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October Editorial - The Crazy World of Filmmaking
Sam North - Editor

You may well be hiding under your table surrounded by durable goods, a shot gun, sterile water, longlife batteries and dehydrated food waiting for G.W. Bush to blow the hell out of Iraq. You may have a long wait what with Ramadam coming up and Thanksgiving and oh God, Christmas…
It’s October and I already overheard people planning Christmas parties. Depressed yet? Take your choice, President Bush lining the pockets of oil barons in Texas and the Middle East (ironically Saddam Hussein as well - who just signed a major deal with Spain to supply them with 12.2 million barrels a day (source Financial Times 28.9.02)) or yet another Christmas with three months of fake joy and unwanted presents to go.
We really do live in a crazy world.

Hackwriters attended the 21st Vancouver Film Festival Trade Forum this past weekend and things didn’t get better. You can read our film critic Alex Grant’s comments about the Festival in the magazine, but ploughing through the vast list of films on offer it was a thoroughly depressing choice. The Trade Forum on the other hand was well organised, informative and pretty damn useful for any aspiring filmmakers, so congratulations to the VIFF for getting that right.
Saturday was a pretty fascinating day made up of four separate panels and discussions.

Starting Small: Film budgets of around $750,000 CND.
The speakers were pretty much the lynchpins of Canadian Film. Diane Boehme from CHUM TV, Trish Dolman a Producer of a film called Flower and Garnet, David Reckziegle Co President of Seville Pictures (who have a hit on their hands at the moment with ‘Eight Women’ from France.
Juliet Smith from Fraser, Milner,Casgrain lawyers and Justine White from the Feature Film Project.

Getting a low budget film off the ground is dependent on a whole host of tax deals, TV rights, Telefilm subsidies and private money. No one is saying it is easy and almost all said it was virtually impossible to make money. Which begs the questions as to why they were there and how they paid their rent? Although most mentioned that getting the script ‘right’ was a good idea, none seemed very interested in writers or offered tips on how writers could reach them given that agents ‘books are full’ ... But it was a healthy does of realism. One suggestion did come out of it that was worth heeding, making your film in French and in Quebec would be profitable as people in Quebec love French movies. Just so happens I love Ferench movies ..hmmm

About Success
The session was followed by a brilliant session between Ed Lachman, the Cinematographer of many films, The Limey, Far From Heaven, Erin Brockavitch and more and the Film Director Bryan Singer who has the luck of been incredibly successful, young, handsome and likeable, he also directed some great films. Apt Pupil, The Usual Suspects and X-Men One and Two. (He is directing X2 in Vancouver now and has been here all summer and there are still some weeks to go which is how a movie ends up costing $250,000 a day to make I guess). We saw clips, got walked through set up and how things are done between the Director and Cinemaphotographer and it was quite a treat, easily the best Film Festival talk I have been to anywhere – Oh yes and we saw the X2 Trailer which is full of mayhem, noise and looks fun. The key element of their success? enthusiasm and a deep understanding of film and film history. These guys know all the films and there's a hundred years plus of filmmaking out there to learn about and learn from.
Ed Lachman has been around years and has no pretensions (save for wearing his hat indoors) and Bryan Singer who likes to work with the same DOP all the time revealed just how close and important that relationship is and also how visually he likes to work. No use being jealous, this ‘kid’ has been making movies since he was 13 and deserves his success.

Local Film
This was followed by a breakdown of a new Canadian movie called Punch, about an possibly incestuous father-daughter relationship. Guy Bennett wrote and directed it, Steven Hegyes produced it and Greg Middleton was the Cinematographer.

Six years in the making from the first draft to the final screening this October at the festival here and the Toronto Festival last month.
It’s a tough film subject, had some reluctant investors, a relatively low budget of $1.3. million cnd a 25 day shoot, and with unknowns in it (outside Canada) and the difficult subject matter, it will be hard for this film to recoup from theatrical release alone. One was left with the feeling that no matter how talented the writer director is and how good the dialogue and the subplot about female topless boxers are – this Canadian film has no assured future in the popular milieu. But it looked very professional.

