cinema

Things w/ Amir Motlagh Ep11

Slowly turning into a pod(web)cast, lol. This was longer than I wanted, but much quicker to get through on the backend. Still working it out. Fixed the audio drop-out issue, which is a weird Premiere Pro bug.

I have been feeling under the weather (not emotionally man!!), but pushed through to keep consistent.

This episode is more free flowing, as I go through some history of filmmaking in the last couple decades. Again, my preparation is next to nil, which is why so many important points where skipped over. The tradeoff is that I can actually deliver these in a weekly manner.


Film Pipeline Interviews Amir Motlagh and Charles Borg about the feature film MAN

This is a recent article conducted on Film Pipeline (Script Pipeline) about my latest film release, MAN. Both Charles and myself answer great questions posed by Script Pipeline about the process of MAN. You can read the whole interview by clicking here: 

Here a small snippet:
"Options and possibilities have opened quite a bit. Filmmakers tend to idolize the big names because they like the toys and scale that comes with moviemaking. Most of the time, that’s just a hindrance because it gets in the way of truth."

MAN is available on Amazon Prime (US/UK) and Vimeo On Demand (worldwide) with a host of other platforms coming soon.

Zebras in America Podcast Episode 54 with filmmaker Amir Motlagh

Was interviewed on the Zebras in America podcast with host Marcus Pinn (Pinnland Empire) and Scott Thorough. We discussed a range of topics, with the focus being my two latest 2018 films, Three Worlds + MAN.  

Come listen in to Marcus Pinn of Pinnland Empire describe Three Worlds "like jazz".

Double Feature Screening....

Looks like both the new features will be screening together late April. While MAN is locked, still working on finishing THREE WORLDS. My big aim all along was to be able to screen these two works along with CANYON in a single show. Basically, the THREE MARKS, TOO MANY SIGNALS series as one piece.

A long road indeed. Stay tuned. If all works well, I should be able to announce the location and date. One really big thing to note, it's not an LA show. We don't do arthouse well in LA :) 

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First teaser trailer goes live for our latest feature project MAN

Coming sometime in 2018 is my latest feature film, MAN. This is the first available teaser for the project. We are currently creating our release schedule though I have no estimates other than "sometime, 2018". If you'll make some noise about it, the sooner it will find its way. 

The film has yet to world premiere (working on securing dates/venue) although it has won its first award a little over a month ago at a private festival event (CICFF). 

This is 1/3 of the THREE MARKS, TOO MANY SIGNALS trilogy, which features the already released 2016 project, CANYON, and the forthcoming feature film, THREE WORLDS (also a 2018 release).

alternatively, on vimeo if you prefer:

Tomorrow is the LA premiere of "A DYING KING"

Tomorrow starts the limited theatrical run of my friend Bobak's documentary, A DYING KING. I spent a good amount of time on this production, which spanned many years. This was a real passion project for him, and never having made a film before, he took a giant leap of faith & unsurprisingly, saw it to the end. Most people will never realize the difficulty in completing an independent film, let alone a feature-length documentary. The amount of work just compounds & whenever you think you are finished, a whole new set of challenges appear. 

You can catch the film this week in LA, starting Wednesday at Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills; Thursday at Laemmle Town Center 5, Encino. A New York run starts the following week and it will tour through several cities including some European ones.

The online release starts in 2018.  

Here is a link to the LA Times review:
http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/movies/la-et-mn-dying-king-review-20171114-story.html

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And so I Wrote Something to be Read

Not only do you get a 2D cartoon representation of me, you also get some quotable gems I've probably (wisely) moved away from.

Cartoon Amir.

Cartoon Amir.

In all honestly, this is a cool film series published by FOCAL PRESS with some interesting, and talented(this word is meaningless in many ways, but not always) filmmakers.

I however, did not reread this after it was sent 6 months ago to be published, because, what is the point of revising archived opinion?

With that said, can it possible be the best thing I've ever written? Not sure. 

Enjoy, share and let me know your thoughts.

BIG BRAINS - SMALL BUDGETS: DIY FILMMAKING ADVICE

of YOUTUBE episodes and other expletives for the month of JAN....

Ok, so, here we are nearing the end of the first month of 2015, a wild month politically, and certainly, personally.

One thing that I promised myself, and I've made that socially clear as well is that I am going to commit to consistent communication. And Youtube is one of those streams I want to cultivate.

