Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Indie Film TV: Coming to a Browser Near You... Sort of

Friday Night Indie TV

A new project I'm working on in the vein of my Friday Night 80s Party I used to run. Looking for it to be a six hour block of programming to be tweeted on Friday nights from 6pm to midnight E.S.T. featuring short indie films, web series, and a feature length indie film; all available to watch for free on YouTube, Vimeo or other video sharing sites.

What started this?

Frankly myself becoming sick of network TV. With what seems like a pell mell cancellation of shows and changes in shows without one ounce of regard for the fans, network TV has picked up bad habits from "big retail". Network TV's response of "we don't answer questions about our program changes" (paraphrased) illustrates without a doubt that the viewer does not matter and the viewer is just someone to be played like someone being sold a used car or time share.

There are far more indie filmmakers, and I mean FAR more, than there are big studios. No, indie filmmakers are NOT investment firms that spend millions to make a film strictly for a return and call themselves independents. Indie filmmakers work out of their homes, even rent time in small studios, and investments are small and only offset what they have to spend out of pocket often putting it on a credit card. 

Far more filmmakers are making better and by far more original films than what is coming out of big studios. It may not be as high gloss and CGI filled as what Hollywood wants to force feed you, but all that gloss and CGI is replaced with things like story, heart and sweat.

With all of what is being produced by indie filmmakers, and there is a gargantuan lot that is being produced by indie filmmakers, and ignored by self-ploclaimed Roger Ebert wannabe film critics (and if I hurt anybody's feelings with that... GOOD!), why not organize some of that content into a programming block like TV does?

True. This is not a TV network or channel. But it is a basis that maybe someone else can build on and rather than the usual star and smug filled content big studios and networks want to proffer, they might be able to run with it and provide an indie only web channel. Just a thought.

My initial idea for a block of programming, naturally likely to change, is to have:
1) A horror show/hour featuring several short subjects.
2) A comedy show/hour featuring several short subjects.
3) A non-themed showcase featuring other short subjects.
4) A regular web series episode
5) A full length feature film for the Friday Night Movie of the Week
6) A video podcast review or interview show.

I would also like to fill in gaps with music videos from up and coming indie bands and some retro TV commercials just for fun.

In addition to the block of tweets on Friday nights I also want to set up a blog specifically for the show in which I'll post each week's programming block so you can access it anytime at your leisure.

This is not content exclusive to me. These are shorts and films that you could find on your own if you knew what to search for and where to search. I'm just doing the work in putting it together and hopefully will be able to depend on indie filmmakers to provide me with links to their films I can use. This is simply another way to help promote indie film and at the same time give a finger to network TV.

This will take some time to set up, most especially with my internet being as poor as it is. Right now I'm looking at it being a few months away. I'll keep you updated.

*Addendum - I cannot use VOD, Prime or any other paid or subscription services for this. The idea is to make it like a block of TV programming someone can just tune in and watch. This means free to watch and publicly accessible videos only. The advantage to you as a filmmaker is getting your work seen and also being introduced via this promotion to people who may not be familiar with you or your work.


Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Reviews and Indie Film and Root Canals, Oh My!

The past few months have not been very productive. I have a better internet connection, for now, than I did. It's still not up to par like it should be. Some changes have come about causing delays, and I've made some decisions that hopefully will get me back to a more productive status and more regularly promoting indie film and filmmakers like I used to do.

I had planned to get a newer model laptop in May. As what seems to be the norm every time I try to get ahead so far this year I get kicked back. This month, actually two weeks as of this coming Friday, I've had a dead nerve crop up in a tooth. I have been able to stay the infection and the pain. An extraction of the tooth itself is not costly but the x-rays are and I can't afford that. And a root canal would be even more expensive, and the one time I had one done it went south six months later. Certainly my own treatment has worked, but for how long I don't know. I'm putting off getting the laptop, both because I've had to spend more these past two weeks to treat the tooth and am trying to set something aside in case I need to seek emergency treatment.

