Fast Five Is Rock Solid

April 29, 2011 at 1:31 pm

Fast Five Is Rock Solid | Fast & Furious 5 Movie Review | Movie Blog

WE’VE COME A LONG WAY FROM THE DAYS OF
TRANSPORTS FULL OF DVD PLAYERS

[UPDATE] The movie made $83,639,000 in it’s opening weekend!  The biggest April opening of all time.

The first Fast & Furious movie came out when I was in high school.  Way back when I knew tons of people who hung out in front of coffee shops with their cars.

I had a 1996 Cavalier…  It was bright red with a sweet spoiler!

Note: This isn’t my exact car but it’s a fair representation of what it looked like.

Fast Five Is Rock Solid | Fast & Furious 5 Movie Review | Movie Blog

Ahem…  I don’t know anything about cars but a few of my friends ‘souped’ up their rides quite nicely.  Needless to say, when I saw The Fast & The Furious, I hitched a ride with them.

Leaving the theater that night was awesome.  All I wanted to do was paint the interior of my car silver and install some custom tail lights.  In the end, all I got was a red shifter knob.  (Is it even called a shifter knob?) I used it to get the most out of the 52 incredible horses that powered my vehicle.

A HIT & MISS FRANCHISE IS REBORN

2 Fast 2 Furious was okay but without Dom and the gang, it was lacking.  I’ve never seen Tokyo Drift out of protest because  I wanted the original team back together.

I got my wish with the entertaining Fast & Furious a few years ago.  It wasn’t amazing but it brought the franchise back to it’s roots and paved the way for a new film that truly made me smile.

FAST FIVE HAS COOL CAR CRASHES!

Fast Five Is Rock Solid | Fast & Furious 5 Movie Review | Movie Blog

If you loved the first film and tolerated the fourth, Fast Five will make you fall in love with the franchise all over again.  From the opening shot, this movie doesn’t pretend to be anything less than an action packed thrill ride.  As far as story goes, it’s your basic ‘we don’t like that guy so let’s steal his money’ scheme.  Mixed with a little ‘holy crap a ruthless FBI agent is after us’ and you’ve got yourself a heist movie!

Joining the team for this entertaining chase through Rio?  Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson!

At first his presence is a little cheesy.  Then I realized the entire franchise has a history of cheese and quite frankly, I’m okay with that.  I didn’t go to the theater to get a deeper glimpse into Brian and Mia’s relationship. I wanted cars.  I wanted fights.  I wanted explosions.  The Rock fit right in.

Fast Five delivers everything and more and even tries valiantly to establish a ‘family first’ theme.  To accomplish this, the film reunites the best characters from the entire series and successfully reboots the franchise as far as I’m concerned.

Something producers confirmed by stating that Furious is destined to be a heist franchise.

I’m okay with that.  If the next installment packs in as many chases and action sequences as Fast Five, fans like me are in for one hell of a show.

Mild Spoiler: Especially if the scene after the credits is any indication.

If people ask me if I would recommend Fast Five I would instantly say yes if they loved the first film.  If anything it’s worth it to see The Rock vs Vin Diesel.  Not to mention the crazy train sequence and the incredibly intense and car crushing finale.

The 2011 summer movie season is officially underway and we are off to a great start.

Only this time, when the movie ended I hopped aboard the subway and walked a couple blocks!  Take that Civics!

Click here for more reviews.

Fast Five Is Rock Solid | Fast & Furious 5 Movie Review | Movie Blog

Damn Your Eyes: Making The Most Of Your Budget

April 28, 2011 at 11:27 am

Short Film Damn Your Eyes: Making The Most Of Your Budget | Directed by David Guglielmo | Independent Film Blog

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH
DIRECTOR DAVID GUGLIELMO

One lesson director David Guglielmo learned while creating the short film Damn Your Eyes?

“Take risks.”

Every film budget presents different challenges.  Each story is different and each production is unique.  The story of how Damn Your Eyes came to be is a tale of creativity, dedication and making the most of the money you have.  As always, every movie must first begin with inspiration and a story you believe in.

