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


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Old February 10th, 2004, 11:19 AM   #61
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I felt the same way in 1997 when DV was first introduced, and so many were singing the praises of the digital revolution, recalling the Coppola dictum that the great film of the era would issue from a fat girl in Ohio, and before I understood the highly collaborative, justly expensive medium that is filmed entertainment, and the workings of the highly baroque Hollywood network that has flowered as a sensible system for rewarding good ideas and benefiting creative people.

As an outsider, it's easy to be cynical of the system, perplexed but its myriad mysterious quirks and even angered by its complex rules and heirarchies that seem at first glance to be nothing but thumbs to hold down the little guy who hasn't "paid his dues." But for all of them, and despite year after year of output the bulk of which is consistently dreck, Hollywood hasn't collapsed in on itself, as visionaries so prominent as Lucas were once predicting. Movie stars are still glamorous and everyone wants to pay to see them on the big screen. Authors and screenwriters who illuminate fascinating scenarios are still honored with large checks with which they proceed to buy large SUVs. And directors who demonstrate clarity of vision and integrity of purpose are still passed over every late winter for the guy who makes A Beautiful Mind.

I digress. Work hard outside the system, and you can find success without it. Have faith that cream rises to the top in the system, and you can find success within it. But believe it or not, if you have a truly good idea, the Hollywood system is still the path of least resistance to seeing it realized, for the simple reason that the system was set up and is maintained just for this purpose.

Bottom line, of course, is that the recording medium and its associated costs (camera rentals, stock, development/blowup) is only a minor consideration in a production whose budget matches its ambitions.
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Old February 10th, 2004, 11:25 AM   #62
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I work in the motion picture industry. I've worked in broadcast television. I've worked for SGI and Pixar. I think my "opinion" stands for something. I'm paid very well for my opinion. I work with and listen to other people's opinions in this industry also.

No. You cannot make a digital feature length motion picture for projection like RR claims he did for $7000 anywhere in the world.
Economically impossible. This is not my opinion. It is fact. Even if you could get everyone to work on it for free. Won't happen.

Here's only one reason: Les Ditt, on this forum, said he would transfer one hour of dv onto film at 2kx2k for $10K. End of story.
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Old February 10th, 2004, 11:33 AM   #63
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Thank you very much for explaining where you come from and
where your opinion lies as well. That's greatly appreciated.

As I said, you cannot make a 35mm film for under $7000, I think
anyone will agree with that.

We are talking about shooting the movie in digital, not paying
for a release print. And if everything would be digital then you
wouldn't need a release print as well. Even sound (like dts) is
already coming in digital on CD.
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Old February 10th, 2004, 11:36 AM   #64
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" I'm not kidding. I find it interesting that in this "age of DV," the most recent super low budget feature to get any publicity (Primer at Sundance) was shot on the ultra cheap on film. "

What about Open Water?

What about November?

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Old February 10th, 2004, 11:48 AM   #65
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There is a misunderstanding here regarding RR and El Mariachi and the $7000 figure. It was not delivered complete to the theaters for that money. That money was simply the cost of production. There was a considerable amount of money involved beyond that, which eventually got it into theaters... if I recall correctly it was around two million dollars (all studio money, too), for editing, audio sweetening, marketing, distribution etc. The amount of $7000 is what it cost Rodriguez to shoot the thing and take a rough cut on 3/4" video with him to Hollywood to shop Mariachi around in search of a buyer.

This is all very well documented in his book, Rebel Without a Crew, in which Rodriguez does not claim to have made a digital feature length motion picture for projection. What he did for $7000 was to shoot on 16mm film using short ends with a borrowed camera, a one-man crew, a couple of work lights, a mostly unpaid cast whose families provided wardrobe and craft services, and existing locations wrangled for free. It was transferred to analog video and offlined for free at UT-Austin. That's as far as that $7K went. There was a lot more money involved to get it into theatrical release; some people overlook this fact when referring to the El Mariachi example.
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Old February 10th, 2004, 12:01 PM   #66
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Oh, and it doesn't cost millions to make a movie. It only cost millions to make a movie the Hollywood way. You can get a good movie, with great production value done on DV for $20,000 easy. Give HD a few years and you'll be doing the same with HD.
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This is the statement that got me going on that. What I was trying to point out is that the cheapest production I ever worked on was $1.9 million. It was not a studio film and independently funded. Of that, iirc, $70k to $100k was for film camera, stock, dailies, etc.

Rental for a CineAlta would be equivalent to the camera. So that leaves film stock, prints, etc. How would DV, then, reduce the cost of that $1.9 million remembering that film was only $70k or so of the budget?

Would the crews work for less? No. Would the stars worked at all? No. Etc.

Production value? That's why it was done on film and not digital. It can't capture the images the way the DP and director wanted. In this case, DV was not even considered.
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Old February 10th, 2004, 12:13 PM   #67
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Making a good movie for $20,000? Might depend on what you mean by "making." Production costs are one thing, but there are so many other expenses involved if your goal is to put it in theaters or on the shelf at Blockbuster. Seems to me that $20,000 would barely cover marketing costs. However I have no doubt that an enterprising person could probably spend $20,000 on creating something that could be sold, and then completed with other money... or create something that would bring in the completion costs.

