While 17 West Productions didn’t produce any new films in 2011, it was still a busy year. I have a several big announcements to make:
The last time I updated 17 West site, it was purely to upgrade the look and integrate The Athletic Nerd a little more. I’ve been blogging online for over 2 years now and I’ve learned a lot about search engines and what it takes to attract an audience. Now it’s time to put that knowledge to good use.
A whole new look has arrived but this time it’s a fully functional WordPress powered site.
A NEW SHORT FILM RELEASED!
The new site just happens to coincide with the release of The Climb. Our new short film which will be up VERY SOON!
On a sad note, Strings has officially been cancelled. The film was in pre-production for over a year but after a couple hitches we’ve decided to move forward with some new ideas. 17 West Productions is now actively developing our next project which will be directed by Eric Gamache. There aren’t any timelines yet but updates will come fast both here and on the new 17west.ca.
WILL KEVIN SMITH CHANGE INDEPENDENT FILMMAKING FOREVER?
Kevin Smith is right. He definitely generated a ton of hype for the world premiere of Red State at Sundance this year with basically no cost at all. Movie sites, bloggers, fans and critics were all talking about his plan to auction off the distribution rights after the screening.
It was a ballsy move for sure. What if the movie didn’t connect to the audience? Would it blow up in his face?
Little did we know, selling the rights to distribute and market his film was never his intention at all.
Here is his speech after the screening:
His intention was to prove that you could make and distribute a film for far less than the studios spend on films these days. So he bid $20 bucks on his own movie in a symbolic gesture to prove that times are changing in the independent film world.
His plan is simple. Instead of selling a 4 million dollar film to a studio who would then spend 20 million to market the flick, he would distribute the film as part of a cross country tour leading to a theatrical release he would orchestrate himself.
“It’s too much ****ing horse **it, I just want to tell ****ing stories.”
“Why would anyone outside of Hollywood be upset if he found a way to beat the studios at their own game? But the idea that what Smith is trying to do is somehow applicable to small, independent filmmakers is complete nonsense.” Screen Junkies
“Amidst your overlong monologue of self-gratification, you mentioned that instead of having the studios pay to release your film, you were going to have us, the audience, pay you out of our pockets to fund it. Then, in passing, you quickly alluded to a crucial financial figure; for this ‘privilege’ of seeing your flick, we’d each have to pay “six, seven, ten times the price of a normal movie ticket”. (Pre-sale pricing released today confirms ticketing starts at $68.25 for nosebleeds, up to $142.70)You then defended this by adding that you’d follow the screening with a Q&A. What fanboy should (or could) drop that kind of coin to see a film? And now the question that must be asked…would Dante or Randal be able to afford that?” Joblo
Personally, I think HE can pull it off but I’m not entirely sure how that will translate to filmmakers like me who don’t have 1.7 million followers to draw attention to our films.
In all honesty, I think it’s a great idea. I think if it works it will open a lot of doors for him. What he is doing is creating an alternative to the studio system. Can you make a movie without spending ridiculous amounts of money on marketing?
I think it depends on who you ask. Take Christopher Nolan’s Inception. That movie received a ton of marketing cash in addition to the $160 million dollar production budget. The film went on to make more than $800 million world wide. (Boxofficemojo)
Will he ever see those kinds of numbers with his new strategy? Does it even matter? Again, it depends on who you ask. Honestly, I’m looking forward to seeing how well Red State does. He is putting a lot on the line for his first Horror film.
If people do pay large amounts of money, is it because of the film or the Q&A that will follow? What if the film fails? Will his tour have a positive or negative effect once the film reaches theaters?
On the other hand, what if the plan works and he opens a few doors by creating a new distribution model. He could position himself to help and inspire a lot of filmmakers out there. Perhaps other people will follow his lead and start championing lower budget films as well. Perhaps indie filmmakers will be more willing to release their own films as well.
A lot of people complain about the lack of originality in Hollywood these days. Everything depends on the bottom line. Kevin Smith’s new adventure could lead to more and more originality on the big screen thanks to the visions of countless indie filmmakers out there that don’t have access to the studio distribution system. He’s potentially giving aspiring filmmakers another avenue to reach an audience.
I’m pretty pumped to see where this road leads. I hope the tour stops in Toronto eventually because I would definitely pay to see Red State before it’s proposed theatrical run in the fall.
