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


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Old January 18th, 2003, 10:07 AM   #1
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The Man Who HATES Film

I searched our forums for this recent article in Millemeter Magazine on Robert Rodriguez and his use of HD for movie making. I'm looking forward to the comments.

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Old January 18th, 2003, 11:03 AM   #2
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I love Robert Rodriguez.
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Old January 18th, 2003, 11:29 PM   #3
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Good article. R.R. makes many points that are so self-evident thay're hardly worth acknowledging.

Technicians vested in film will always find reasons to howl at a digital-only production, ultimately landing on advantages of obscure aesthetic subtleties of film that are invisible to most viewers' eyes. Digital production and is an inevitability, and a highly desireable one at that.

It is the obligation of those of us who delight in the art and science of video acquisition technology, especially the youngest of us, to leverage the technology to great storytelling advantage while prodding it towards constant improvement.
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Old January 19th, 2003, 07:30 AM   #4
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I don't like Robert Rodriguez. Saying something like I hate film is just silly. Digital still has a long way to go....
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Old January 19th, 2003, 04:20 PM   #5
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Yeah, Digital certainly has room for improvement, but it IS inevitable. Film won't disappear, but as the years go by Digital will take over the medium. And, honestly, most people right now can't tell the difference between film and Hi-def digital. That plus the fact that it's only gonna get better is what R. Rodriguez is talking about. Plus, I can't believe Spy Kids 2 cost only $13 million!

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Old January 20th, 2003, 01:29 AM   #6
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Rodriguez and Frank Capra

With regards to Spy Kids 2's budget, $13 million is the reputed below-the-line cost, that is, what the movie would have cost had the writer(s), director, producer(s), and star(s) all worked for free. (The total cost was actually $30 million, $5 million less than Spy Kids.) Even so, $13 million is a good price for an action film with special effects sequences--too good a price. The fact that the sequel was awarded a lower budget than its profitable parent (suspect in itself), and the fact that the cinematographer and production designer were jettisoned leaving the director to deal with the tasks of both, leads me to wonder if the sequel didn't suffer from creative malnutrition resulting from the production cutbacks and the abandonment of production value. (You tell me--I haven't seen it.)

Rodriguez's quoted objections to film come off as disingenuous (implying a cinematographer wouldn't know what a filmed shot will look like; or, "It just seems crazy to me that any filmmaker would prefer to wait a day to see what they filmed"--as if any director sits and does playback on set while the payroll clock is ticking and light is dwindling... for what, to test the focus puller?) or categorically absurd (film being "too contrasty"--vastly wider dynamic range is precisely film's critical superiority to present generation digital video systems). That he would try to act as supreme auteur, discarding crucial crew members and scorning his video engineers ("they helped us hot-rod the cameras and try a few different things") on the type of shoot where the engineer makes all the difference between well-exposed, color balanced shots and unusable footage, make me wonder about his confidence in human competence and his capability as a director to inspire and lead others.

Yet Spy Kids 2 appears to have been well received, critically, gleaning a 75% (Fresh) rating on Rotten Tomatoes (88% in the Cream of the Crop), better by far than Rodriguez's hero's latest effort (Clones weighs in with an embarrasingly scrawny 63%/36%--the critical equivalent of a 98 pound weakling). And Rodriguez's dictum of intimate personal control over all aspects of his works could be argued to be the digital era fulfillment of the "One man, one film" manifesto championed by Frank Capra (my hero following cessation of my denial of Lucas's hacksmanship) back in the studio committee-control heyday of the 1930s.

Capra held a long winning streak that resulted in several Oscars, made him the populist king of Hollywood in its Golden Era, and single-handedly elevated Columbia Pictures from Poverty Row to major studio. Throughout his career he fostered relationships with many other film artists, and Capra himself had a few significant repeat collaborators (notably, screenwriter Bob Riskin, production designer [back then called "art director"] Stephen Goosson, and cinematographer Joe Walker), but I'm not sure if he lived today and had access to "ten computer screens" in his office that he would have preferred to wear all their hats himself: you see, I think Capra believed in the magic precipitated by contributions of his creative partners, and that every inventive, fitting suggestion throughout development and production would add to the sum total of the artwork under construction.

No. I think "One man, one film" referred not to a dictatorial DIY attitude toward filmmaking, but rather, "One man, one film" meant having courage to uphold one's personal convictions about one's art, the chutzpa to stick to the vision all the way through execution. "One man, one film" is knowing what one wants to say, believing in the message, and delivering it without selling out to pressures from suits wielding focus group feedback cards. It's a philosophy that emphasizes singular, centralized command & control over a film's elements, but maintains checks and balances; it's moderation in excercise of power; classically speaking, it's ego without vanity. It's sharing. It's inclusive.