This year so far has completely wiped me out with what seems like an unfortunate surprise coming every month which has cost me, and how in the hell I made it through April with this month's expenses... well, I sort of didn't because I had to borrow from my neighbor to make it through.

I'm wanting to get a newer laptop because it will just make things easier. This one I'm using, as I've said in a previous article, has a busted screen and I'm using an external monitor with it. Having to keep it in a certain position to do his also requires having my head tilted down to use it. Not normally a problem but it did become such with the tooth problem as the position of my head increased the pain. I recently reviewed a film and it took me three hours or better to screencap it, having to step away from the computer ever now and then to ease up the pain.

As I said the tooth issue for now is resolved as best I can do and I need to focus more on how to be more productive. I have come to realize that my improvised method I used before is not working too well as I just got into a routine of trying to do everything I could, and when I hit a wall when my internet got interrupted, well there was no plan I was using and trying to get back to what I was doing has been like looking at a blank page and not knowing what to write.

For now I think after having written a few reviews again, I was afraid I had forgotten how, I need to plan a minimum of a review a week. This is less than I was doing before, but then I was trying to keep up a ridiculous goal for myself in how I review movies and just kept falling behind.

With a regular routine of reviews I think that will help to keep my mind more focused, certainly more than constantly trying to play catch-up with a queue that has gone from backlogged to one that could support several reviewers for months. Movies I need to get reviewed include Sarah's Room, Whatever It Takes, and The Misguided; all of which have been in limbo review-wise.

With regard to the indie film site I am going back on, for now, asking filmmakers to submit their own film listings. Without me completing already submitted listings and listing films for filmmakers, there is not really that much for a filmmaker to go on for an example of what to do, and the more listings there are on the site, the more valuable of a resource it is to filmmakers. Again, if you are a filmmaker, these listing are for you to be able to use them as presskits for reviews and the promotion of your films, and they cost nothing.

Listings do take a while. Even with submitted listings, as often the very important social links are not there, and that was my fault because of the template not having been mobile friendly, it can take an hour or better for me to complete the submission, per submission, having to search for those links on my own. If I have to create the listing on my own then it can take quite a bit longer depending on what kind of resources I have to start with, like stills, and having to search out information on various sites. 

Of course this stresses the importance of My Indie Film Advantage and the listings as anybody reviewing a film has to go through this same process if this information is not made available to them, and if their site is generating any income due to them keeping a steady flow of new reviews on it then they aren't going to go through with hunting it down because it's a waste of their time. It also stresses the importance of social media to those in indie film as it seems kind of contrary at the least to want to promote your film and yet people can't find you.

The film listings are the tip of the iceberg. Things are going to take a while. Magic doesn't happen online. A neighbor of mine had asked me to set up a website for him to promote products he sells. I set it up, but he thinks somehow his products are going to show up magically, even though I keep telling him he has to list his products and upload pictures to get them on the website. Websites don't build themselves, they have to be built.

One thing I'm going to do is put together a listing of filmmakers and actors which I can also divide geographically and I'll see if I can also work something in that includes by genre. Now this is a personal project that I'm hoping will allow me to better organize listings on the site. It's not an easy project as if you could well imagine what such a listing of Hollywood types alone would entail, then consider how many more indie film types there are than Hollywood types. That's something, among other things, that makes me want to smack self-proclaimed film critics in the head every time they snub an indie filmmaker with an attitude like they only review "real", to be read as "mainstream", movies when far less than 1% of movies made come out of Hollywood. Yes, far less than 1% doesn't sound very "real" to me.

Keeping things on a schedule, such as reviews, ideally will allow me to focus better and keep regular updates on the sites rather than always playing catch-up and falling behind. If I get ahead of what I have planned for a week then maybe I can add an extra review or film listing.

I also need to get back to the indie film promotions on social media. I've been thinking of creating a unique hashtag for some of these promotions. This is not an original idea, just more borrowing on something that has been used fairly regularly, but trying to make it more specifically ours to allow filmmakers to promote each other more efficiently, and therefore promote themselves in the process.

