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Techniques for Independent Production
The challenges of creating Digital Cinema and other narrative forms.


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Old January 27th, 2003, 02:52 PM   #16
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Robert, actually there was fear that releasing the third film so soon after the second would hurt revenues. Long discussions on that one.
Thats why LOT is put a year apart even though all they do now is go back and fix things.
The Warshowsky (mispelled) bros didn't want people to wait that long. At least per the article.
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Old January 27th, 2003, 04:25 PM   #17
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"There was fear that releasing the third film so soon after the second would hurt revenues. Long discussions on that one."

If they really said that, they might have been acting a bit disingenuous. On the contrary, these days the quicker the sequel release the better. Studios now operate under the theory that theatrical distribution marketing dollars for a quickly-released sequel simultaneously work to boost sales of a DVD release of the previous film. (Most films, even blockbuster films, are released on DVD 6-8 months following theatrical release.) Studio return on theatrical films after three to four months is virtually nihil anyway, even for high-performing films with staying power, because of exhibition deals with theater owners, which give studios a high percentage of ticket sales in the first two weeks of release and ever-dwindling returns thereafter. When Titanic was in its fifth month of release, exhibitors, not the two studios that financed the film, were raking in the largest chunk of box office receipts. [There's a good section on all the dirty convoluted intricacies of exhibition deals in The Movie Business Book, a collection of essays on the commercial side of filmmaking, written by various Hollywood names and edited by Jason Squire. (I took some of Squire's courses at USC.)]

If rapid-fire sequel release hurts anybody, it's theater owners, not studios; but probably it could be argued that even bargain theater attendance of Matrix Reloaded will enjoy floating on upcurrents from the first-run release of Matrix Revolutions.
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Old January 28th, 2003, 07:47 AM   #18
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Thanks Robert, seems the more I learn, the more depressing the film business is. Yet people still want to be in it.:)

I wonder what the return on 'My Big Fat Greek Wedding' was since it built it's box office over a few months and started out slow.
Based on what you said, it sounds like most of the 300 mill will be going to the theaters.
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Old January 28th, 2003, 12:32 PM   #19
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"I wonder what the return on 'My Big Fat Greek Wedding' was since it built it's box office over a few months and started out slow. Based on what you said, it sounds like most of the 300 mill will be going to the theaters."

Well, not really, because Greek Wedding was a tiered release, and it didn't open in many theaters until it had proved itself in limited markets. It premiered in February, entered limited release in April (limited release usually means a few screens in the largest cities [typically, New York, L.A.] or cities that are demographically important to what the studio perceives as the film's audience), and then slowly expanded into other markets as the year went on, climaxing around September or October. The profit clock starts ticking for a theater when it opens in that theater, not from the point of its initial release date.

Still, theater owners love films like Greek Wedding that grow by word of mouth a lot better than big blockbusters like the two STAR WARS prequels, which carried heavy restrictions all designed to make maximum profit for Lucasfilm and minimum profit for the theater owners. For example, Lucasfilm demanded an exceptionally high cut of profits in the first two weeks, and that multiplexes were required to show the film on multiple screens in that time period. For the STAR WARS films, theater owners were given a raw deal, but they could hardly say no when a STAR WARS film is a known quantity and sure to attract audiences and turn a profit.

(Incidentally, the original STAR WARS in 1977 opened to a very slow tiered release. While L.A. and New York and a few other cities saw the film on its premiere date, most cities had to wait until later in the summer. STAR WARS changed many things about the exhibition business, particularly, prior to STAR WARS, you were allowed to buy a movie ticket and stay in the theater as long as you liked, through as many screenings of the film as you wished. After STAR WARS starting playing to consecutive sell-out crowds who all wanted to stay to see the movie again, a new era in exhibition was born--one ticket, one showing.)

The only thing that keeps many theaters in business is the concept of the house nut, which is the initial slice off the top of box office revenues which covers operational expenses (rent, maintenance & custodial, salaries for the ushers and projectionists). This money is collected before the studio gets their cut. The theater doesn't make money off of it, but it gets the theater through dry spells when no blockbusters are opening.

Theaters also make up profit by selling overpriced concessions.
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Old January 20th, 2004, 01:30 PM   #20
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CUT TO: one year later...