“True independence isn’t making a film and selling it to some jack ass.”
Years ago, Eric Gamache and I started 17 West Productions while we were roommates. Eventually, I moved out on my own but remained in the same building. It’s a lot easier to have story meetings when you just need to stroll down the hall.
This week, we say goodbye to the original 17 West ‘offices’ and hello to a brand new location. (Actually it will be 2 new locations.)
Both of us are moving our families to new buildings that happen to be right next door to each other… Again. I think it’s awesome that through a series of random events, we wound up remaining neighbors. Neither of us wanted to commute across town for meetings and such.
I spent the last few weeks daydreaming about the view from my new apartment and how nice it will be to write in a new environment. I’m also pumped to continue post-production on our latest short film, The Climb. From a directing stand point, Eric feels the same way about his new apartment and future plans. There’s just something exciting about a new home. Something that ignites your creativity. As we continue to build our company and plan our next project we are both experiencing an overwhelming feeling of excitement. A renewed sense of dedication.
New location. New ideas. New movies.
I think 2011 is going to turn out pretty great for 17 West.
Our film, Playing Through premieres online very soon as part of the NSI Online Short Film Festival. The Climb should be out by the fall. We will be developing new films over the next few months that I’ll be writing with Eric directing. Our websites are growing and both of our industry careers are still going strong.
But we’re both suffering from withdrawal. Making movies is our passion and once we move into our new homes this week we will officially be in development mode again.
Personally, I can’t wait to get back at it. Being on the set of a movie we produced is one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had. I need more!
Hopefully, we will be able to announce something soon! I love this stuff!
Back to work in 3… 2… Now.
Athletic Nerd Note: There won’t be a Rundown this week as I’ll be unpacking my brains out all weekend. Back on Monday!
The end of 2010 will probably signify the end of our promotional campaign for the film. With it’s festival run over, we now turn our attention to distribution, television and hopefully launch the entire film online over at 17west.ca by the end of the next year.
If you haven’t seen the trailer yet, check it out below.
We also produced a low budget short film that is currently in post production called The Climb.
I wrote and directed the film and I’m currently handling most of the post-production so progress is slow but I’m getting there.
Those who follow 17 West Productions have no doubt heard of another project called Strings. The film was written a while back and even reached casting but was stalled due to the always challenging search for funding.
We are co-producing the film which is due to be filmed in Sudbury, Ontario in 2011 assuming Operation: Funding is successful. Expect a full update in the next few weeks.
The rest of 2010 was spent developing new stories and short film concepts that we hope to produce. The process of lining up projects is a long one but the results have been encouraging thus far. Currently, we have 6 or 7 projects in development and several more with completed screenplays waiting to be greenlit.
All in all, I’m happy about our company’s progress in 2010. Eric and I both work full time jobs in the industry and considering how difficult it is to run our company on a part time basis, we still managed to get a film into festivals while producing another.
What’s important to me is how much time we have spent developing projects for the future.
The goal for 2011 is to ramp up development and hopefully move forward on a new short film project late in the year.
Check out the newly redesigned www.17west.ca for more on 17W and keep checking back here for updates.
Thanks to @michelsavoie and @rbc I was lucky enough to be invited to an amazing event held last night at the TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto.
A Conversation With Tim Burton.
The event is part of a pretty impressive tribute to Burton’s work including workshops, movie marathons and an impressive art gallery which I wasn’t fortunate enough to see but looked amazing.
Personally, I was extremely excited to hear the filmmaker talk about his career and inspirations and he didn’t disappoint.
Whether you love his films or not you can’t argue that they are easily recognizable. His style is incredibly unique, strange and wonderful.
I couldn’t wait to get a sense of what he’s really like.
On stage, he was extremely humble and modest yet confident and surprisingly funny. I’m not sure why I was surprised by his sense of humor given the fact that my personal favorite of his is Beetlejuice. Ironically, it was one of the first films he talked about mentioning that the studios wanted to change the title to: House Guests. A title he relegated to the straight-to-dvd section of video stores.
I suppose I was expecting a quiet and weird auteur but instead we were all treated to an incredibly interesting mix of strangeness and honesty.
“I didn’t know I was weird until people told me I was”
That’s why we love Tim Burton.