The only challenge now, is that while we at ANIMALS have been developing super material for the web, we have not figured out how to engage on a more simplistic, communicative level on channels like YOUTUBE

So, here and now, I keep to my word, while at the same time searching for ways to build the puzzle. Bear with me for awhile, since its not going to be pretty, but, soon enough we'll get into a flow .

For now, if you haven't, please subscribe. Do it. SUBSCRIBE NOW, not later. See, I'm not putting it off, and neither should you.

Enjoy this train wreck of a first attempt while it lasts.

the curious case of the James Francos.....

Whether you like it or not, JAMES FRANCO is the character of the future. He is constant, consistent & working in PRESENT TENSE. Franco is the stream. And that stream is not going away because the stream demands stuff now.

Gone are the days where you could sit and toil on a concept for years, or turn a MALICK and show up 15 years later. Gone are the days where you could do or be ONE THING (however, if you  love that one thing, more power too you).  Because the world is turning so fast, if you don't pivot when you are required too, the media you are on top of will turn into OPERA, and then you'll be bitter. And pivoting becomes increasingly difficult as time goes by. It's as skill you must learn to survive. 

Franco and his cohorts are also the few characters around who are almost completely immune to criticism. This is not unprecedented. Woody Allan has already mastered that art, by the only effective method. By not giving a shit and immediately moving to something else. The new school just does it faster.

In a world where media is completely ubiquitous and a million paths of communication exist, dealing with a bad review is akin to wiping your mouth after eating a bowl of spaghetti. Who gives a shit. And if you do, well, you're fucked.

Hollywood Movies; a commodity?...and other sidetracked thoughts...

The distinction of movies as art, commerce or technology is not an easy one to make, once you extinguish the emotional commitment to one or a combination of the others. The filmic language is probably easier to differentiate itself from photography, whose had a historically more contentious relationship with itself as art work (see here for just a glimpse and one sided take on the subject) . Films just have more moving parts.

But the other argument to make is that most filmmaking, most of the time in it's largest scale is really closer to being a commodity than it is an art. Hollywood churns out a product, a seemingly efficient one, although still messy that resembles a factory process. Now, we all know that this is not true in the same way you produce a cereal product, but, it's main goals is too redo whats worked as sound business practice. However, we all know that repeating a historic process doesn't guarantee a future. And that is precisely where we are now.

My biggest question on the matter of the filmic language is whether or not the form itself demands a need for universality. The means of production and execution have historically been massive. One Hollywood blockbuster could get at at least 100 hundred startups up and running. But that's not the point. To make the money back, you basically need not offend a large group of people, but at the same time, give them a very mediocre experience that's worked in the past. That's top down, middle of the road commoditization. That's what you get at the grocery store. And since, at that huge level of production costs, Hollywood thrives as a monopoly, minimizing risk is the top priority. But, as we all know, a monopoly who doesn't innovate, implodes eventually. 

The real issue is whether movies in the way they are created and marketed could continue to sustain itself in the longer run in a world where media elsewhere keeps downsizing and splitting of into smaller, but more dedicated niches. Even in entrepreneurship, the shift is too micro.

But micro was historically never intended for narrative movies, which had for years depended on a large segment of a population, mildly agreeing with it's storytelling because of habit, to recoup the large costs of production. Of course, Hollywood also created some(a large percentage) of the most memorable movies in the history of the media. 

I believe for now, that the move to niche is only possible, if niches for these new stories exist. And even if they do, is it economically viable for creators to keep producing, or, are we not doing the work necessary, to create another language with similar tools? Or do need to spend the energy on new tools and platforms?

Because supply is everywhere you look. The other part of the equation is undoubtably lessening.

ADR and acting....

Coming from an acting background, I personally despise ADR. Sometimes, like today, it is a necessary evil. However, with that said, the audio specialist's who make it work are amazing at what they do, and at what they can endure.

On Hollywood films, ADR is par for the course. But, something is always lost in the translation. The level of disconnect from the initial scripted (or not) words, to the performance,  to the sterile soundproof booth is the grandest of artifice. I cringe whenever I find myself in that situation.

However, my experience tells me that it's never as bad as it is when you hear it, raw, out of the monitors at the sound studio.     

my man Ojan at Stems Post.

my man Ojan at Stems Post.

the lusting after things beyond our control....

