Earlier this year, when I was naive enough to think I could somehow change the world (well, not the world as much as a city), I got in my head this idea that I could start a screening series called Indies for Indies. We had a willing venue, so armed with a bunch of ideas stolen from Ted Hope, I set up a series of indie films. And, man, we showed some great films in a stunningly beautiful. The thing is, no one showed up. And not just for the series. No one was showing up for stuff like Sergio Leone films, for Annie Hall, The 400 Blows. We put the series on hiatus and soon after that, the theatre closed. It was a shame, because we could have done great things for indie film in Pittsburgh.
What can you do, right?
Anyway, the very first film we screened as part of the series was Amir Motlagh's Whale, a beautiful film about heartbreak, a lo-fi, found art film made by a supremely talented filmmaker. It's messy--intentionally so--but has more raw, honest truth than any film I've seen this year. Amir very quickly jumped to the top of my list of filmmakers to watch.
And now Whale is available for your home viewing pleasure. You can buy DVDs all over the place, and you can even rent it for a mere $0.99 on YouTube. Don't tell me you can't afford that. Do it. Rent it. Buy a DVD. You won't regret it."
Personally, I would like to point out that you can no longer get WHALE on youtube for a mere $0.99. Its now $1.99. See what happens when you lag.
On Saturday, August 7th, I was interviewed live on the satellite channel V.O.A show, Shabahang, with host Behnood Mokri. They showed a few clips of my work, talked a bit about WHALE, and a bit of the challenges involved in being an Iranian American filmmaker.
The segment ran about 15-20 minutes, and when a link is available, I will post it, although my Farsi is not so good, and I'm sure it caused a few laughs. All in all, I received lots of kind messages from people all around the world saying that they enjoyed the interview.
We are currently working on a new website which will make navigating easier, especially in trying to find some of my work, which is scattered everywhere..
In the spirit of making things easier to find, you can access some of my channels here. They are all a bit different(Vimeo and Dailymotion shows some longer films like Plain Us and knock. knock. for now, and Youtube has WHALE along with some other videos), although in the future, I will migrate them all to one place. For now, check them all out, see what you like, and connect with me.
Add IndieFlix too the growing list of places to purchase and or stream WHALE. As of now, you can purchase an IndieFlix WHALE dvd for $9.95, or rent online for 30 days at $4.95. The DVD is the lowest listed anywhere, although the artwork differs from the DVD you can purchase elsewhere, including Amazon.
So, maybe now, instead of wasting your time with a torrent, you can bring home WHALE for cheap and legally.
Whale will be available to watch on "IndieFlix" starting Tuesday, June 22nd. A week later, it will go live on "Youtube Rentals".
As far as other choices go, you can check it out on DVD, or Video on Demand and instant streaming on Amazon right now, with either a rental option or an instant streaming option, both with prices that are unfair, between creator and consumer. You guys win.
Andy Horbal, the Pittsburgh film critic/writer has some nice things to say about WHALE, without even mentioning Mumblecore (not that I give a shit, but I think that label is lazy journalism), imagine that.
He goes on to say, "I was quite taken by Whale...Motlagh’s eye for composition (I knew I was in good hands from the film’s very first shot) and ability to flirt with indie film clichés without becoming entrapped by them mark him as a director to watch.."
To read the whole thing, which also describes Lucas McNelly's festival Indies for Indies click here:
Just a quick note, while I'm not fond of posting reviews and pull quotes good or bad, since this is a DIY film in every way imaginable, I have to head the promotional aspects as well, including posting the reviews that come out about it. Remember kids, the relationship between critic and filmmaker is tricky, and it can get ugly real quick. Just ask Kevin Smith.
"Whale", a Mumblecore-like tale of Writer/Director/Star Amir Motlagh forced by a failed romantic relationship, to move back home with his parents, at 29, to try and reclaim his once burgeoning writing career. Motlagh plays Cameron, an Iranian-American immigrant with suburban roots in Orange County, discovers through reacquainting himself with old friends, that they too, suffer from a lack of maturity and not being able to control their aimless wonder.
