.:Targets (part 2)

January 23, 2009 at 4:32 am (Uncategorized)

After a brief history (or at least my perceptions) of the Christian film industry… I think it’s time to deliver what could be seen more of my take on film, my goals, and my understandings of my current path.

To me, film is an art.  It’s the picture, the framing, the lighting, the story, the character, the score… everything.  It is a very collaborative artform that can have many end uses.  Some feel that creating for an audience means you sell out to get more posteriers in padded chairs… some feel that making films for the sake of art is pretentious.

You can’t make everyone happy.  Easiest way to become critic-proof is to die… and then that wears off after time…

So while I’ve come to accept that I am in a field where my success or failure will be more or less determined by others’ opinions of my abilities and work, that my ambition in telling stories is to ask the questions that delve me deeper into understanding of myself and how things work.  I’ve decided not to bring my art to a point where I’m telling people how to live or what to do… but more ask myself how I’m supposed to be living, and what I should be doing with my life.

When I write, I ask questions.  For Greyscale, some of the main questions asked are:

  • What would happen if I forgave people more often?
  • What would happen if people forgave me more often?
  • What does forgiveness even really look like?
  • How does a person’s life change whether or not they are forgiven?
  • Can a person understand forgiveness unless someone has forgiven them?

Questions like that are (to me) deep at the root of daily existence.  In the end, I posit forgiveness in the choices of the main character, and show how the rest of the cast are little more than different hues on a grayscale because of different circumstances… what they were born into, choices they’ve made, and if forgiveness was something granted to them or given by them… and whether or not they’ve accepted the idea of either.

I’m sure a lot of this forethought will be lost entirely on 99% of my audience… but I’m not going to try to hammer in my musings.  If anything, I feel that asking questions is a far more honest platform to create art from, and I can only hope that someone will watch the end credits thinking about forgiveness and love in their lives.

The funny thing is… I don’t expect much in the way of support from the Christian film industry.  I’m not making anything resembling something that is from their blueprints.  I’m showing things that aren’t pleasant… death, lies, deceit, murder… damaged goods.  But, light can’t be discerned without the dark… hills without valleys… etc.  Some won’t agree with my content, and won’t look past the fact that someone was just shot… or that the main character enters the movie bloodied and battered (on multiple levels, but I don’t expect anyone to read that much into a film anyway…)

.:Nomenclature
I’ve had many, many people ask me if this is a Christian film.  I tend to ask them what a Christian film is (an appropriately loaded question).  There’s no altar call, there’s no overtly religious character that steers the protagonist in the right direction… it’s just a tale of a lot of hurting, broken people that find themselves tangled in either embracing or trying to escape either their past, present, or future (how’s that for broad?).  The movie is being made for the most part by Christians.  We pray before we say “action” the first time of the day (a bird defecated in my hair on the first day I forgot… I thought that was humorous).  If that isn’t enough for some people, then so be it.

I will admit that it is difficult to take that Greyscale most likely will not be widely accepted (I’m supposing) by the crowd at ChristianFilmmakers.org because of some of the violence and other elements in it.  If any of you are reading, I hope you take solace in the thought that nothing I’ve included I felt was gratuitous.  Bad isn’t rewarded, good isn’t forgotten.  The story is intended for anybody that is mature enough to handle it.  I’m guessing it’ll come in at PG-13.  I wouldn’t want children to see the violence, personally.

.:Defense
I’m not looking forward to having to defend my choices, but I know that if I continue on this path, I’ll have to do so continually.  I suppose there just comes a point where one gets used to it and continues to ask the questions and tell the stories that one feels led to tell.

-Ryan

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.:Targets (part 1)

January 22, 2009 at 1:23 am (Uncategorized)

There’s a certain established forum that I frequent regarding faith and filmmaking (ok, I’m a moderator).  A lot of it devolves into complaining about the state of popular storytelling, and all the particulars that lead to the disliking of the elements therewithin.  There are good conversations to be sure, but there’s also a lot of in-fighting when right meets left (read: just right of center, usually).

The San Antonio International Christian Film Festival recently concluded.  Among many of their goals is one of creating an alternative ‘replacement’ industry for Hollywood.  I’ve asked many probing questions to the denizens of the forum as to what exactly the goals of this industry are, and how they plan to go about accomplishing them.  I’m not sure too many people have those answers yet… but some musing on the idea of a Christian film industry to replace Hollywood brought some thoughts up…

As I see it, here are the possible endgames:

  1. A movie industry that runs parallel to mainstream emerges (such as the CCM industry) that caters specifically to safe and family oriented material.  “Christian Entertainment,” if you will.  They will still continue to craft evangelistic films, but they will be primarily preaching to the choir since this replacement industry will be supported by its core group (which still doesn’t even agree on content… more on that in a bit).
  2. More films are created with rising production values, start getting more Christian butts into theaters to support the films (such as Fireproof), and they carve out some of the nicer weekend release dates that mainstream fare might wish for.