One thought of late has been about my relatively recent obsession with animation. Ghibli obviously being the crown jewel of the cinematic version, has my complete undivided attention, a feat of impossibility these attention starved days. My most anticipated movie this year for me, the one that really gets me excited is THE TALE OF THE PRINCESS KAGUYA, and the previous year was Miyazaki's THE WING RISES. 

That happened to be my favorite movie going experience as well. I was all alone in the theater. 

My reasoning can be in due part to Ghibli's scarcity. Miyazaki is retired, and Takahata I'm assuming will too. Takahata is in his late seventies. They are the last of the 2D master's and with them retired, the cinematic art form of traditional animation will suffer a great, incalculable loss.

I also feel that my obsession is driven by the fact that this process is so foreign to me, but such a specialized gift that is not aided much by other things in it's raw sense. It is an expression from hand to screen. And, I also know with almost absolute certainty that I can never personally draw a 2D movie. (However, I would be more than happy to direct. In fact, I have a concept ready to go, so go ahead and hit that contact button if you're a a visionary first, and a super cool investor second. Thanks.)

We often do storyboards in live action, then film it. The process itself is always a reenactment of something. A reenactment of life when we work in the pseudo realism tradition of today. One that is in love with it's scripts.  Of course, cinema is full of examples of people who strove for something else. The Tarkovsky's, Chris Marker's and a grand host of other's rejected this traditional Western reenactment for for something else. I only use these two examples to expedite this thought to page. 

Animation to me is a pure process. Of course, massive amounts of man power and time (often much more time than live action) are needed to make it happen, but in it's purest sense, it lives on a piece of paper. Less tools, less middle men, less technology and much more a translation of a dream.

this is my favorite studio  logo....

this is my favorite studio  logo....



Tokyo Godfathers - holy shit

The last few days had me rewatching, and in some cases discovering for the first time Satoshi Kon's masterwork animeography in full. 

I was absolutely floored by his 2003 work TOKYO GODFATHERS, one of only two of his works I had not seen previously. The superb characterization and the hauntingly realistic and desolate city landscapes make this an absolute treat. Choosing to focus on detail instead of the usual spectacle, the city becomes all too tangible.  

Tokyo is almost always historically realized as a packed, bright wonder full of flashing lights and bustle, recalling Western interpretations like LOST IN TRANSLATION.  It is fetishized in Western movies.  And that is absolutely part of its identity.

Kon chooses instead, the everyday sights that people who actually inhabit that environment experience; the alley ways, the crevices, corners, the not so wondrous cityscapes and mundane, grey skylines punctuated by the cold, wet snow.  Instead of the Shibuya crossing for example, we get a small corner store, and a drunk asshole who can't stand bums.  

The scenes are rendered in wonderment by their sure realism.  One of my favorite moments was a three shot master through an everyday, ordinary road safety mirror. This is detail; this is knowing the world in which you create.  Maybe I just haven't seen enough anime, but I can't recall many people making this type of choice.  It harkens too a moment in Miyazaki's KIKI'S DELIVERY SERVICE, in which Kiki stays in bed, stretching, pondering a thought.  I had the same feeling at that moment as well, although one was a shot selection, and the other a characterization.  But Kon does both here, and does it damn well.   

This was also one of a few anime films in which a live action remake could easily be achieved. However, this would be a grave mistake because you won't get better performances or a more fantastic ambience then what was achieved here.  The characterization is totally alive.  The tone is spot on.  It goes every which way, and this is not hyperbole.

i could go on and on, but I'll leave it here.  If you haven't seen it, go find it.  Be ready to experience that sense of wonder that appears when form fits perfectly in its container.  But, I'm not a reviewer, and this is the farthest thing from that.  It's just a personal recommendation. But if you didn't like it after being influenced to see it based on this written journal, you just haven't developed the goods yet.  Seriously.  Peace.  

A beautiful example of a master shot that creates the experience.

A beautiful example of a master shot that creates the experience.

 

This is not the Tokyo we are familiar with in modern movies. (at least not me)

This is not the Tokyo we are familiar with in modern movies. (at least not me)

Relevancy When Clocks Go Wild

The question of relevancy is always an important one when the arts, cinema or any cultural element is discussed, thought about, and perused towards some end.

We can always put our heads down and slog through the terrain, to do what we love without ever needing to be self aware of our place, or our goals, both collectively and individually.  But, that's a simple pursuit.  Valid as any, but, shallow in scope. 