Short Film Damn Your Eyes: Making The Most Of Your Budget | Directed by David Guglielmo | Independent Film Blog

“I was inspired by many things. Spaghetti Westerns, Traditional Westerns, Greek Tragedies etc… It also has many elements that are personal to me but they’re disguised. People think because a movie is fantastic, it can’t be personal. That’s not the case. I wouldn’t be able to work on this movie for six years if I didn’t put myself in it. I first thought of the idea for “Damn Your Eyes”  when I was a freshman at film school. I wrote a few scenes, but I felt I needed more experience to really pull it off. So I put it on the back-burner and made smaller shorts for practice. In my senior year I decided “Damn Your Eyes” would be perfect for my thesis.”

With a story in place and the passion needed to make it a reality, David set out to complete the script and get his project off the ground.

“When I finally sat down senior year and wrote up the script you see now, I knew I didn’t have much of a budget. That’s why there is only one shootout. I knew I could only afford one big scene like that, and I put it in the beginning because I heard that when judges and critics watch short films, they turn it off after the first couple minutes if they don’t like it. I wanted to start with a bang.”

It’s clear when you see the film that David genuinely loves Westerns.  That’s what I find fascinating about Damn Your Eyes.  Creating a film within a genre you love with a minimal budget requires tough decisions and a lot of creativity.  With so many influences and elements you would want to include, how do you create a film that incorporates everything you want without escalating the budget?

“When I was nine years old my mom let  me watch Pulp Fiction and I went to school the next day telling everyone about it. I skipped school to see Kill Bill. There was no way I would be able to sit in math class while that was playing in the theater.  At the time I was watching  Spaghetti Westerns, like the films of Sergio Corbucci (Django, The Great Silence). The Good The Bad and The Ugly is the ultimate Spaghetti Western, and I think Sergio Leone is a genius but I couldn’t take much from him in this case because I just didn’t have the means to go extreme like he did. If you notice, I shot almost everything in close-up. That’s because I’m shooting in NYC and New Jersey! I couldn’t have those scenic wides. I was very limited in that way but it made me more creative.”

Short Film Damn Your Eyes: Making The Most Of Your Budget | Directed by David Guglielmo | Independent Film Blog

“The film was made for $5k. I shot it for 4k and left a thousand for post-production costs. I got a couple of scholarships based on my GPA, and used my own savings as well. (So stay in school kids.)”

MAKE EVERY PENNY COUNT

High Production Values…  Low Budget.  How did David and his team pull it off?

“I think people go over budget when they don’t put enough time into pre-production and book-keeping. I have to give props to my producer Jennifer Joelle Kachler for keeping a mean book.  When it comes down to it, you have to ask: What do we really need, and how can I stretch a buck without compromising the quality and credibility of the film? The costume designer AJ Locascio and I went to thrift shops, bought handfuls of two-dollar items. He ripped them up, stitched them back together, threw dirt on them. We improvised.  What Sam wears in the movie is all made from scratch. The whole outfit was probably $40.”

“For the locations I had to think the same way. Louisa’s cabin is a gutted out bathroom on the side of a highway. The scene with the horse is a horseback-riding place for kids. When I first saw it my initial response was that there’s no way. I was about to turn around and go home but then I took a minute, sat down and recomposed my shots. I realized it could work. It’s all basic Roger Corman 101.  I needed to make a studio space look like an old saloon, so I went to antique shops and asked if I could rent their furniture because it would be impossible for me to buy it. It wasn’t their policy. I just figured it can’t hurt to ask. I didn’t have enough money for them to put a hold on my card, so I really had to get them to trust me. Thankfully nothing broke. I didn’t tell them it was an action scene we were shooting…”

Short Film Damn Your Eyes: Making The Most Of Your Budget

Another challenging element of producing a short film like Damn Your Eyes is scheduling.  Each day you shoot costs money and you have to be careful to make the most of the days you have.

“Scheduling was very difficult because I had to accommodate all the cast/crew, who were either going to school or had jobs.  I often had to split up the days and take whatever I could get. In the end it was 12 days total. It spanned from December to April, editing along the way.”

Beyond scheduling you also have to worry about elements that you cannot predict like weather.  These are challenges that truly test how prepared you are.