Oscar Potential
That said, if you read the script of Monster’s Ball, wife beating, mixed race couple and an abrasive marriage who would have guess it would be an Oscar winner for Hale Berry?
In the last session with the witty Ken Hegan hosting, Milo Addica the writer and co-producer of Monster’s Ball took us through the agonising six years it took for him to get this film made. Producers who wouldn’t pay options, companies that let him down, stories about trying to survive and stick with his belief in the film. Only through the intervention of Wes Bentley and his agency William Morris did Lion’s Gate finally get the movie underway. Milo was entertaining and truthful and realistic, a good tonic.
Coincidentally almost six years was the creative journey for Karyn Kusama who wrote and directed Girlfight – the female boxing movie. She was lucky in that she had once worked for John Sayles the director of Men with Guns and Sunshine State. When her first financing fell through, he stepped in as a financial backer and mentor and the film got made, more importantly was distributed to critical and audience success.

Listening to the debates one realises just how tough and precarious the film business is and how tenacity is just so essential. Were we as potential film makers deterred? We should be, but we aren’t. Somehow.

Film making in Canada turns out to be just as fragile and frustrating as the UK. America is dominant, they control distribution, they control the money and the reality is Canada has just 2 percent of the box office with local product. The ambition is to reach just 5 percent.
It doesn’t sound much does it, but that is the taste of reality.

For screenwriters it was even more bleak. Is anyone looking for a good script? Hell yes. Will anyone read your script without an agent or lawyer attached? Hell no. It is no use bemoaning other people success. Each of us is on a unique journey. All that is required is that we are on a journey and you are writing, imagining, thinking, producing something, however small. If you have talent, you don’t actually have the right to give up. OK!
Yesterday I met more filmmakers and all of them are busy making their own films. Getting the group together, can't get a producer, well make it anyway. I like this approach and who knows, it might win through. One thing is for sure Vancouver is not short of talent in any sphere.
On the 29th of September we attended the full script performed reading of Kat Montagu's screenplay 'The Emporer of China' - a romp through 17th Century Politics and Sex at Court.It was funny and well liked by the audience and the actors had fun with all the accents.
This is part of the Alibiunplugged series. Make sure you come the next one, it's fun and instructive. find out more at Alibiunplugged. That's the fun of being in Vancouver, there is a lot going on and everyone is trying hard to be successful. That's a good healthy atmosphere to live in.

And that brings us back to Christmas. Are we going to have a Christmas party this year?
Hell yes. G.W. Bush might have nuked the world by next Christmas so I think we’d better get the wine on order. Make a plan, all Hackwriter contributors are welcome first week of December in Vancouver. We’ll let you know. Er no, we won’t be paying the airfares. More news much, much nearer the time.
Enjoy October
and in you are in Vancouver Enjoy the Film Festival

James Skinner reaches the Greek Islands on his long Mediterranean Cruise. James Campion discusses the chances of a Democratic revival in the house this November, Colin Haslett thinks Parents should be licensed, Al Dieste wants you to visit Cuba, Colin Todhunter writes on India and takes a almost lethal ride on an Enfield. We have a look at the crisis of doubt that is creeping over Switzerland and Rev Antonio Hernandez has things to discuss about the Yoda! Tom Donoghue gives us a million things to do in Starbucks and whilst Alex Grant gives us his top fifteen movies and more reviews, Serge from Stockholm by way of Russia discusses the Role of Art in politics. Heather Neale is no longer prepared to starve herself for beauty and Brian R Wood tours Melbourne Museum and poses some interesting questions.
Also Paul Blake offers his excellent First Chapter from his new novel NorthRoad End read it and let him know what you think.

We also have Mandy Mand on Japanese Girls and more, we have two new writers joining us this month: Jenny Brown (actor/dancer/writer) and Stewart Clayton (teacher/writer) - their internship with Hacks begins Oct 2nd.
Oh yes, and last week I took my camera for a 'Walk along Main Street'. Just a simple day with a camera, but it is surprising what you learn about a city.

© Sam North - Editor October 2002 Hackwriters

Previous Editorials:
The Kids stay in the picture
Hacks visits the new Museum of Glass in Tacoma
- August
Hot Sweats in a Cold Read at the Anza Club- August
LIFE ON FAST FORWARD - Vancouver on speed -September
SweetSista'Shorts Carousel Theatre- Granville Island -
Off Fringe
ROUNDHOUSE is celebrating its FIFTH ANNIVERSARY. - September
Arts in the Community is for real -



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