Have you ever wondered what Dragon’s Den (or the equally entertaining Shark Tank) would be like if it only featured film projects? Raindance Canada offers the closest thing to it with a unique pitching competition called Live! Ammunition!
“Our much anticipated Live! Ammunition! Pitching Competition and its after party is coming up on Tuesday, November 15th at the Revival Bar (Toronto). Anyone with an idea for a movie can pitch to a panel of industry insiders & executives at this event; it’s Dragon’s Den for filmmakers. Over $1000 in prizes to be won.”
Shauna MacDonald, one of Canada’s most successful actress
Jane Jankovic – commissioning editor of Canadian Documentaries at TVO
Rita Chiarelli, highly acclaimed roots and blues artist
Ingrid Veninger, an award-winning creative producer.
No budget. No visual effects. Just house hold items and an imagination.
I was flipping through the channels recently and came across the final 30 minutes of Air Force One starring Harrison Ford. Awesome action movie. A few friends of mine were watching with me as the plane went down at the end. The first thing I thought of was how far visual effects has come since 1997.
It sparked a memory of making movies when I was much younger. Back then, we were always trying to figure out how to create ‘cool’ effects. I still remember discovering that a program like After Effects existed. The thought of creating my own light saber battles kept me up at night thinking about the possibilities. I even built my own blue double light saber. (No big deal)
Note: There is a synopsis for our Star Wars movie on my hard drive somewhere…
Many ideas we had were pretty ambitious and rarely worked out as we hoped they would. But watching our footage and screaming “That looks amazing!” was a normal occurrence.
Kids Making Action Movies
As I watched Harrison Ford save the day, I thought about a story I wrote long ago called Extreme Security and a failed attempt at our own ‘big finish’.
Extreme Security was about a well trained security guard who has to stop a group of terrorists from taking over a government facility. The group, Venom, intended to take over the world using the secret intelligence files and chemical weapons within the facility.
The movie had characters with names like Spear and there was going to be fights and gun battles at every possible opportunity. We even managed to shoot a few scenes. We went out and bought toy guns and spray painted them black and everyone wore cool sunglasses to get into character. It was going to be an amazing action movie inspired by Jean Claude, Steven Segal and many more legends of the action genre.
The Big Finish
The movie was supposed to end with a missile destroying the facility before Venom’s plan is carried out. We got to work…
First we built a pretty sweet building made of cardboard. Of course, it didn’t look like a building so we spray painted it with stone textured paint. Our first miniature. We taped plastic wrap to the back of the windows to make them look real and used spare parts from toys for turrets on the roof.
Once our building was complete, we had to figure out a way to blow it up. Our plan was to cut a hole in the roof and put a paper cup full of gasoline inside. We tied a string to the bottom of the cup and a toy rocket to the other end. Our brilliant plan was to light a match attached to the rocket. This way we could let the rocket, which would look real because of the fire coming from the match, fall directly into the cup of gas and the whole structure would catch on fire.
Obviously, we were smart enough to know that it wouldn’t actually explode but we figured we could film it and speed the footage up. It was our only realistic plan at the time because we weren’t allowed to use super heated (and extremely flammable) aerosol cans.
During our first and only test run, the rocket landed and the flames took a while to really get going. The plastic wrap windows slowly melted away which disappointed us because we didn’t think about how to simulate glass shattering.
In the end, it was basically a complete disaster and we eventually lost interest in the movie. Extreme Security will probably never see the light of day.
That doesn’t change the fact that it was a blast (no pun intended) to plan. Back then, there wasn’t anywhere near the amount of digital tools available to indie filmmakers today.
We now have access to sites like VideoCopilot where effects guru Andrew Kramer shares the secrets of After Effects. Check out his product Action Essentials 2 for about a million different pre keyed elements like fire, explosions, dust, glass shattering and much more.
Disclaimer: This is just a genuine recommendation. No affiliation whatsoever. I bought the package long ago and it’s awesome. Go check it out immediately and watch hundreds of FREE tutorials.