“One of the most important parts of directing is keeping morale high. You really have to act like everything is running smoothly even when it’s not. If people get the sense that you don’t have things under control, it’s over. I can’t stress enough the importance of a good A.D. Shout out: Giovanni Alberti.”

POST PRODUCTION

“I work closely with my editors. I like to be there during the edit. I think it’s such an exciting time. You really get to think, be meticulous, and watch the film come together. I also consider it another stage of the writing. Sound design is key. As well as sound recording. In post, I work with a guy named David Leaver and I really look forward to that part of the process. It’s very creative and fun. It’s like the icing on the cake. As for music, my process is always different. Sometimes I know during the writing, sometimes I have no clue until I’m editing. But I never edit to it. I tweak the cuts sometimes to fit the song, but I always prefer editing first then dropping in the music.”

DAMN YOUR EYES

Creating a short film with a low budget is a lot of work.  You have to find ways to make your vision a reality.  Damn Your Eyes is a fantastic story with extremely high production values.  The trick is simple: If you have 5 thousand dollars, do your absolute best to make it look like 20 thousand.

Click play below and enjoy DAMN YOUR EYES.

WHAT’S NEXT?

David is currently developing a feature length version of Damn Your Eyes.

“The story was always bigger than a short, which is why I titled it “Part I”. I was originally going to serialize it- making it a modern take on the serial Westerns of old, but now I decided it needs to be a feature. I wrote the script, and now my producer Jennifer and I are getting things ready on the business end.  The story has really evolved, and if you like this your going to love the feature.”

“Besides the feature, I have another short that I’m just starting to send out to festivals called THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY. It’s a dark comedy, very different from DAMN YOUR EYES. I did that one for only $2k. I’m also writing a lot. I have a feature script for a live-action children’s movie. It’s untitled at the moment. I really want to make that one day and have it say “From the director of DAMN YOUR EYES”. Producers might fight me on that one though.”

Special thanks to David Guglielmo for the interview.

Check out the film’s page on VIMEO here.

Click here to see an exclusive animation not seen anywhere else!

Short Film Damn Your Eyes: Making The Most Of Your Budget | Directed by David Guglielmo | Independent Film Blog

‘Playing Through’ Gets Honorable Mention At NSI Short Film Festival

April 15, 2011 at 10:07 am

'Playing Through' Gets Honorable Mention At NSI Short Film Festival | Short Film | NSI Canada

Recently, Playing Through was accepted into the NSI Online Short Film Festival and we just got word that our film was given an honorable mention for the A&E Short Filmmakers Award!

Check out the news story here.

I’d like to congratulate ‘Remote‘ directed by Marc Roussel for winning the award and I’d also like to congratulate Hugh John Murray for getting an honorable mention as well for his film ‘Desiderata‘.  It was the first time there were two honorable mentions.

The NSI Online Short Film Festival is a fantastic collection of Canadian films and we were thrilled to be a part of it.  Here are some of the nice things the jury said about Playing Through.

“Solid storytelling by the filmmaker and great chemistry between the actors combined to make a touching and heartfelt film.” Juan Riedinger

“This simple golf afternoon is intelligently layered with complex emotion.  I respected its patience and its humble approach in unraveling private anxieties within one simple setting.  All elements were nicely in sync in this story – photography, editing, performance, direction, and script.  It is a lovely character piece about friendship that is respectful of its medium.” Anneli Ekborn

This unabashedly sweet and unique portrayal of male relationships captures a moment of reflection on what matters most.” Danis Goulet

You can head over to NSI and watch Playing Through in it’s entirety right now.

Special Thanks to NSI Canada for their support.

Playing Through independent short film 17 west productions

Click here to visit 17 West Productions.

Junko’s Shamisen: From Vision To Reality

April 14, 2011 at 10:41 am

Junko's Shamisen: From Vision To Reality | Award Winning Short Film Junko's Shamisen by Sol Friedman

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH
DIRECTOR SOL FRIEDMAN

“I never thought I could be a filmmaker so I was trying to sneak through the backdoor when I started teaching myself animation.”

The short film Junko’s Shamisen is a pretty fantastic and visually impressive blend of live action and animated elements from director Sol Friedman.  (I envy everyone who can draw and animate by the way.)

