up through the dawn and got my shots -- in spades. The last set-up looks great. It will show on the screen. My producer (and I do have one) is pleased and leaves me alone to be myself and make my film. If only three people read this blog, those three will know where I'm coming from.

Now, I have to plan Friday's location shoot...

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Documentary Film Report

My 'real' movies associate producer tells me we're hanging out with the subject of the documentary soon. Barron Entertainment wants me to direct this film before Secret of the Amazon Queen.We got some shot last year and meeting again soon could mean things may get rolling again before too long! There I am directing a segment of the interview with Dion Rich...

Here's a shot of Dion with a politely perplexed Gwyneth Paltrow at the Academy Awards...

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Latest On Hell's Bells

You thought 'no budget' meant that no money is spent, didn't you? Well, you lost that bet!

'No budget' means we produce a film on limited cash as it is available and material resources on hand, depending greatly on donations from family, friends and fans.

I just ran through the production log, to make sure all the expenditures are documented up-to-date. I keep an envelope of receipts and once a week I update the expense log. That's usually when I also browse through the diary section to peruse the progress thus far, plus re-read my thoughts written along the way. Generally, I'm pleased with the 25% of the principal that we've already shot. We're on schedule, actually. I slowed it down because I'd rather do it right than fast.

Some might wonder why I chose to do a 'no budget' movie.

I'll tell you.

I want to make a movie. I've already landed a producer for a $500k film. I've already landed a distributor for that film. I already have some very talented industry people wanting to be involved with that film. As these things happen all the time, that film is on hold for very legitimate reasons. As a matter of fact, it just so happens that tonight, a little while ago, the associate producer discussed the documentary the same producer wants me to do first. I have a couple of 'real budget' films in line. But I don't want to not do any filmmaking in the meantime.

So what can I do? What I can, on limited funds and resources.

You see, I could work at chasing a lot of money for an 'industry standard' project, or I could make a film outside that world. That's what I'm doing with Hell's Bells. Because I want to make a movie while I wait to make what some would call my "real" movie. That movie will come, but until then, I have a new camera and some willing actors and a good fun script. I also have a platform from which to sell it. My working model for this film isn't what I see at any theater. The model is what the H.P.Lovecraft Historical Society did with their Call of Cthulhu.  A short genre feature produced to please themselves and their fan base, screen at festivals and art houses (who get it), and then be marketed on DVD via their website. As flawed as some people might point out that it is, that film did very well for them. They were able to do their full-length feature, The Whisperer In Darkness, because of the success of Call of Cthulhu, a film few 'serious' filmmakers are aware of. Hell's Bells is my Call of Cthulhu. I admire what the guys at HPLHS have achieved. I applaud them.

Hell's Bells is a remake of The Treasure of Kukulcana, a film short I did in 2010. Due to staff issues and technical resources, I wasn't able to finish that film in the original vision -- and I was doing it on no money for free internet distribution. Plus, at about the time I started T of K, I simultaneously landed a writing gig on a live Vegas show to be staged later that year and pitched and landed a production company for a Secret of the Amazon Queen feature film. Naturally, when faced with forcing the T of K issue or focusing on two paying gigs in the 'bigger leagues', I rightfully took the step up. Still, I wanted to finish the short film eventually, even going as far as shooting some green screen process footage later that summer. Well, readers of this blog will know what happened there. The first producer of SOTAQ was tragically killed by a drunk driver and the subsequent producer has the film on hold for reasons very common and typical of the indie world. And the Vegas producers didn't pay me, so they couldn't use my work and what they staged flopped. I was interviewed along with others in a Las Vegas newspaper on the show which had made news by then, I think the Review-Journal...(I'll check). So with that done for nothing, and SOTAQ on hold until 2013, what to do? A reboot of T of K!

Treasure of Kukulcana is the story of Joe and Jackie, a brother and sister taken in by a flim-flam man named Tarkan Bey who seeks a treasure but will not face the terror that protects it. So, Bey dupes Joe and his sister into retrieving the treasure for him, intending to steal away with it and fully expecting Joe and Jackie to likely die getting it to him. Of course, things don't work out for Tarkan Bey. The film was intended to be an homage to B movie adventure mysteries of the 1940s.

It was presented in black and white and featured local talent and locations. We ended up with an 18-minute film presented as though it were 'long lost' because the original camera operator believed the treasure map in the film was real and disappeared in South America, thus preventing the film from being completed. The trailer and film, as presented, got the laughs it was intended to capture. However, I was never pleased to have not completed the original vision, regardless of legitimate practical reasons and decisions.

So there I was in late 2011, with a new camera and a hiatus on my "real" movie and documentary. Wanting to return to the realm of homage, I decided to take another cue from the Lovecraft guys and do a silent movie a la 1929. And wouldn't you know it? A week later I saw the trailer for The Artist. By the time I saw this film, I knew I was right: the film would be a silent film. The practical part of that is that I can focus on the story through image, and the details such as costuming and props and locations. So what story to do?

The re-do of T of K was the right project. I wrote a new screenplay, using the basic structure of the first movie's script, expanding the length to 30 minutes. I also made it a period piece. Sure, with that comes some complications, but we have astonishingly measured up to the challenge. I have received compliments on the costuming and props. The story I wrote as Hell's Bells still features the brother and sister, this time named Josef and Jacklyn. It starts much the same way T of K does, with Josef worried about finances and his ne'er-do-well but kindhearted sister bringing a get-rich-quick scheme to the table. In this version, the scam artist is replaced by Fausto, a mysterious swarthy figure masquerading as a priest. Fausto seduces Jacklyn, Valentino style, into getting her brother to help retrieve an ancient treasure that the dark man claims will help build an orphanage. Convinced to help in this treasure hunt on the promise of debt-erasing reward, Josef agrees out of financial desperation. So off they go to a far land on this dubious quest, crossing a desert, encountering strangeness, and seeking fortune. The rest you will have to see. Hell's Bells is not a high action, explosion-laden, CGI cartoon attempt to look like big Hollywood movies. It is a small, intimate project intended to please a particular audience and be marketed ultimately for DVD. Readers of Lost Continent Library books and pulp adventure fans and classic movie nuts will likely appreciate this film more than anyone else. They are my audience.

I have been told that this one feels different. People working on the film have a very positive vibe about it, specifically that we're on track to a good destination. We're all dedicated to making it right, so the schedule may not be so strict, though we all agree that we should have it finished before summer arrives. That gives me June to cut the picture and July to lay the sound on it, i.e. music. The goal is an August premier at a local classic theater (conveniently where the leading man works ) then festivals.

So, if you're interested in what we do here, check in regularly for glimpses and diary entries. This blog is not the promotional site for the movie; that site will be a little more stylish. This blog is a diary. It will occasionally include some of the downs as well as the ups that occur on a film production. It is not intended to be a concept car in a showroom. This is a truck out on the road actually going somewhere -- where my troupe and I want to go.

Thank you for your interest and having a sense of humor.

More to come...

Saturday, March 24, 2012

New Conference!

Hey all, as many of you know, I also write non-fiction in the bizarrely entertaining realm of the paranormal-tinged speculative history field. I was a speaker in the inaugural event of a new online conference series called the Alternative Universe iConference. The next event is April 21st and it only cost $10 for the whole thing!


Sunday, March 18, 2012

I'm Back!