Thursday, January 31, 2008

One Year of DIY Commitment

Happy Production Birthday
It's officially been a year since Shiro's Head went into its production phase. To some, a year may seem like an inflated amount of time needed to produce a no-budget movie, I know it was to me - at least initially. But then I think back on the journey and remind myself that this was a two-man, no-holds barred, do-it-yourself team. No budget, no special industry pull...just two guys with an idea and acting on it.

Just Do It
I'm reminded at how quickly Don and I began shooting on location and all of the uncertainties that we faced, not knowing if the production would actually materialize or fizzle. Not knowing if we'd find a cast, much less a committed one. But we took the chance - and it paid off.

Because of the production, we found the coolest, most talented and committed group that we could've ever asked for. We were so grateful! Even under the circumstances of a small, DIY project, these folks wanted to be a part of it and committed themselves every single day. Some would think that such a thing would be impossible on such a small project. But I'm glad to say that it's true. Tons of people lent a helping hand in the production one way or the other and the support is just mindblowing. Although Don and I put in a lot of hard work on the production of Shiro's Head, sometimes the stars were aligned and we just got lucky.

Land Hoooooo!
Fast forward a year later and the movie is chugging along. However, the 12 hour shoot days, the sugar-free "Rockstar" breaks and expensive phone cards have been replaced with 12 hour editing days, countless foley sessions and score. Since wrapping production and entering post production, Don and I have been at the helm everyday since; trying our best to move this vessel forward towards its destination.

We're almost there.

So to all the cast and those that have helped behind the scenes... Si Yu'us Ma'ase! The best is yet to come.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

2008 SAG Award Winners

In a time when the movies that are being released are more story-based (There Will be Blood, No Country for Old Men, Little Miss Sunshine, Atonement, Juno, etc.), vs. CGI FX based (LOTR, King Kong, Harry Potter, Spider-Man, etc.), it's refreshing to see that specific level of talent has emerged and in some cases re-emerged (Josh Brolin, Daniel Day-Lewis) onto the movie scene.

You can view the complete list of the 2008 SAG winners here and listen to sound bites from acceptance speeches here.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Thank You - Shiro's Head Teaser Launch

On Friday we launched the official Shiro's Head teaser and I am very humbled by all of the positive response from those that have left comments on the Shiro's Head MySpace page, signed up for updates or just sent an email through our contact page just to say hi.

It's a great feeling to receive such support and encouragement from people everywhere interested about the movie. Rest assured, Don and I are doing our best to take it to the next phase and to have it ready to go on schedule for everyone. Sometimes it can get tough for an indie project to keep pushing forward, but your comments really do help our morale, so please keep it coming or just drop a line to say hi!

Thank you all again - very much.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Heath Ledger

At the moment, I was working on a test animation for Shiro's Head when Don told me about the news. One of the few actors whose work I really respected and truly one of the younger actors whose work I was looking forward to seeing in later years. Just a sad situation. It seemed to have made everyone stop to think. Even the president.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Coen Bros. Foreshadow "No Country"

Just browsing the net and came upon this old 1991 article of the Coen Bros. interview by Jim Emerson of The interivew seems to eerily foreshadow a command performance that over a decade later would surface under the name "No Country for Old Men". It seems to (help) clarify their unique approach to moviemaking. Read the article.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Guam Primetime Media

Guam makes its way into primetime twice in less than a month. In this episode of "Psych" which originally aired on the USA network last Friday, January 18th, Guam gets its second hit show coverage. The earlier was on ER. Here, Psych trumps ER since this has been the first time that I've heard not just 'Guam' mentioned on a show, but with it a mention of an actual village! And the best part? I don't know if was the fact that Shawn (James Roday) doesn't say it with a haole accent or that Gus (Dule Hill) was given the name Nik-Nak.

The writer for this episode, entitled "The Old and the Restless" is Anupam Nigam. She must've stayed on island at some point. Cheers!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Movie Market: It's Starting

Here's an article from talking about how the writer's strike could be changing the indie film industry tide towards a powerful independent buying market at Sundance - as I mentioned on Tuesday earlier this week. Read the article

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Production Archive - "New Hope"

Here's another one from the archive. This is something that I produced almost ten years ago in 1999. I was PD at KUAM-FM at the time and we were giving away movie tickets for the world-wide first showing of the much-hyped "Episode I - The Phantom Menace" prequel, so I thought it would be fun to produce this track and play it during the drive time shows.