As I understand it, most Christian films (quality qualms aside) tend to reach out for evangelistic purposes by putting what boils down to a sermon in their film (something usually seen for entertainment’s sake).  Audiences are fairly savvy to marketing and online research, so those that have little to no interest in sitting through a church service on Sunday will have little to no interest in sitting through one of these films.

.:Origins
I believe a large part of the frustration with Christian cinema is that some camps find a film either too preachy, or the Christianity too latent.  This is not to say that there is a middle road that a film can have, but that different groups in Christendom have differing opinions on what a Christian flick should be.  If it doesn’t fall into their camp, then it isn’t a worthwhile endeavor.

A lot of Christians receive their stories and their storytelling style understanding from the many Sundays listening to sermons… sermons that have bullet points and tend to repeat those points so that the person communicating is not unclear in their message, and that the people leaving the Church have an understanding and a remembrance of what was just taught.

Now translate that to film… not much subtlety.  Not much in the way of trusting the audience to understand what is happening… sound familiar for Christian flicks?  I think there is a trend, and it is an unfortunate one.

That’s enough of a minor rant for now… more to come in Part 2.

-Ryan

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.:Trailer Help? (Spoilers)

December 26, 2008 at 7:06 am (Uncategorized)

“If you reveal your secrets to the wind you should not blame the wind for revealing them to the trees.”
~
Kahlil Gibran

While I am currently taking a mini-break from most things production related for Christmas (it helps that my primary computer is crippled until I wipe it and reinstall all my programs… what joy that will bring…), my mind is still on what is next on the list: The Greyscale trailer.

We’ve shot nearly everything we need to shoot to put together what I think will be a great trailer. The only things missing are a few scenes that involve a bit of gunplay and other action-y things that would look great in half-second bursts to quickly paced music…

.:Reveals

I’ve been told the trailer isn’t a narrative tool… it’s a marketing tool. And one has to be careful not to give away all ‘the good bits.’ Fewer things are more disappointing than walking out of the theater feeling like you just paid to see all the less exciting scenes. While I’m going through all the footage to pick out the best looking imagery, I have to think about what each piece says.

What I’m looking to avoid is letting the audience have what basically amounts to a checklist where they ecan say, “Well this character can’t diyet because I’ve seen them in a scene in the trailer and it hasn’t happened in the movie yet.” What I’m also looking to avoid is giving too much of a twisty plot away.

Here’s where I’m looking for some help from some people close to the project… so… I’ll just say right now: SPOILER ALERT!

I’m getting the distinct feeling that if I show the turning point from Plot Point 1 (Julia’s fate from Act 1 revealed), then Plot Point 1 is ruined and the first act loses the feel I’m working hard to craft and makes our hero look possibly a little emo…

…now, if I don’t include the Plot Point 1 reveal, then the personal element of Acts 2 and 3 aren’t present and might leave the audience wondering why on earth they should watch this movie (if for other reasons than seeing Doug Jones or Tim Russ in a movie) , and even being a bit ambiguous could create a lack of interest.

Thoughts? How much do we tell the audience? How far into the movie do we show?

-Ryan

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.:Returning

December 24, 2008 at 7:09 am (Uncategorized)

When I can’t remember the login or password of a blog… it’s been too long, or at least long enough to reassess whether or not revisiting it would be a worthwhile endeavor.

Obviously, I am posting, so y0u can guess that tWF is returning for at least one post… I can guarantee that much for you.

.:Sections

For personal reasons, I am needing to fragment my life
for fear that one massive, colorless behemoth not take over
the rest of me.

I’ve already revitalized (read, posted at least once more in)
my personal blog from long ago (read, died 2 months before tWF)
so I decided that the artist/writer in me (read, writer)
needed to get out a little more.

.:Falling

After having seen Tarsem’s The Fall, I started pondering what the future of my work would contain.  Some flicks, like Tarsem’s, employ striking visuals with a delicate story that could get overshadowed by the imagery. Some take place in one or two locations and are entirely about the inner turmoil of one or two characters. So, I think tWF will start down a little path of trying to discover where the artist in me came from, and what he is trying to accomplish.