It’s that weirdness and unpredictability that makes him interesting. Within two minutes, I was hanging on every single word he said and it was absolutely fascinating.
The first portion of the evening was an hour long sit down interview where various clips of his films played in between his sincere comments about his film career. It was followed by a short yet revealing question and answer period with the audience.
The format was a great way to introduce different aspects of his career. You could feel the excitement in the room when people’s favorites were on the screen. I know I was giddy a few times. Especially when Batman made an appearance.
Tim mentioned several times that he never watches his own movies. I wish I was able to see him during the clips to confirm whether or not that was true. I like to think he was looking away.
It’s truly inspiring to get a window into a filmmakers creative process.
Tim spoke candidly about how he tries to find time every day to simply look out a window and let his mind wander. I thought about that comment a lot. It’s both strange and interesting. On one hand, it’s good advice. No matter what adult responsibilities (as he put it) you have, it’s always good to make time for yourself and let your imagination run wild. On the other hand, I can totally see him sitting alone in a room with only a chair, a window and his thoughts.
Strange and interesting.
Listening to him speak about his background in animation and how he used to sit underneath his desk all day is a perfect example of an artist who isn’t afraid to be himself. I had no idea he started as an animator for Disney. I’ll never be able to picture him drawing The Fox and the Hound. I suppose he didn’t either. He may not have considered himself a great animator but the man worked for Disney. That’s saying something.
Eventually, he would bring his unique artistic style to millions of adoring fans but I still love the image of him drawing underneath his desk wishing he wasn’t sketching Todd and Copper.
You could tell Tim was proud of his body of work regardless of whether he watched his films or not. He spoke honestly about his need to connect to a particular character or monster. I think that deep connection is what makes his monsters and ghouls so sympathetic and endearing. It allows us to connect to them just as deeply. There’s a powerful relationship between a movie and a fan.
Sometimes we as fans have no idea why a director chooses a particular film. I was happy someone asked him about Big Fish because it led to a personal story about how his own father had passed before he made the film. He spoke about how he wouldn’t have made the film otherwise. It was a touching moment as you could tell how much that film meant to him.
That level of care bleeds through the screen and into the hearts of the people who adore his movies.
It was also interesting to hear him compare Edward Scissorhands to himself. He even called it his favorite movie because of how connected he felt to the titular character’s journey.
A statement that drew a round of applause from the audience.
And yes… People asked him about Johnny Depp as well and he had a pretty great answer for why he worked with him so often. He complemented the actor saying that if Mr. Depp wasn’t right for a part he wouldn’t cast him. I really can’t argue with that as he is an amazing actor.
Tim spoke a lot about the people he works with often and how he likes to see them take on new challenges and succeed. Yet it was also clear that the director liked bringing fresh eyes onto his projects.
I like to think about the different people who have interpreted his unique and original style over the years. It isn’t limited to the people who work on his movies either.
Someone in the audience asked him about all the people who have tattoos based on his famous characters. Tim called it the best compliment he has ever received.
“I don’t even have that kind of dedication.” he joked.
People simply love his gloomy black and white style. The black and white stripes in particular have fascinated many over the years. The subject of the stripes came up towards the end of the evening and Mr. Burton provided one of the strangest answers of the night. I’m paraphrasing here but he essentially believed that wearing black and white socks made him feel more connected to the ground. Nobody seemed to know what to make of that answer but we were all thinking about it in depth.
I would have been happy listening to him elaborate on that statement for the rest of the night.
Sure he is a strange guy but we don’t love Tim Burton because he’s normal. We love his work BECAUSE it’s weird.
Before I knew it the conversation was over and he thanked everyone graciously before leaving the stage.
All I wanted to do was hurry home and either edit my latest short film or work on my newest screenplay. Listening to him speak so honestly about his career was truly inspiring and as an aspiring filmmaker myself, I’m happy I had the opportunity to be there.
I think my favorite moment of the entire evening was when he was asked about the all the different images of skeletons in his movies. He said:
“There’s a skeleton in each and every one of us.”
It’s an old joke that caused many to giggle lightly in the theater including myself.
However, I also look at it as a perfect way to describe his connection to both his characters and his fans.
We all have monsters and ghosts inside.
I’m thankful for directors like Tim Burton for putting his on the screen.