So can a rebel without a crew possibly make good movies? Well, Rodiguez is, thus far, both populist and profitable. Validation of his autocratic methods of operation--that is, what will determine if Robert Rodiguez becomes the next George Lucas, or even the next Frank Capra--may come if he maintains his streak and manages to accomplish a film that gets accoladed.
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Old January 20th, 2003, 02:52 PM   #7
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Well now that I've had a little sleep, I realize I veered way off topic with that last post. Sorry.

Film baaad. Digital gooood.
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Old January 20th, 2003, 03:04 PM   #8
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It is important to remember, Rodriguez is talking about HD, not DV.

Also, I haven't seen Spy Kids II yet. Shall we have a DVInfo field trip?! Make sure you get your parents to sign the consent form, boys and girls. Lets go to the movies!!!
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Old January 20th, 2003, 03:49 PM   #9
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@Robert

You sound like you know a movie called Zoolander. Am I right? ;-))

BTW.. I completely agree with the other Robert and his attitude toward film and HD.

Cheers, Peter
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Old January 20th, 2003, 05:52 PM   #10
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Can't wait to see his third Mariachi: Once Upon a Time in Mexico
which is being shot fully digital as well.... 2003 is gonna be a
year with some interesting movies!
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Old January 26th, 2003, 01:19 PM   #11
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>>So can a rebel without a crew possibly make good movies? Well, Rodiguez is, thus far, both populist and profitable. Validation of his autocratic methods of operation-<<
Commercial success does not mean it's a good movie. (Sorry couldn't resist).

But I think the reason for the lower budget was in exchange for total control and final cut. The budget it came in on made it almost a garauntee to make money with world wide distribution and the soon to be released DVD. Once the suits were calmed, they let him have his way. Plus, I liked how he was able to do this around his family. Sleeping when the kids were in school and cutting and editing at night when they wouldn't bother him.


BTW, does anyone remember the aritcle in Newsweek that said the new Matrix movies were gonna raise the bar even more than the first one did. In a way the couldn't be easily converted to cheesy comercials? (at least thats what the producers hope).
And in a show of respect for the fans, they are going to release both sequels 6 months apart instead of a year.

The article also went on to point out the continuing influence 'The Matrix' is having on movies and pop culture in general.

He went to a rough screening and left using superlatives like 'Jaws dropping on the floor'. Gonna be a great year for digital features.


there were also some very good counter points to using HD versus film. They are at the same site the above article is posted.
Worth reading both sides of the issue.
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Old January 26th, 2003, 01:31 PM   #12
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"And in a show of respect for the fans, they are going to release both sequels 6 months apart instead of a year."

More a money saving feature than anything else, shooting two films at once cuts down the overall commitment by actors, reduces some risks associated with down times and changeovers, prevents shooting from needlessly becoming a relay race with essentially the same work getting handed off to different crews, producers, etc. The Back to the Future sequels and Lord of the Rings trilogy followed the same strategy.

I've seen the Matrix trailers. Let's hope they're holding back on all the best stuff: from what's shown in the trailers it's all the same wire-fu ad nauseum.
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Old January 27th, 2003, 07:32 AM   #13
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For you Matrix fans out there, the new Superbowl trailer has
hit online in glorious high quality QuickTime. It is almost 25 MB
and can be found here:

http://progressive.stream.aol.com/wb...iler640_dl.mov

BEWARE OF SPOILERS!!!

Quote:
I've seen the Matrix trailers. Let's hope they're holding back on all the best stuff: from what's shown in the trailers it's all the same wire-fu ad nauseum.
This new trailer shows some more stuff that you haven't seen
yet on any other movie. Quite interesting. We will have to wait
for the final movie to see if it really is that ground breaking again
ofcourse.
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Old January 27th, 2003, 08:16 AM   #14
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>>Can't wait to see his third Mariachi: Once Upon a Time in Mexico
which is being shot fully digital as well>>

I have seen some footage from this screened on 35mm at eFilm, the facility that did the film out of this feature. I have to say that is the first truly impressive example of HD filmmaking I haved yet seen (Attack of the Clones was merely impressive, and only at times). The rendering of tones throughout the image, particular the skin tones, was pleasing and managed to feel unquestionably cinematic while still retaining its own look, distinct from 35mm. I'm not a fan of HD, still preferring film (especially the over-sharpness of HD which I find somewhat irratating) but this was exceptional looking stuff. I have my issues with Rodriguez and his statements, but the fact that he owns his HD cameras and has figured out how to tweak them to generate this look is worthy of recognition.
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Old January 27th, 2003, 10:00 AM   #15
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Okay, this must be one of the most exciting things I have ever
read here Charles. You've got me drooling here and I must say
I am jaleous at you that you've already seen it. Can't wait to
see how it looks!

One thing that is really bothering me, though, is that OUATIM
is being pushed back and back and back. It should have been
out last year (hell, photography wrapped in 2001!) and the
release date was March 2003. This has just been pushed back
to September 2003. I hope it is not going to be shelled. At
least give me a DVD release.

I hope this tale ends with a smile, we will see....

Thanks very much for the information Charles!!
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