.:Careers

I’ve been told one’s second film can be much more difficult
to piece together due to the baggage of the first always being
firmly in the rearview mirror… for better or worse.

I’ve also been told that one shouldn’t vary more than 5%
from their past work or else people won’t know what to do with you.
I’m still trying to figure that one out myself.
For as fun as neo-noir is, I’m not sure how much…
I enjoy wrestling with the darkness inherent in the genre…
So there’s that…

It’s late.
-Ryan

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.:Daros

April 30, 2008 at 1:56 am (Uncategorized)

It’s been a while, but the majority of new content is now being posted over at http://www.DarosFilms.com.

-Ryan

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.:Villains and Soundwaves

March 14, 2008 at 3:16 pm (Uncategorized)

“The more successful the villain, the more successful the picture.”
~Alfred Hitchcock

I’m up to version 1.5 of Greyscale.  I haven’t really finished a first draft because I keep getting to the final scenes, and I don’t like the payoff.  Or, lately, I’m realizing that my antagonist is horribly underdeveloped.  So, I go back in and drop in a scene to let the audience know what he/they are up to.

But, just dropping in on them isn’t enough.  They are currently playing a ‘waiting game,’ biding their time for the inevitable appearance of the protagonist to appear on the doorstep (he does  have motivation to do so, and they know it… I just want them to be more active).

Of course, one of the hallmarks of this story is hidden motive, and by the end, the loyalties of nearly every character will come into question until just the final resolution of the plot.  I’ve always appreciated films that keep me guessing until the end and have earned their payoff.  Basically, I like to make a movie that needs a second viewing for extra enjoyment for all the little things that were placed innocuously in places that hopefully weren’t too heavy handed in their foreshadowing.

So, overall… I need a better baddie.  What makes a good bad guy to you?

-Ryan

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.:Screenplays and Soundtrack

March 6, 2008 at 6:54 pm (editing, production, screenwriting) (, , )

Greyscale 4.0… still underway.

Yes, more changes, but they only come when the story would be bettered (in my opinion) for it. I had gotten 88 pages in to my first draft, and realized that the antagonist (well, the most visible one) was horribly underdeveloped. So, I restructured the plot, changed up a few roles, added a couple characters, and the script is starting to get closer to being where I’m hoping for it to be for a finished first draft.

Other than Greyscale, there are other incredibly exciting potential things happening on the horizon, but both are far too early in the planning stages to divulge any information of note.

Battlefield is set to continue on March 16th if weather permits and schedules line up. Filming the last 20% of the series has been pushed back 3 times now, so I’m hoping to don the helmet again and wrap this up… Ironically, the ending has been shot, but there are a few scenes missing from the last 4 chapters, so I can’t go on and edit what I have. Also, I’m needing a soundtrack…

Lastly, ChristianFilmmakers.org put on a 24-Hour Contest that Daros Films entered (as well as FutureLight Studios… which is to say, my friend Austin was also on the team). We put together something very fun, but ultimately we were edged out by time. Out of 71 entries, we placed 4th. And by 4th, I mean we got the 2nd highest score (top 2 had a 23.5/30, and 3rd and 4th at 23/30). Later I was told that if we had re-recorded all our music (we did that to some of the music, but ran out of time to do it for all), our score would have been bumped up, but that’s just the nature of the 24-Hour contest.

So, thanks to Austin, Marisa, Jason, and Brandon for putting together the short film Soundtrack.  We had a great time making it, and will be posting an updated version with bloopers when time allows.

It was the first time I had been a part of a musical short, and it had been years since I had done a comedy… so this was a refreshing change. Check it out and keep looking for updates!

-Ryan

P.S.  Check out MovieZeal… they do a much better job of keeping up with movie trailers and reviews.  I still post some reviews every now and again, but I am lacking the time to write about trailers.

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.:Happy Valentine’s Day!

February 14, 2008 at 10:34 pm (Uncategorized)

Hey all, happy Valentine’s Day!  Enjoy the overabundance of sweet morsels (or not) that are around.

Several things… I’ve been working on Greyscale, and as I’m learning with the whole writing-a-feature-length-script thing… the concept can change drastically when you hit a brick wall in the creative process (or find a more satisfying storyline at the expense of some of the background to the story).