I really can’t describe it better than the film’s website.

Blending the aesthetic traditions of Japanese Kabuki, contemporary Manga illustration and the use of cell, stop motion and computer animation; Writer, director and animator Sol Friedman brings you this stylized and haunting tale of vengeance.

Junko's Shamisen: From Vision To Reality | Award Winning Short Film Junko's Shamisen by Sol Friedman

“The film has, to date, screened at over fifty international film festivals spanning a pretty huge range of genres from drama, to experimental, to horror and most recently to children’s programming. The film has picked up a few awards along the way, but most exciting of all has been the audience reception. Although the reception has overall been extremely positive, people don’t really know what to compare the film against, so it’s always kind of interesting to hear.”

The film itself is beautifully designed and looks fantastic.  Combining so many art styles is an extremely challenging task to take on and I was eager to learn what inspired Sol to create the film.

“After high school I studied Zen Shiatsu in Toronto and I’ve traveled to Japan several times, so I’ve been fascinated by Japanese art and culture for many years now. For a long time I had been hoping to find a project that I could use to really get into some of the more specific nuances of Japanese art. I was in Tokyo in 2008 showing work at Takashi Murakami’s Geisai Museum art exhibition, and on one of my days off I went to see a Kabuki performance. The pacing, costumes, set decoration, and everything else about the performance really blew me away, but the hook that sold me on Kabuki as the direction was the way that the stagehands would run through and modify the scenery. You could see them running, but in their dark clothing they would float by and fade into the background like ghosts. It was pretty exciting for me.”

Knowing the style you’re attempting to achieve is only half the battle if you aren’t willing to put in the work to create something new.  Sol spent nearly 8 months working tirelessly to visualize the film.  An accomplished artist, the director credits several different influences that contributed to his design process.

“I’m not particularly well-versed in Manga/anime culture but I did look to a bunch of famous books and films. Some obvious connections for me were Lone Wolf and Cub, Lady Snowblood, Zatoichi. But I’m also a huge fan of Michel Gondry so I thought about some of his more experimental work when developing the stage treatments. I wanted  to really push the blurred edge between the computer generated and the handcrafted elements. I referenced many comic books when I was putting together the style frames, but also looked a lot to Kabuki to fill in some of the blanks in terms of the tonal treatment. But with most of what I do, the process generally resolves itself by just getting into it, and seeing what works and what doesn’t.”

Junko's Shamisen: From Vision To Reality | Award Winning Short Film Junko's Shamisen by Sol Friedman

Getting an ambitious project like Junko’s Shamisen off the ground is extremely challenging but Sol’s dedication prevailed by truly being able to communicate what he wanted to achieve and what the film could be.

“In Canada we are very fortunate to have a supportive arts community. I was able to secure financing at a federal and provincial level as well as from a private broadcaster. Which is really amazing. This obviously meant a good deal of time spent on the administrative side, but it allowed me to hire a top-notch crew, and ultimately to develop some familiarity with the pitching process.”

So armed with his passion for Japanese culture and a keen interest in various filmmaking techniques, Sol set out to realize his vision of Junko’s Shamisen.  A vision he would have to execute while taking on the challenging roles of writer, director and animator.

“Each presented its own challenges. I am a self-taught animator, so working with actors is quite a bit different. I like to keep massaging elements until the final print, but on set you have a limited amount of time, and there’s a lot less wiggle room so being economical is hugely important . This was also my first time working with a proper producer and crew, so with regards to writing and directing, I had to step outside my shell to communicate to the team about what was in my head. Again, working on my own, in the dark, for weeks on end, those concerns aren’t as persistent. As far as animation went on this project, there were several styles mixed together so as you can imagine, there were various challenges along the way mainly in terms of keeping the aesthetic coherent but eclectic at the same time.”

Junko's Shamisen: From Vision To Reality | Award Winning Short Film Junko's Shamisen by Sol Friedman

Once on set, the director relied heavily on his artistic background to communicate what he wanted to his crew.