Title: "Last Hope"
Producer: Kel Muna
Length: 04:02

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Writer's Strike Brings New Media Opportunities

And The Oscar for Best Actress in a Comedy...Happy Slip!
On the surface it's obvious that the WGA strike has dictated a shift in network programming, but look a little deeper and you'll find that it's also:

1. given TV audiences the opportunity to look elsewhere towards alternative means of entertainment. Because of this, you'll find that:
2. online viewership will increase which will provide a need for:
3. more online production which will in turn give:
4. opportunities to more independent programming and show production which will lead to giving:
5. more undiscovered talent a shot because online - there are no binding online guild rules or regs, the production costs are significantly lower and the viewing along with the distribution is instantaneous.

Also in the meantime, mainstream movie studios and distributors will have to:
6. pick from and release movies that don't see the writing as a priority, which means that:
7. a slew of "less writing, more something else" productions will see the light of day giving way to a shift in what mainstream cinema will release - for a while at least.

With a momentum shift of the mainstream theater and television audience, the playing field becomes a bit more even as networks lose their grip on the control of prime time audiences, forcing the people to look elsewhere. In not coming to a quick resolve with the Writer's Guild of America, the powers that be are running the risk that the audiences might actually enjoy what they find.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Chopping Off the Red Carpet Fat

The strike has become more effective than most people initially thought it would be. No People's Choice Award ceremony. Talks of no Oscars ceremony. It already cost LA $80 Million in revenue loss.

And the absence of a Golden Globes ceremony last night wasn't half bad. The Golden Globes "news conference" was actually, well...good. Accommodating the modern lifestyle that has evolved into an expectation of instantaneous and on demand receipt, it was surprisingly fitting and refreshing to not have to sit through an entire one hour red carpet pre-ceremony followed by a three hour presentation and ending with a half-hour post-show wrap-up.

Just the Facts
Call it a "news conference", an awards "announcement" - call it what you will. But with the announcers delivering the winners of each category in an hour, the experience was fine. And you know what else? They talked only about the movies! Wow! What a concept!

From the Stands
After chopping off the red carpet fat and the entire presentation ceremony for that matter, this year's Golden Globes "News Announcement" was concise and to the point, forcing the industry back to some much needed basics. Most of the nominees kept it casual and did their own celebrating (or not). And as the domino effects of the strike continue (no red carpet = no fashion endorsements), the game will continue to change along with it.

Friday, January 11, 2008

The Magic of Independent Movies - Persepolis

What makes one want to go through what others see as the painstaking trouble, hassle, uncertainty and insecurity of not just moviemaking...but DIY indie moviemaking?

Easy. Magic.

The Magic You Get
The medium of moviemaking magically gives filmmakers a universally relatable means of expression. It gives them a voice that can be heard through storytelling and an audience to hear it. In addition, any film - regardless of its budget - is the most powerful tool that can be used to influence a very powerful resource: emotion. And no matter if you're a rock 'em, sock 'em, explosion and car chase kind of guy/gal - or - an emo, mumblecore kind of guy/gal, emotions rule you.

The Magic You Give
Do you remember when you first saw your favorite movie? Or the first time a movie made you cry, ponder or laugh hysterically out loud? What was it that drew so much emotion from you? Was it the story? The acting? The images? The score? How did it touch you from the screen and into your heart and mind? It had to be something?! Right?

It seems as if it magically does something to a person. It's usually a culmination of components in a production that affect people. Nonetheless, If you find that connection with a movie, it will grasp you and for the next 90 minutes won't let go.

Climbing Your Own Everest
Again, very powerful stuff, this moviemaking thing. I guess that's why with Shiro's Head, no matter how grueling it can be on a DIY level, I just have to keep at it. Day after day on a DIY, no-budget, non-paying, indie film - just pounding away at the movie that has become such a integral part of my life for the past year or so, I keep going because of the magic.

Here's another great example of why filmmakers do what they do and the magic they bring with them: Persepolis (on the site, be sure to click on "video" to watch the making of)

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Shiro's Head - A DIY Lesson

Shiro's Head is approaching a year since we left to Guam for production. The movie is currently at the tail end of post production. Yep, and although it's been a while, if I could've gone back and do it all over again, I wouldn't have changed a thing.

The two things that are almost impossible to possess on a DIY project at the same time (or in life, for that matter) are: Time and Money. Which one do you have? Utilize it wisely.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Guam in the Emergency Room

While watching last week's episode of ER, I was surprised to hear a little mention of Guam. In this episode "Status Quo", which aired last Thursday, 01.03.08, television writer Janine Sherman Barrois decided to give a little island a little prime time screen time. I wonder how much research was done for the line... and by the way - there's plenty going on in Guam - they just opened one of the world's largest Home Depot stores ever! ;)

Monday, January 7, 2008

Anatomy of a Car Crash - The Kingdom DVD

Numb to DVD special features? Check out "The Kingdom" on DVD and see the "Constructing the Freeway Sequence" bonus feature. It's impressive and the appreciation level for stunt choreography is renewed once again - proving that there should very well be a "Stunt" category included in the Oscars.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Nominated for 4 Golden Globes - Sweeney Todd