I saw Spy Kids 2 at the 29th Case Science Fiction Marathon this past weekend and, I'll be damned, I liked it. See my writeup of the Marathon.
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Old January 20th, 2004, 01:50 PM   #21
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Hahaha! A whole year! To be honest I couldnt sit through Spy Kids 2. I had to turn off the dvd. I thought it was cut really bad, the story was awful, acting terrible and all this from me, who loved Robert Rodriguez' style everything else of his I've seen. Guess you had to be a kid to really like it....That or be RKS ;)

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Old January 20th, 2004, 01:57 PM   #22
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That, or see it at the Marathon. It's tough not to love even the worst films when they're played in a venue as tribal.
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Old January 20th, 2004, 02:02 PM   #23
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What is the 'Marathon'?

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Old January 20th, 2004, 03:56 PM   #24
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As Charles said, most cinematographers have "issues" with Rodriguez. Just because he uses hd doesn't mean Hollywood will soon follow. It is still an inferior product. While some will say you can't tell the difference, I say comparing to what? If you display on the screen a hd scene and a film scene of exactly the same thing, you will notice a substantial difference. But to blindly look at a scene with no comparison is foolish.
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Old January 20th, 2004, 04:26 PM   #25
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"Rodriguez's hyperbole aside..."

hyperbole - A figure of speech in which exaggeration is used for emphasis or effect.

I just finished reading the article:

"Everyone rents cameras, but I bought mine..."

Why is that Robert?

"I used a combination of Fujinon lenses, zooms only, no primes,..."

Something no self respecting dp would normally do.

Somehow he implies that shooting "Parent Trap" for $50 million would have been reduced by using HD. Yet at his budget of $13 million, film costs are only a small part.

He also implies that he can spend evenings at home due to digital. But he only edits on his Avid like any other editor would. Read hyperbole above.

“We prepped for about three weeks and shot the whole thing in seven, and now I'm editing it. We started without a script because Antonio was only available if we did it right away, plus there was the actor's strike looming. I never could have met that kind of schedule if we had shot film.”

Why not? What is different? This paragraph shows how Rodriguez must operate. He starts with no script?!!!!

Rodriguez says depth of field is irrelevant (!).

He says he wants his films to look like Sergio Leone's whom he admires, yet Leone used film.

Like Robert said, Rodriguez obviously thinks the director should do it all but not everyone is talented in all areas. Rodriguez seems talented in few.

"I predict it's only a matter of time before they stop going to the theater anyway if digital projection doesn't proliferate soon."

Gee, it's like the 1940s all over again. I can't see people wanting to get out of the house either.

"..guys who still shoot on film will get their stuff seen the way they meant for it to be seen when they put it on negative."

Well he got this right.
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Old January 22nd, 2004, 12:52 PM   #26
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Just watched every single scrap of footage on Once Upon a Time in Mexico

Okay, I over-hyped myself on this movie, so that when I finally watched the DVD in it's entirety (regular audio, both commentators tracks, all deleted scenes and all features) the movie struck me as a little lack luster. Then again, I watched it 3 times, maybe I'm burnt out. . .

Anyways, I love Robert Rodriguez' style, I love his thoughts on how to shoot creatively. . .What most people seem to miss is that Robert wants to do his own thing. He wants creative control of everything he can possible handle. BUT, he does enjoy collaboration. If you listen to the director's commentary track (not the audio one) from Mexico, you find out that Johnny Depp improved nearly all his lines, he and Robert rewrote parts together, Depp and Hayek provided music for different parts of the movie, etc.

I fully understand Robert's desire to control a story and characters he created as much as possible--wouldn't we all like to see our visions leap from our heads onto a big screen somewhere?

As for Film v. HD. . . .yes they are different. Some difference are HUGE, some. . .not so big. BUT, Rodriguez' points about it not taking nearly as long and being much cheaper are right. He can roll tape all day long and not come close to paying for 1/10th that amount of film, which means every little nuance an actor ever tries gets captured. Plus. . .he know the instant a shot is done whether or not it was captured the way he wanted. . .why? Because with video monitors he can see exactly how the lighting, the colors, everything is captured. Couple that with the knowledge of what can and can't be fixed in post and he can just run all day long. . .shooting and changing things up on the fly as his imagination leads him. Does he deny HD has much more sharpness than film? No, instead he uses it to his advantage. Honestly, film is no more organic, no more aestetically "superior" than HD. It's just different. However. . .while it will not disappear it is going to have to share it's market more and more with HD (or whatever type of video will replace HD). Eventually HD (or whatever) will become the reigning king. . .why? Because it does move faster, the "deficiencies" it has to film are already being worked on and solved, and it will continue to become cheaper and cheaper. Film, by neccessity, will always be pricey. . .until perhaps so few people want to use it that they have to lower prices to stay in business.