“I definitely think being an artist was an asset. It certainly helped in communicating and executing my idea, but perhaps more importantly, it informed a flexibility in my approach. I am not terribly stubborn in the real world, and even less so in art. So I try to keep doors open wherever possible.  Ironically, I had the least on set experience out of anyone, including the eleven year old lead, but since it was an all greenscreen soundstage, and I knew what I needed in order to composite my shots, it felt like the field was somewhat leveled. All things considered it went very smoothly.”

Once the shooting was complete Sol had a whole new set of hurdles to clear in post production.  The daunting task of creating all the animated elements now presented him with challenges he was excited to take on and overcome.

“A typical day during the VFX on this project would have been about 18 hours of me sitting in front of the computer drinking coffee, clicking buttons, and mostly just waiting for things to render then tweak . We shot on Red and for the final composites, used 16-bit TIFF sequences so the files were really heavy-and by the end pretty belligerent.  The editing was done in Final Cut Pro and I worked completely in Adobe After Effects for all compositing, animation and hand drawn elements.  I pushed the software (After Effects) as far as I could with some shots composed of over 1200 layers. The Fox was animated by Pete Levin in LA (who just directed a foo fighter’s video). He sent me files that I played with using a mixture of AE and FCP as necessary.”

Next up for Junko’s Shamisen?

“The film has far exceeded my expectations. I thought we’d play it in a few local film festivals, but our premiere was at Slamdance in Park City (running parallel to Sundance), and from there it has gone on to screen at over fifty festivals worldwide. I recently released the film to the public online and am hoping to build some word of mouth and get the film into the hands of somebody who can help turn this into a killer feature version.”

WATCH THE ENTIRE FILM BELOW

As for Sol Friedman, the director has already begun work on his next project.

“I am in pre-production right now on a robot love story which I am pretty excited about. Hopefully in the fall we’ll have something to show.”

Special thanks to Sol Friedman for the interview.

If you would like to see you film featured on The Athletic Nerd, email me the details at jason@17west.ca.

The Scream Trilogy & My First Horror Movie

April 13, 2011 at 11:25 am

The Scream Trilogy & My First Horror Movie | Movie Blog

ONCE UPON A TIME…
WHEN KETCHUP WAS STILL USED AS FAKE BLOOD…

The original Scream redefined the horror movie for a new generation of movie fans.  My generation.  All of the jumpy moments, the chases and the countless references to the movies we adore came together perfectly.  I loved Scream.

So much so we decided to create our own slasher movie.  The only way we knew how.

THE MAKING OF CAMPUS CRIES

The release of Scream 4 got me thinking about the horror movies we used to make when we were kids.  Scream inspired a short film we called Campus Cries.

XTRA: Action movie brings back memories of cardboard props and fire.

We used to make movies in sequence, making things up as we went along and simply rewinding the tape until we got the shot we wanted.  There was no editing involved.  Each time we had to do a new take we would lose a few frames on the previous shot so the pressure was on.  There were no scripts when we made movies and Campus Cries was no different.

It was simply a matter of asking ourselves what happened next.  Essentially, our story was quite similar to Scream.  A group of kids had to figure out who a masked killer was before they all suffered a gruesome fate.  Except there was only three of us.  It’s amazing how ‘convincing’ changing your shirt can be.  I think I died at least 3 times in different costumes.

The story changed at every turn and even we didn’t really know who the killer would end up being.  It was like a choose your own adventure book on VHS.  When you’re younger and making movies simply because it’s fun you don’t think about building suspense and character development.  You aren’t concerned with production values as long as it looks cool in your eyes.  Using ketchup as fake blood made sense because we didn’t have access to corn syrup and red food coloring at the time.  Except nobody wants ketchup smeared on their face.  It smells really bad after a while but these were the sacrifices we made for the good of the movie.

We made a war movie a long time ago and I had to spit up blood in my death scene.  Let me tell you, waiting for someone to say action with a mouthful of ketchup is absolutely disgusting.  Too much ketchup.  It looked cool but it was extremely gross.

Our movie would have gone on all night but eventually we took the hockey mask off the killer.  I’ll never forget that amazing shot.  We had reached the end and only a few people were still alive.  (Of course there had to be because there were only three of us after all.) The mask comes off and my friend couldn’t play dead.  He had a huge smile on his face.  Not the most realistic ending of our horror film but we didn’t care.

All that mattered was making movies.