Greyscale 3.0 (third major concept) is something of a strange conceptual mix of  Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Memento, Brick, and The Princess Bride.  It’s becoming much more of the story I want to tell, and it now has a lot more heart to it… which makes me very happy.  Also I’m noticing that I’m pulling from a lot of my favorite movies (OUaTiM isn’t one of them…)

Oh, and tonight I plan to see Jumper, and get back to you all with a review.  It’s been panned pretty badly in most of the reviews I’ve seen so far, but I’m hoping for some mindless teleportation entertainment.

Until later,

-Ryan

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.:New Feature Length Screenplay – Greyscale

February 11, 2008 at 12:30 pm (greyscale, screenwriting) (, )

“Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checked by failure…than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in a grey twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”
~Theodore Roosevelt

There are some creative endeavors that I know exactly how the idea was sparked.  There are others that just climb into my subconscious, mill about for a while, and then explode forth without warning.

Thursday night I visited a local film making group for the first time, and I thoroughly enjoyed meeting all the different people that attended, but I believe that about 3/4ths of the way through the meeting, I became heavily, heavily distracted.

Why?

I have a new idea for a movie.

 Not a 20 minute Smugglin’, or a 37 minute Return to Volition… or not even an ill-fated 55 minute The Script.  No, I have my eye on a 90-100 minute Greyscale.

While I did just reference not biting off more than one can chew, and how The Script never made it past two completed scenes because of difficulties with procuring location and time passing… Greyscale will hurdle over these logistical problems, and even finish up nicely, if things work out.

What’s different?  Well,  this time I’m not including any locations that I know I can’t feasibly procure (or have to pay for).  I’m trying not to include more roles than I know people who could (and would be willing to) fill.

I’m not fully ready to give a plot synopsis, but I will say that the term Greyscale holds great significance to the plot.  Of the few people that I have told the general idea of the plot, they say things like:

  • “Oh, that sounds like The Giver.”
  • “Oh, that sounds like Pleasantville.”
  • “Oh, that sounds like Children of Men.”

I can assure you that it is very much unlike those (although I haven’t seen Children of Men).  But, I will go against my own advice and tell you what movies that parts of Greyscale could be compared to (or has drawn inspiration from).

  • Dick Tracy
  • James Bond
  • Sin City
  • A Beautiful Mind
  • Cloverfield/War of the Worlds
  • The Matrix

Like I said, just parts… I’m not having Neo fight the Cloverfield monster while wearing a yellow trenchoat that shows against a black and white setting while going by a number for a codename and then realize some of the supporting cast were really just in his head… 😉

I’m excited.

-Ryan

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.:Thoughts on Production – Chapter One

February 6, 2008 at 12:53 pm (production) ()

Before, I mentioned how I begin my editing process. I realized while writing the article that I kept wanting to throw in how I go about starting a new project. So, welcome to the new series: Thoughts on Production.

.:Scale

Let’s begin with the end product in mind, shall we? What will the completed work accomplish? Feature length film, short film, YouTube, DVD… plenty of options. So, firstly, start with the scale. How long is the story you want to tell?

If you have a script written with industry standard margins (usually written with software like FinalDraft or the free Celtx), the general rule of thumb is one minute per page. It can vary, depending on if your script is dialogue heavy or very descriptive, but it’s at least a starting point.

So, now we have something of an idea of how long your finished product will be, which should help you decide where the final product will be (internet or DVD). Let’s move forward.

.:Scope

Regardless of whether you are making a narrative or a documentary, look around you for what you can use. Be it people, locations, items, vehicles, etc. Use what you have when starting out. Production can get expensive, and if you are just learning the ropes, beg, borrow or… well, don’t steal, but start out small if you’ve never undertaken a production before.

My first production was a silly short story that my college friends and I made during the finals week of our freshman year. We shot until we figured we had told the story well enough… there was no script, and we had a loose concept of what would be funny. It wound up being 20 minutes long, and really didn’t do much of anything beyond make people laugh at how odd we were.

The second project was a serious one, and was scripted out to 35 pages. It ran 37 minutes long, and I relied on friends to be cast and crew, and used locations that I had access to (or asked to have access to for free).

Third project… I got too ambitious, had a 55 page script, then while we were into production, the major location that I had wrangled due to a friend knowing a guy who could get us in fell through. It was the basis for about half of the shots of the movie… time went by, my actors grew out or chopped off their hair, continuity was gone, and the movie was abandoned.

Let that be a cautionary tale for getting too big too fast. I’ll leave you with these three ideas:

1.) Determine the finished format.
2.) Use what is cheaply available.
3.) Use what is (and will stay) available.
I hope to continue this series, and I hope this was helpful for focusing your ideas on going out and making something wonderful!
-Ryan

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