Instead, and often, we think deep and long about our place in the world.  And, as the world changes in rapid succession, in a culture that Alan Moore deemed "The Culture of Steam", when discussing the immediate future, certain trends emerge.  And to clarify, I believe Moore was discussing the ungraspable future culture, as predetermined by technology and its interplay with our old world evolution.

This is the time of the instant update.  And, you can look no further than the emerging talent of today to really understand what this means.  In music, the perpetual mixtape was the start, but the further you push that along, the more you get to the current state.  Just like instagram, music has also morphed into the weekly song/video style most prominent in hip hop.  I like to use hip-hop as the example, because it's elements are very immediate.  It's production, usually fast, and wordplay doesn't necessarily need to be written.   

Acts like Lil B and Riff Raff elude to a changing landscape where they are always on the cycle of relevance, because, they mimic the culture of the internet itself.  They are both shrewd, entertaining and showman promoters.  They are a new species of music artist.  Self aware, skilled, entrepreneurial, shameless and momentum oriented.  And regardless of what you think of them, they continue turning critics into fans, by sheer willingness to be out there, to take the brunt of "haters".  

In an alternative way, if Riff Raff put out a few videos, and waited for something to happen, nothing ever would.  This is a critical difference between the old and the new.  The closest example in the film world would be someone like Joe Swanberg.  But perhaps, there are countless other "video" artist who are better examples whom I just don't know.  Tim and Eric immediately came to mind as the television version, but the metaphor is not as clear.  Adult Swim nurtures these changes, and was willing to take those risks years ago.  In the world of books/blogging, look no further then Seth Godin.

In a disposable age, perfectionism isn’t valued because we just don’t have time for it.  By the time it’s perfect, the world moved 10 steps ahead.  I know, your ol school idealism doesn’t want to deal with it.  Whatever. 

The question is, in this new landscape, what if you turned it off.  What if your video didn't come out on that Wednesday, or that you stopped your twitter'ing and vine'ing and facebook.  What if you get sick?  What if you don’t make three films a year?  And what if, you weren’t birthed into a career before this all happened?  You know, in the old timey days (pre 2005) when things work different? 

The constant hustle and digital sharecropping reminds me of Jaron Lanier's critique of the internet and the middle class.  You can hustle on that street corner all you want, but, when you get sick, well, you're fucked.  But, at least you’re relevant.   :) (smiley face)

gritty handheld style it is not, asshole.

After watching a recent Hollywood film lauded as one of the great achievements of the year (the year would be last), I did what I do when I can't seem to figure out the hype from the fact.  At the very least, my facts against mediocrity.

So, I turned into some reviews to hear the voice of the critic.  Now, I only do this after the movie.  Mostly, just to gauge the critical zeitgeist and maybe to pick up on points that I neglected, or tuned out possibly due to bias.  In fact, often, I want to be proved wrong.  I want to be moved to believe that the movie was a masterpiece and I was just being an asshole, or plainly, ignorant.

So, after flipping through a couple of these eloquent reviews, one phrase stood out from the rest, breathing fire into the cultural void of existence. "Gritty handheld style" was this very phrase.  

Everytime I read something so asinine, I want to stop and call out to my maker.  But the fact that this was repeated in no less then 5 reviews in back to back succession makes me think, that sometimes, people are in a haze of automation, devoid of anything critical, analytical, or imaginative.  

Gritty handheld style in this particular case was nothing at all gritty.  What the fuck does this describe?  Realism?  Well, in this particular case, not at all.  Does it describe fortitude or determination.  No.  50 million dollars with the best technical minds around making fiction never ever fucking equates to GRITTY.  Ever.  (well, actually, there are a couple cases historically.  this is not one.  and I'm assuming, the budget never crossed the 25million mark) 

What it does describe however, is that all these clowns picked up the same description from wherever the hell, like 10 years ago, and decided to use it again, and again, and again, and thus removing any descriptive quality about it, in favor of press releasing a review.  In today's language, this just fucking blows.

I call for an indefinite ban, and personal banishment for any hee-haw that uses the phrase, "gritty handheld style" to describe anything related to a film.  They can however, use it to describe their latest iphone video of there cat licking its nuts.  As long as the phone is not locked down on a tripod, and that it is in fact, gritty by definition.