By the way, it doesn't look like anybody has brought up the Spy Kids examples... Spy Kids 2 & 3 are good, wholesome name-brand Hollywood theatrical releases with real crews and name actors (Steve Buscemi, Sylvester Stallone); both were shot entirely on HD. The budget for Spy Kids 2 was 35 million dollars. I don't see how anyone can equate HD production with low aesthetic quality or poor production values when this kind of money is thrown into it -- besides, the proof of how good HD looks in Spy Kids is right there on the screen.
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Old February 10th, 2004, 12:24 PM   #68
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This has to be one of the more popular debates since MAC/PC.

I am probally not adding anything new as I have said this before in past threads:

I am so happy with the DV medium. For once in my life I can pursue my dream on my own terms. I don't think there has been a 'film movement' like this since the 60's.

A full length feature film can be made. By us! Who knows what is in store after that. Maybe if it's great, a studio will swipe it up for a couple million and then pay for the markeing and release. Not too far fetched as it is happending as we speak. See OPEN WATER shot on the PD150.

If I had my choice, I would shoot on film using an Arri 535. I'd also have a crew of about 50 people and all of the toys for production. But I don't. I own the DVX100 and it is the first time in my life I have been in a position to make a real film of quality. There are so many possibilites. Theatrical Release (Never say never), cable, DVD.

The reality is is that I just want to make films. If I become the next big Sundance story then that is just Candy. If nothing ever comes of this, I'll be able to look back when I'm 70 and pop in a DVD and say to my grandchildren "I made this!".

As far as DV or HD replacing film. I feel it is inevitable. IT will and is happening every single day. Jeez, even Arri is making a DV camera. It is only a matter of time. It is technology. I sense alot of old school film purists are fighting this or in denial when in fact it should be embraced. The DV format is not yet perfect, but in computer technology (CCD) there are quantam leaps. There will be a time that a DV camera will look exactly like our beloved film, whether through real 'in camera' results or through post. There will be a time when all theatres will be DIGITAL PROJECTION.

It's not there yet, but where we are now is really close. The capability of making a quality feature length production is in our hands for once and in my lifetime. This is a great thing.
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Old February 10th, 2004, 12:51 PM   #69
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Write a great script, then all things are possible. Even at the 7k level....

There was a feature made for about $200.00 that played Sundance this year...I think that was Francis's "fat girl in Ohio" prediction coming true...

With digital projection, the film transfer can go away. However, even if you shoot your feature on a mini dv cam it still has to LOOK GOOD ENOUGH to get distribution.

I think you could shoot a good looking (enough) feature for 15-20k on a dvx100a, if your script just KICKED ASS (and how many of those are there?)

I also think you could make a VERY good looking feature on film for around 40-50k.

Keep writing!
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Old February 10th, 2004, 01:19 PM   #70
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Possible. If you use short ends and re-cans and can get the equipment cheap. I know that's been done. I know one cinematographer that just wrapped on one for $70k using all new stock.
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Old February 10th, 2004, 01:23 PM   #71
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Napoleon Dynamite, co- and line produced by a cohort of mine and picked up by Fox Searchlight for $3 mil at Sundance this year, was made for around $100 k, if I recall.

It was shot in the middle of Idaho and the closest thing it had to a star was Hilary Duff's big sis.

It shot on 35.
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Old February 10th, 2004, 01:33 PM   #72
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I'm going to shoot a feature this summer and our choice of cam (at this moment) is the a-minima...I own a dvx100a and believe me I'm tempted to use it, but DV does not hold up with objects more than 30 feet away....

I believe DV is applying pressure to film transfer and telecine prices. I see downward movements..

By the way, "Once upon a time in Mexico" is a LOUSY movie. RR was so jazzed up to shoot something he forgot the script.

"The Good, the Bad, and The Ugly" is a work of art. I saw the restored version on a huge scream recently, and it was beautiful. The graveyard scene gives me chills...

I am eagerly looking forward to see "November" projected on a big screen. A friend of mine shot a feature on a dvx100 but is trying to get a distributor to blow it up...
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Old February 10th, 2004, 01:36 PM   #73
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When "The Game of Their Lives" comes out this fall I'll help you guys pick me out on the screen.
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Old February 10th, 2004, 02:02 PM   #74
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Michael: I would be interested in hearing your reasons for choosing the A-Minima for your production camera. I've used it for "stunt" shots here and there but not decked out for primary camera use. So given that you have chosen Super16, how did you elect that camera over an SR or XTRProd--was it rental rates, availability, small footprint, etc.? Realizing that this is a tad off subject, but maybe we need a "cooling off" on this thread, a diversion might be interesting!

Oh incidentally--I keep seeing "DV" used as a generic term for "digitally oriented" or as a substitute for HD. Since we are technically minded here and are differentiating between mediums, I think it important that we pay attention to the terminology so that we can all keep on the same page. Example: from John Hudson: "even Arri is making a DV camera". The D-20 is an HD camera. Hope this doesn't appear nitpicky, but I feel we can keep from spinning off into miscommunication this way.
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Old February 10th, 2004, 02:36 PM   #75
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Charles:

I have a friend who owns an a-minima. He's shot commercials and shorts with it. I can get him cheap. If it doesn't work out I might rent another super16mm cam.

Also, the cam supplies some of the intimacy of the min dv. Actors relax with just a little cam only a couple feet away....

We are shooting in a small town on probably a 15 day (3 week) schedule. It's nice to just pick up that cam and march to the next setup..LOL

Distributors will pay attention to me if I say "shot on film".

I dunno, I think the damn a-minima is cool. Does that count?

Wish I could afford you, my man!
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