One of the first hashtags I'm wanting to create is for crowdfunding. An obvious obstacle to getting a film made is funding for it (like anybody needs to be told that). With the huge number of indie filmmakers out there, there ought to be a way to network to get each others' crowdfunding efforts spread farther. I want to come up with a simple hashtag that has not been used so that when others see it they will know, if they're paying attention, to retweet it. To make it successful I will have to promote it regularly to get others to recognize it, but with the idea that retweeting it for someone else is going to get theirs retweeted when they are seeking funding.

I am not "the source" for networking. Just someone seeking to find ways to network others. I will keep updates coming on this blog and on My Indie Film Advantage. And as always, if I have made sense, it is most likely purely by accident.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Movie Review: The Jurassic Games (2018)

The Jurassic Games (2018) - USA - Sci-Fi  Action - NR (L-V)
Directed by Ryan Bellgardt
Starring Ryan Merriman, Adam Hampton, Perrey Reeves, Erika Daly, Katie Burgess, Luke Wyckoff, Cate Jones, Kyle Penington, Rett Terrell, Dylan Cox, Tiger Sheu

A tech savvy update of the last man standing theme lethally injects fun into the worn premise of reality games while giving a sardonic poke in the eye to commercialism.

In the near future the popular TV show is The Jurassic Games in which ten death row inmates compete with the grand prize being freedom for one of them, but immediate execution of the other nine. The twist is they are competing in a virtual reality world populated by dinosaurs. The other twist is one of them may be innocent, but what is the chance of them surviving not only against man-eating lizards but also against nine of society's worst denizens?

Sound familiar? Well yes, it is. Many of us have seen Death Race 2000 and The Running Man. And many could argue, and are probably right, that today's reality TV overload is a retooling of not only those films but earlier "last man standing" films as well; The 10th Victim (1965) and The Challenge (1970), e.g. So is The Jurassic Games in the sense it's convict against convict against their environment. But added to that is that extra Jurassic element so popular in a certain series of movies (gee, the name escapes me) and a virtual reality world where anything can happen.

Like its predecessors there is a dystopian element of a corrupt government, though it is comparatively underplayed in this in favor of focusing on the consumerism of bloodlust and the commercialism which drives it. The game show element takes front and center with the gloss and glam of network TV production as a wrapper for the carnage of entertainment. In front of the cameras the host of the show is smooth and charismatic, as is the presentation, but behind the scenes the producers may even be worse than the killers in the game.

Two performances that help drive this movie are Ryan Merriman as the host of Jurassic Games and Luke Wyckoff as the cannibal. Merriman panders to the audience while his composure is cool and his confidence high, and brings to life that all too smug and insincere TV host like we see on entertainment shows. Wyckoff plays a character you wish would die horribly from the moment you first see him; a disgusting performance for sure and one that rises to a high point in low-life.

The characters in this are near as one-dimensional as the ones in one of this film's predecessors, Jurassic Park. This conflicted me in my rating. Certainly I would give it a 3 or better in my first response. Then the disposability of the characters struck me as intentional. It fits right in with the satire of commercialism at the heart of the film. Deep it is not, and off the shelf it is in many places, yet contrarily these very elements work for the film rather than against it. With a presentation that moves swiftly and Ryan Merriman's performance leading the way, The Jurassic Games is simply a fun movie that succeeds in making a point, maybe even despite itself.

My Rating: 4 Fingers

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Thursday, April 26, 2018

Movie Review: Butterfly Kisses (2017)

Butterfly Kisses (2017) - USA (Maryland) - Documentary Horror - NR
Directed by Erik Kristopher Myers
Featuring Gavin York, Matt Lake (himself), Eduardo Sánchez (himself)

Want to scare the hell out of yourself?

No need to bother... this film will do it for you.

In an unusual move on my part, being I don't believe I've done this before, I am changing the usual format of my review. Mainly because this is how I wrote my review and feel the more freeform style fits better with film I'm reviewing anyway.