Told through interconnecting monologues and talkie scenes, a story begins to appear out of nowhere, similar to its shaky hand-held camera shots of the wide blue open of California skies, dotted with little fluffy clouds. The poster art of the movie even shows our two main characters staring off into these vistas. Trying to glimpse some kind of signal for the future, a glimmer of hope.
Lots of close-ups of characters' faces gives the film an immediate intimacy, making them instantly relatable. Likable. With believable acting throughout, some artistic camera flourishes and a lyrical, poetic style that enhances the film, adding a layered dimension, making it more than the sum of its parts.
Credit also goes to a weird experimental soundtrack combined with some strummed Indie rock. Motlagh also has his hands in this, his band is featured prominently. But the film, especially in its quieter moments, has a dream-like quality that rewards the viewer with its insight into just trying to be able to juggle life's hardship with an innate desire to just enjoy life.
A debut well worth catching, along with the nicest Art House in town, makes it something Cinephiles can cherish and look forward to. Trailers and one short film show before the main feature, adding another reason to attend. And if anyone cannot catch this cool film series debut, more Indies are scheduled for later in the month. "Whale" is also available on DVD, now at the film's official website.
With the DVD launch in progress, WHALE screens at the Independent minded film festival screening series, Indies for Indies. Indies for Indies is curated by Lucas McNelly, talking the freshest films from the Independent film circuit and screening them at the Hollywood Theater in Dormont Pennsylvania.
This is the perfect type of supplemental screening opportunity to further support my newer ideas towards releasing WHALE and possibly other projects. As I focus more towards the DVD and digital distribution options, screenings further support my main objectives. I am not relying on the festival first, then see what happens method. Those were my ideas previously, but as I spent more time finishing the project then I ever expected, I felt no need to further delay the existence of the film. Its here, if you want it, you can buy it. But, you can also see it screened if you are in the right place, at the right time. I'm hand choosing where this film goes, no blind festival submissions. Why lose money? Why not make money? The economic and industrial world we live in is a bit different, so why really on the same old approaches? Is it because it worked for so and so in the past? Well, fuck that, every case is different, time has passed, so I'm opening up to new possibilities, and so far, so good.
Also, another reason Indies for Indies is a fascinating case study, is that the festival proposes to give back some of the box office to the filmmaker. Now, isn't that a novel idea, one in which should have been implemented 10 years earlier. I applaud these types of positive approaches to the stagnate film festival infrastructure. Whether they work or not isn't the final question, but whether people have the initiative to try to do something different, something vital to resurrect a dying form which is losing younger audiences daily. Indy film will start to be vital again when filmmakers stop thinking they are Quentin Fucking Tarantino or Kevin Smith, and make work which truly speaks to their generations now. That's what was going on with Tarantino and Smith in the nineties. There was personalty, a fuck you attitude, a vision. Look at how loyal audience fan base were. Think about how Harmony Korine spoke to millions of young adults his age. People gave a shit then, they really did. And most importantly, it was the youth who admired the auteur. Nowadays, we lost them to Avatar and the newest Vince Vaughn comedy (not making a judgment on the quality(in fact i really was quite taken by Avatar), but on the fact that values have changed). Indie film nor the arthouse is hip anymore culturally, lets face the fact. But that doesn't mean that it cannot be again. Lars Van Trier proves the case, with personality, insight, radicalism, and again, a fuck you attitude. Hate the guy, or love him, you cannot deny the magnetism he draws on the form. He makes you go see the work. Of course, I'm talking about the little guys right now, who, if you support them, can grow into the next generation of filmmakers who speak directly to you, the audience. A stale, dying infrastructure will only drown the voices without peoples support.