Honestly, I cannot wait for what the future holds for movie making. With the advances in computers and HD (and other realms of video) the little guy can now compete with the big dogs. Sure, maybe his picture isn't as technically "sound" (ie: it's not shot on film) as Hollywood. . .but anyone can learn to light correctly, any one can learn exposure, color control. . .pacing. . .whatever. . .and video can capture beautiful images if the image placed in front of it is composed correctly. It's time the little guys quit waiting. Your camera does nothing but record what's in front of it--whether it's film, HD, or DV--learn what you need to put in front of it to tell you story as beautifully as possible and just do it. As either Robert Zemeckis or Don Burgess said of Forrest Gump (I don't remember which), "We could have shot this on 8mm film and it would have been just as effective because the story was there."

Oh, and . . .

""Everyone rents cameras, but I bought mine..."

Why is that Robert?"

--you make a boatload more money if you buy your own equipment. . .any videographer will tell you that. . .

""I used a combination of Fujinon lenses, zooms only, no primes,..."

Something no self respecting dp would normally do."

--because film exposure changes as you zoom in. . .you need more and more light, something that is hard to adjust on the fly in the middle of zooming in on a shot. . .

"He says he wants his films to look like Sergio Leone's whom he admires, yet Leone used film."

--HELLO??? HD WASN'T INVENTED WHEN LEONE WAS SHOOTING THE GOOD, THE BAD, and THE UGLY! How could he have shot on HD. Dumb point.

Anyways. . .I'm done for now

I apologize if this wandered off topic too much. I'm just passionate and ADHD. . .I have no idea how to stay on topic. . .
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Old January 22nd, 2004, 02:53 PM   #27
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Film also captures all the nuances. Though you can't afford to let it run as long as video, an actor has his limits also. You try and get your scene in as few takes as possibler because actors get tired and lose their edge. There is no hd advantage there.

And this brings up on of the evils of hd. Because it's on tape, some directors feel they can shoot all day, hence, burning up studio time and labor which all costs money. The ability to go where his creative juices are flowing can be great except this should have been covered in pre-pro. Any wavering from that costs money and can easily frustrate a crew.

Most film shoots are done with ccd add-ons allowing the director to see what he's got on a video monitor also. So dv has no advantage there.

How does he use HD's lack of sharpness to his advantage?

No. HD is not always cheaper or faster. By the time it's ready for distribution, either costs about the same. The cost of film or tape is only a small portion of the cost of movie making. A friend of mine just shot a 90-minute feature. Total cost raw stock through answer print was $70,000. But the budget was $4 million. Even is tape would have been $10,000 (and it would not) you would still have to come up with $3.9 million to "play with the big dogs" and do the same feature he did.

Most, though not all of course, DPs won't even use zoom lenses due to their inferior qualities to prime lenses. Film does NOT lose exposure when zooming but zoom lenses cannot maintain what qualities they have during a zoom.

You obviously don't understand my "dumb point" about Leone. Rodriguez says he wants to shoot as good as Leone's films yet he says shooting on film is stupid. Rodriguez speaks out of both sides of his mouth. He praises and flames the same thing.
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Old January 22nd, 2004, 05:39 PM   #28
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Wait a minute. . .

Okay, first of all. . .you can praise a film and still prefer to shoot on HD. Otherwise we would just have to say that if you like HD you can no longer talk about anything ever done on film. . .that doesn't seem very smart. Of course he can praise Leone's work. . .that doesn't mean that he has to like working on film. A movie is 90% creativity and 10% what freakin' format you shoot it on.

You shoot film in as few takes as possible because it costs a lot to roll film. However, in between takes you have the actors and directors talking. . the actors working their lines. . .etc. So. . .if you can keep your camera rolling then you can capture something you never would have gotten on film.

And as far as letting your creativity lead, who said anything about running around all over town? When I'm talking about creativity leading I mean if you're running HD and you know you've got it in one take then you've got time to try another angle or what have you that maybe you didn't notice before.