Fear's greatest resource, the very essence of its existence, is the unknown. From childhood we scare ourselves with stories. We tell of legends and folk tales of things that will happen if we say someone's name so many times and look into a mirror. It's amazing how many legends involve mirrors and reflections, the ability to catch a glimpse of something that nobody else sees. But in today's high tech world of digital video is it possible to catch that fleeting moment of the unknown beyond the mirror? Or like a reflection in a mirror will others not see the same thing?

Gavin more than asks that question as he is about to come face to face with it. A filmmaker whose very existence is doing wedding videos stumbles upon a box of older digital video tapes. On the tapes is a story about to unfold of two film students exploring a local legend called Peeping Tom, and of the tragic consequences of encountering it. Or is it?

Found footage films are nothing new, especially in horror movies where the mystery behind the found footage has something even more frightening to reveal. First used as a plot device in the 1980 film Cannibal Holocaust it would come into its own sub-genre with the wildly successful 1999 film The Blair Witch Project.

"Found footage" though is not really an appropriate category for Butterfly Kisses as it takes a different approach in documenting Gavin's excursion into making a found footage film based on this box of tapes he claims to have found that were made 10 years previous and had its own investigation into the supernatural involving this folk/urban legend known variously as Peeping Tom or simply Blink. And that "claims to have found" becomes a central part of the documentary for as compelling and frightening as is the footage, getting people to believe him, and even the audience to believe him, is an additional tension beyond the horror of the story at hand.

Gavin faces many obstacles in trying to get support for his film project in even the most basic level of getting people to believe him. You know you are up against a wall when believers in the implausible, between marathon sessions with boxes of Twinkies and recounting past glory days as 8th level paladins and wizards, mock you.

The found footage itself is analyzed by various experts in their particular fields including video editors, psychologists, as well interviews are conducted with noted folklore expert Matt Lake, author of Weird Maryland and others in the series, and Eduardo Sánchez, director of The Blair Witch Project.

In taking in the subject of a legend, of folklore, perhaps even more than ghosts, you may have to ask yourself if you believe in non-corporeal entities? Legends are at their core simply that... stories. It's hard to pin an origin on a legend or even associate it with an historical context or person. It is simply other-worldly.

Ghosts are one thing. Lots of people believe in spirits that walk the earth. Of course lots of these same people believe in fairy tales and things like god. And that's despite that the two beliefs are diametrically opposed. There is a potential of psychometric imaging of events, especially tragic events, but events have no consciousness, and for a spirit to have a will and an intent there would have to be a consciousness.

But what about something that never existed outside of tales and legends? Something that existed, was invented perhaps, out of stories and fears, and things we use to scare little children under the pretense to get them to behave rather than admitting to feeding our own sadistic cravings. Is it possible for something to spring from a collective consciousness?

D. Scott Rogo was a psychical research investigator and journalist, as well a contributing editor to Fate magazine. He purported certain theories of sightings being a projection of the observer and was generally open-ended about survival of consciousness after death, preferring to examine the evidence itself rather than pell mell taking the evidence as certifiable proof. He also researched into the question of whether religion can be something we're born with.

If religion through the ages can be infused into our genetics, we can project very real, to us, corporeal images and even interactions into a physical plane, is it feasible life, essentially consciousness, can be given to a folklore? Of course we'll never be able to ask D. Scott Rogo his opinion on this question as he was murdered in 1990 at the age of 40...

...and it has never been solved.

Butterfly Kisses stays true to its documentary format as everything on screen is on camera or otherwise part of the documentary. There is a vague linear timeline in that the events concerning Gavin follow chronologically, but to up the tension the documentary takes forays into different aspects of the found footage exploring angles from a hoax to terrifying moments that will bring you out of your seat. I would highly recommend emptying ones bladder before sitting down to watch the film.

It is a tense and frightening film that will not only render killing somebody who tries to sneak up on you while watching it as justifiable homicide, maybe even a misdemeanor, it may even have you questioning just how real the unreal can be. And unlike so many horror films that have a good build-up and sputter out in the end, Butterfly Kisses is consistent throughout.

My Rating: 5 Fingers, I give it a high five!