The Crazy World of Filmmaking
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
Its 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 didnt get better. You can read our film
critic Alex Grants 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
Starting Small: Film budgets of around $750,000
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
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.
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
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.
Its 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
That said, if you read the script of Monsters 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 Monsters Ball took us through the agonising
six years it took for him to get this film made. Producers who wouldnt
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 Lions 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 arent. 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 doesnt 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 dont actually have the right to give
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
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 wed better get the wine on order. Make a plan, all Hackwriter
contributors are welcome first week of December in Vancouver. Well
let you know. Er no, we wont be paying the airfares. More news much,
much nearer the time.
Enjoy October and
in you are in Vancouver Enjoy the Film
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
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