So, get to work, and support films which speak to you. Support them the same way you support bands that you love. Go buy their shit, ask your local "arthouse" theaters to bring you new shit, make your own screening series of indie films at your local bar, or your own house. Indie film nights, coming straight to the couch. Buy some obscure DVD from someone you heard about, then invite a bunch of people for drinks and enjoy the night. Stop being a critic, a cynic, a negative asshole. Be good, be kind, be helpful. And last but not least, go see WHALE, or buy the damn DVD!
Feb 14th. 2010 is the day that WHALE becomes available on DVD (pre-order available now). I said I was going to do it, and I'm sticking with my word. There are a few real world screenings lined up in various cities, but I don't have the exact dates yet (although I should announce that shortly). DVD comes first, then real world screenings. Doing shit in reverse this time.
I think in this day and age, a product release has to be instantaneous or people will lose interest. When I first started the project, I always thought that it would be the type of film that people would watch on dvd, or on there ipod, or phone or as a download. Its a small, intimate project, and as equally appealing as theatrical screenings are, so is the thought of someone watching a movie on something like a tablet, or netbook. This is where we are at with our media, and since music easily transitioned into the MP3 age, film and its makers have to think the same way.
People have continually asked for a DVD of WHALE, and if I hold out any longer, I would be doing a disservice to myself and to the fans interested.
So, the DVD along with a digital downloadable version will be available on e-commerce sites like Amazon, Filmbaby, etc, and I will also be offering the DVD through this website and over at the WHALE website.
Along with that, several brick and mortar stores have signed on to carry the DVD. I'll make a list of those as well.
In the meantime, you can pre-order the DVD here as of now:
This is the last 'Shanks and the Dreamers" track we will be releasing for quite some time. The track is also featured in the WHALE soundtrack, but this is the official remix. You can stream and/or download for a limited time.
The film is officially finished. I have written a little response over at the WHALE site, blog, http://www.whalethefilm.com stating the reasons for the delay.
Of course, as in all things in life, a bit of sidetracking becomes a necessity of survival. The final version of the film has only been seen by a tiny fraction of society, and as i outline my plans, it will remain a bit undercover. Whether the film gets any sort of public screening is not at all my concern nor my wallets, and I mean this in a very sincere, non egotistical and realistic way. Sometimes we get to a point where the idea of a curator becomes anathema to the soul, know what I mean?
No, ah fuck it, well, what I mean to say is that I want to make the film available to people who want to see the film, with or without any sort of middle man, and in a very timely and efficient manner. Life is too short to wait, or hold out, or vice versa. This project is very personal and took about four years to conceive, and because of that, another year of speculation is too long and the theoretical net gains might not be enough, nor can it ever be enough.
So, in a bit of time (short), the film will become available through DVD, VOD and digital downloads. An unofficial DVD might be available now if you contact the right person (email@example.com), emphasis on might, or right?
As for festivals, well we shall see. I might send this out, or I might not. I'm sure some think that this is the only path for a small lil ol Indie as I once did, but I don't really anymore. It is certainly a viable path, but not the only one, and nobody should feel trapped by ambiguities toward audience building. The road these days is not paved, and neither is the mapping of the routes, no matter who tells you or wants to sell you a solution. The field is fucking wide open. Localizing your goals might be the future as the market becomes more and more niche.
This is my rebellion of sorts, an idealistic belief that rather content works for people or it doesn't, and if it does, similar types will seek it out. If it doesn't, maybe later it will, but you still have to make it available if you believe in the nature of the work you do. And if these be the truths, then let nature take its course (cue the Beatles).
Hears hoping to word of mouth, longer shelf life's, and utopian naivete. But, do you remember a time when things were only available if somebody other then the creator said so? Yeah, that was so a few years ago.
New interview I did over at Alejandro Adams BrainTrustdv...
"Amir Motlagh sets out to eradicate “division of labor” filmmaking with whale, an elliptical work pulsing with a restlessness of purpose and vision. Motlagh and his film wear a love-hate relationship with mumblecore on their respective sleeves—a condition which seems, ultimately, inevitable. In the following interview, Motlagh discusses the overwhelming pressures of the Internet and the increasing irrelevance of “ethnic identity” films."