Air Force One is an example of doing the best you can with what you have at the time. I’d love to see the same effect created today but when you don’t have access to the technology, you have to solve problems and challenges creatively.
Our movie may not have been practical but it was still practice. It was a great way to learn about how to think like filmmakers.
How to be creative with limitations.
We finished a lot of movies back then. Each of them taught me something new and all of them made me love making movies even more. My life long passion for film began on those awesome summer days spent trying to figure out problems like destroying secret cardboard government facilities.
It’s just too bad about the building. That stone textured spray paint looked sweet.
I have gigantic amounts of respect for Kevin Smith’s work.
Before I go further, let me say that I’m not necessarily a die hard fan of his films but I still find them to be entertaining.
I’m a huge fan of Kevin Smith the person. I first became a fan after a friend of mine showed me the first Evening With Kevin Smith DVD. I now own all three in addition to his hilarious books. What I find fascinating is how easy it is to relate to him as he rants about his adventures in Hollywood.
He’s just up there talking about how much he loves making movies. His movies.
It’s admirable because he does things his way and is successful because he answers directly to his fans. Naturally, he wants to attract new fans as well but he’s always mindful of the people who have followed him along the way.
Kevin Smith is easily one of the most accessible filmmakers in the world. Whether it’s through his DVD’s, books, blogs, smodcasts or tweets, he always seems to be reachable.
That is why I’m a fan.
Following Kevin Smith is a glimpse into the world of filmmaking by someone who did it by himself. He took a huge risk and found an audience with Clerks and hasn’t looked back since.
Yet there are still people out there who criticize his films. Most notable, the recent ‘Hollywood-ish’ buddy cop comedy Cop Out.
I think he returned to his ‘do it yourself and see what happens’ roots as a result.
That’s why I’m hoping Red State is his best film to date.
The film was made for a reasonably low cost and he is handling most of the work himself. Case in point, he edited the film each night and had a rough cut ready for the wrap party.
That’s unheard of yet not surprising given Smith is so passionate about his films.
When he launched the first poster Red State shot up my most anticipated films list.
Here is what Mr. Smith had to say about the poster on his blog:
“Moody, weird, and pitch-perfect for the tone of the film. If I went out to an ad agency here in town, I’d be billed close to 20 grand for a campaign that’d maybe… maybe… include this poster. But this piece of artwork (I call it “The Holy Ghost”) didn’t come from a top-tier ad agency: Jon Gordon is my RED STATE producer, and this poster was created by his assistant, Melissa Bloom. So we’ve got a marketing image that was put together by someone who was on set every day, integral to the process that produced the film which inspired this image. This isn’t the work of some gun for hire who’s doing six other campaigns; we’re not just one of many. The marketer is actually family, RED from pre-production all the way through wrap, so she’s got an insight into the flick that no ad agency could ever boast (not even one-time Glo-Coat golden boy Don Draper over at SCDP). I’ll take passion over pedigree any day.”
I think that statement alone is inspiring to independent filmmakers out there.
Come up with a film believe in and make it happen.
Recently, he debuted the teaser trailer before a small group of fans in a feature he calls Red State of the Union.
“Your audience is coming so lets reach for the audience that’s not coming… I hate that.”
He’s doing all the right things. Promoting the movie himself through a community he’s built around the fans that love his work.
He’s planning on doing more Q&A’s leading up to the film’s release and I for one will be tuning in for all of them.
I’m looking forward to seeing some footage from this film. It’s completely different than anything he’s ever done. I think it’s a perfect film for him to make. Why not change things up and step away from comedy and do something completely different?
My favorite Kevin Smith film is Jersey Girl. That’s probably an unpopular opinion but I think Mr. Smith would agree that’s it’s not about popular opinion. It’s about the movies you connect with.
It’s too soon to tell if Red State will be a hit with fans or critics alike.
However, how can you not be curious about a film he cares so deeply about?
PS: I’m curious as to how people will take the religious tone of the film especially after the amount of protesters against Dogma.