The point about monitoring was apparently missed by you as well. Yes, I know there are video monitors on the set of a film. However, the film does not necessarily capture the exact same image that you see on the CCD. With HD however you know that the exact same thing you are seeing on your 24" HD color monitor is the exact same thing that was just recorded to your HD tape and that it will look exactly the same on your HD monitor back in the editing suite. Even the best properly calibrated film monitor is still not seeing the image exactly as it's recorded. The actual film stock and exposure settings can change the look of things.

I disagree with your example about your friend. You don't NEED the other 3.9 million just to make the same feature. Sure, if you're doing it for some kind of studio or company, you'll have that money for distribution and marketing, but what about Joe Schmoe, "I wanna make a movie" guy? He needs the equipment to actually make the movie and then a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to get people to see it. . .not money. If you spend your time coming up with a creative and well done piece, someone will buy it from you eventually. And HD costs are only gonna come down.

I never said HD had a lack of sharpness. I said he never denied HD had more sharpness (this means that HD would therefore have more sharpness. . .in case you needed a little help). As far as using it to your advantage. . .there is great advantage to having a crisp, sharp, very real and edgy look. . .it's called aesthetics. Who ever said that the only aesthetic you could have is a fuzzy one? All that means is that that person doesn't know the definition of aesthetics. . .

Zoom lenses do maintain their qualities (at least the video zooms I've used do) otherwise. . .no one would make and/or want them at all.

All I'm saying is. . .let's not blind ourselves to the obvious advantages that video and HD can bring to the table now that the quality is close to that of film. Let's not hobble ourselves for the sake of tradition or snobbery about how much money we can spend on film. Let's explore and most of all. . .let's create.
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Old January 22nd, 2004, 11:11 PM   #29
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After ranting about how hd is better than film, RR says, "I wanted that feeling of being able to see Lee Van Cleef's pupils sweat, like in those Sergio Leone movies, and HD is perfect for that." So he wants his movies to be as good as those films but only HD is perfect for that? But he just said he can't see why anyone would use film!

A movie may be 90% creativity but that doesn't give you license to choose an inferior format. You let the story choose the format, not the other way around. DPs spend time trying to decide between 1.85, Super35, anamorphic, etc. and even HD and choose the one appropriate for the story. Boyle used dv for "28 Days.." because he thought it suited the story even though he could have shot on film.

In between takes you spend more time working on camera positions and lighting than actors do talking to the director. They should be prepared before they go to the set and only simple directions given during. You think a professional set keeps their tapes and cameras running full time and actors are doing the same? Then you have never been to a professional set.

The monitors used in film are more to review the action than anything else. Any decent DP knows what he's going to get on the film when it's running. That's why he selects the film stock he does and the settings.

You make a $4 million dollar movie and you don't think it all goes into the production?! Film costs were $70,000 and you think using HD would reduce that $4 million dollar figure?! That number did not include distribution at all. How would DV change that? Which unions would you have take a cut? (Ha!)

By the way, my friend has a half way chance of being nominated for an Oscar. We'll know soon.

HDs sharpness is due to its lack of resolution. There is no visual data between pixels so there is a sharp dropoff. Film can display this visual information, hence it's "softness" compared to digital. (You can find this same information from the thread that links to the cinematographer's e-book from USC).

Zooms maintain "their" qualities, yes. Better than primes? Ha! Never have. Never will. Can't! Rather than getting into technicals, why do you think most Hollywood features don't even use zooms?

Video is close to film? The barely acceptable scan of motion picture films is 2K and filmmakers complain about that including tonal and color ranges. 4K scans are preferred and still don't match film. When a professional wants to make a movie, his first choice is always film. If anyone here had the money to shoot a film for the theatre, his first choice would definitely be film. It is the finest art.

This is the last I will have to say about this. Over the last 30 years I have worked in video and with feature films. Some may think I am anti-video but that is not the case. In most cases you'll find I respond to those who seem to think hd, dv or video is better or even competent with film.

I realize most here consider this a hobby so I try not to get too riled up. But you would find the discussions that take place between here and real video and film cinematographers on a set are quite different in their views.
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Old January 24th, 2004, 01:07 PM   #30
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Digital vs Film

Pro Life or Right to Choose

Christianity vs. Islam

9mm vs. 45 ACP.

Wow! Neat thread. Learned a lot.
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