Best Picture - Musical or Comedy
Best Director - Tim Burton
Best Actor - Johnny Depp (vying with John C. Reilly for Walk Hard)
Best Actress - Helena Bonham Carter

I remember watching an episode of Sunday Morning Shootout where hosts Peter Bart and Peter Guber were talking about how the rebirth of theatrical musicals was close to making a successful comeback as a genre. I found that prediction really interesting. "Long gone are the days of 'Oklahoma' and 'Sound of Music'", I thought to myself. Decades gone, in fact. But after thinking about it, they couldn't have been more right.

And a One and a Two...
Recently, we've seen a few musicals garner critical acclaim from both critics and audiences alike - Chicago, remake of Hairspray, remake of Rent, Dreamgirls, The Producers, High School Musical 1 & 2 and now Sweeney Todd - The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Heck even R. Kelly couldn't help but get into the act.

Big talent and big production numbers are bringing big box office dollars and seem to be etching its way back into modern cinema. With Sweeney Todd, it's no wonder why.

Delivering the Goods
Tim Burton brings his signature style to the table and in full force with strong vocal and acting performances from Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter. The Sondheim score was classic and only added to the strength of the cinematography and production design without overshadowing the talent. I've never seen Depp in such a dark and dastardly light. Not even The Libertine came close.

Taking the theatrical musical to new heights for a new era, the bar has been set for other filmmakers to follow in order to avoid the traps of musical cliches burned into the minds of the modern movie-goer. Definitely deserving of its multiple Golden Globe nominations, Sweeney Todd is a breath of fresh air with a new flavor of meat pies.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Nominated for Two Golden Globes - Walk Hard

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture Comedy or Musical
Best Original Song Motion Picture

Really? Two?

Well, I can say this - John C. Reilly did a great job, but if you're familiar with any of Judd Apatow's earlier comedies, then John C. Reilly is all the movie really offered. The Apatow formula is getting a bit redundant - almost annoying. Don't get me wrong - I love stupid-funny, in fact I think that's the only sense of humor I have hard-wired in me. Nonetheless, I feel that the style of comedy that Apatow constantly rolls off his assembly line is becoming a cookie-cutter experience to the point where it's not as funny as it has the potential to be. Besides, after the Farrelly Bros., everything he's shown me so far has been done before and has been done better.

Other than that, I thought the movie delivered what I expected. The writing had some highlights as far as stupid-funny goes. I love the recurring line recited from Dewey's father in every scene he appears in, along with the actual name-saying for characters and situations (ie. calling every Beatle by his first and last name just so the audience knows who is supposed to be who, or squeezing in the age of characters to clue in the audience, or an obviously old 14-year old Dewey surrounded by his young bandmates). Although I expected more from Apatow with the power of John C. Reilly behind him, this is a fun movie to pass the time and to have a good laugh or two.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Why They Fight

For those that don't know the reasons behind the Writer's Guild of America strike, here's a great video to help you understand:

And others: Sarah Silverman Talks About the Strike and Writers Strike (spoof by Colbert Report writers) and even more here: United Hollywood on YouTube

Late Night Returns Despite Writers Strike

Last night the prime time talk shows made a return after a two month hiatus as Late Night with Conan O'Brien, The Late Show with David Letterman, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson all returned to the airwaves. Only Letterman and Ferguson have struck an interim deal with striking writers through the Worldwide Pants Production Company (owned by Letterman) that will welcome writers back onto the show, while O'Brien and Leno continue to air the show without union writers.

Write On
Having been able to view the first shows back (Leno and O'Brien) I can honestly say I developed a more acute appreciation for professional late-night writers. Being a big Conan fan, I was able to feel the awkwardness in between the comedy and time stalls during the show and could clearly distinguish the difference of where comedic writing meets comedic instincts (which still had me craking up...just didn't care much for the timing).

Since having to co-write the original screenplay for "Shiro's Head", I know first hand how big a deal it is - the importance of needing writers to help bring your material to its peak. Unfortunately, that was a resource that Don and I didn't have and had to go at it alone. And even though Don and I weren't experienced screenwriters, we still had to get through it and be keen enough to write around resources.

Says Who?!
On a "Hollywood" level, however, the demands involved with the strike seem to be so fair and so simple that I can't believe it took a strike to get the producers of the industry to sit up and notice what the writers should be getting. Talent like that of a professional writer is one that is worth way more than is being asked for by the strikers. I mean, how does one other than yourself actually justify what you are worth?

For more of the latest on the Writers Strike check out the United Hollywood site.